Well, Super Bowl XLIX (that's 49 for those not intimately familiar with Roman Numerals) is set, with the top seeds in each conference advancing in quite different ways. Seattle somehow found a way to pull out an overtime victory against Packers in the NFC Championship game, while the Patriots deflated the Colts and apparently a few footballs, to win the AFC crown.
Let's start with the first game, one that will remain a classic at least until next week, when most fans will be hard-pressed to remember who went winless in Seattle (that was really bad, but I couldn't resist). Of course, the legion of Seahawks fans who left the building with five minutes remaining won't be able to remember anything, since they weren't allowed access to return once it became evident that a comeback was in progress. I'm just wondering what that says about the twelfth man. I mean, what if the first through eleven had decided to leave? What then? But I digress. Even after the Packers made more mistakes than Phil Mickelson in the final round of a U.S. Open, they still had a chance to win in overtime if they had simply held Seattle to a field goal on the opening possession of the extra period. But alas, it wasn't meant to be and Aaron Rodgers and his injured left calf were forced to limp their way back to the frozen tundra. I mean, really. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman practically had his arm separated from his body, yet the Packers still avoided attacking in his direction. Morgan Burnett slid down after intercepting a Russell Wilson pass, the Seahawks' QB's fourth of the day, when a longer runback may have put the Pack into field goal range for reliable kicker Mason Crosby. A hail Mary two-point conversion made it a three point game in the home team's favor, eliminating the possibility of a game-winning Green Bay field goal. In the first quarter, the Packers chose to take three points on a fourth and goal from the one-foot line, one of two field goals taken from inside the five yard line. I'm not a Green Bay fan, but I feel their pain.
The Indianapolis Colts, on the other hand, really never showed up in Foxboro for their game in the rain against the Patriots. After drilling Indy three consecutive times by an average margin of 26 points, the only surprised in the outcome was that the Colts failed to score another touchdown or two. With the way these two teams are comprised, they could play five more times and I doubt the outcome would be much different, barring an injury to a significant Patriot, like Tom Brady. What I think is more fascinating will be the endless conversations about Brady's ability to throw to what is an average or slightly above average outside receiver corps against the best pass defense in the league. I emphasize outside corps, because Gronkowski and Edelman are terrific in the middle of the field and can produce a lot of yards after the catch. I think the more compelling matchup will be New England's defense against a Seattle defense that doesn't necessarily put a lot of points on the board. The Packers were very physical and I'm sure Patriots' coach Bill Bellichek will be looking at the tape of Sunday's game to see what Green Bay was doing to take away the running game of Marshawn Lynch and confusing Seahawks' QB Russell Wilson enough to force him into bad throws.
At this point, I'm leaning toward New England, but they haven't finished the deal since 2004, losing twice to the Giants in Super Bowls along the way. The Seahawks obviously know how to win and can become the first repeat champion since, you guessed it, the Patriots.
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