It used to be a lot easier, this task of predicting the Super Bowl winner.
Staring across the interview table at both squads for a full week, I would try to read the eyes and measure the heartbeats.
But nowadays, they all wear shades to the morning interview sessions, even indoors. And I can’t tell if that’s a heartbeat I’m hearing, or the bass from their Beats headphones.
All the better, because the Las Vegas oddsmakers this year say Super Bowl XLIX will be low-scoring and exceedingly close. Like, less than 2 pounds per square inch close. (You see what I did there?)
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The trendy pick is the Seattle Seahawks, because defense decides Super Bowls. That’s the line you should use at your Super Bowl party, at least. That, or “I’m just picking the Seahawks so I don’t get fined.”
But that’s not very sabermetric. In Week 6, the Dallas Cowboys scored 30 points on that Seattle defense. And only two weeks ago, the Green Bay Packers, playing on the road, had their foot squarely on the Seahawks’ neck, only to blow the whole deal.
Seattle won its final six games in the regular season, allowing a total of only 36 points. But five of those victories came against teams whose offenses were in disarray and ranked 24th, 25th, 25th, 24th and 21st.
Just as the Seahawks chirped after last February’s Super Bowl rout that the Broncos had not faced a defense as good as theirs, New England can say the same thing this year about the Patriots’ offense.
Yes, Seattle beat Aaron Rodgers in the NFC title game, but that took a home-field advantage and a historic collapse by the Packers.
The Patriots are more balanced, better coached and mentally tougher than to have that happen to them.
New England has a defense as well. Denver brought the league’s 19th-ranked defense into last year’s game. The Patriots this time are rated slightly higher, 13th, and since November the quarterbacks they have faced have included Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck (twice), Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco and Rodgers.
They won all but one of those games.
It is difficult, meanwhile, to imagine a Bill Belchick-coached and Tom Brady-quarterbacked team imploding at the onset of Sunday’s game the way the Broncos did.
This is Brady’s sixth rodeo, not his first. He is not surrounded on offense by All-Pros and No. 1 draft picks — tackle Nate Solder is the only first-rounder — but Brady makes it possible for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.
The tackle-eligible, who’s-in-who’s-out formations that the Patriots used in the playoffs were just test drives. Belichick likely will use more of them to try to keep the Seattle defense off balance.
The Broncos were intimidated by the Seahawks’ roar and confidence last year. But I’m guessing Belichick will try to use that against them.
Can the Seattle defense afford to let LeGarrette Blount run and run up the middle on them? Will the Seahawks be too focused on putting a Jimmy Graham-type shackle on Rob Gronkowski to help Jeremy Lane cover Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola?
Because of injuries and free agency, this Seattle defense is not as good as last season’s. Nor is the Seattle offense, minus Percy Harvin and Golden Tate.
New England’s defense, on the other hand, is decidedly more disciplined than the one the Seahawks faced in last year’s Super Bowl.
By the end of the day, TV viewers are going to know who New England’s Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich and Vince Wilfork are.
I couldn’t read their eyes last week, but I heard something. The public outcry, outside of New England, over deflated footballs — the fact the Patriots are being branded as cheaters — seems to have only heightened their resolve.
There would be no more fitting ending to this turbulent NFL season than to have Patriots owner Robert Kraft, standing next to Belichick and Brady, holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy aloft.
The feeling here is that it won’t be as close as the bettors think:
Patriots 31, Seahawks 14.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697