By: Andrew Orgel
In the first installment of a six-part series, Andrew goes in detail on the Super Bowl hopes of the Patriots and Seahawks.
In this series I am going to argue whether or not each playoff team from last year is a legit contender to win the Super Bowl. This will be a six part series with two teams per day written in order of each team’s results from last year going from the Patriots to the Panthers. Primary factors will include roster, past performances, coaching, and offseason. This year’s preseason will not affect the rankings.
New England Patriots: Contender
The Patriots have had as eventful of an offseason as any Super Bowl team in recent history. The losses of Revis, Browner and Arrington crippled their secondary and will limit Belichick’s ability to play man defense. Deflategate provided a media frenzy throughout training camp and leaves Brady suspended for the first four games of the season. Meanwhile, the Dolphins, Bills, and Jets have all made gains this season in an attempt at unseating the Patriots in the AFC East. If there was ever a year to pick against the Patriots this is it.
Nevertheless, I still have the Patriots as the strongest team in the AFC and a contender for the Super Bowl. Brady and Belichick are simply too good. Every year somebody finds an excuse to doubt them, and every year they seem to be the hottest team in the league through December and a strong contender in January. Eventually Brady will grow too old and one day questionable draft classes will catch up to the Patriots, but until that happens, picking against the Patriots is not an option. Brady is still a top three quarterback, and Belichick remains the best coach in the NFL.
Furthermore, the AFC East lacks capable quarterbacks. Garoppolo could be the 3rd best quarterback behind Brady and Tannehill, and no true powerhouses similar to the Seahawks and Packers exist elsewhere in the AFC. The Colts lack defenders who can tackle Blount (or any Patriots running back for that matter), and the Ravens will not be a true contender until Flacco can rise above his inconsistent play. Time has finally caught up with Peyton Manning who has not won at Gillette since 2006 and seems to have returned to his inconsistencies against the Patriots. Until some other team steps up I don’t see anyone who will beat the Patriots, especially if the playoffs remain in Foxboro similar to years past.
I am not guaranteeing a Super bowl for the Patriots. It is entirely likely that they will have a bad game or be on the wrong end of a couple of freak plays in the playoffs and will be sent home early. Nevertheless, until the Patriots have a bad season or somebody else emerges as a true powerhouse in the AFC, they are still the top contender in the AFC and capable of winning their fifth Super Bowl.
Seattle Seahawks: Contender
The Seahawks are without a doubt a Super Bowl contender. For the last two years, the Seahawks have been all around the best team in the NFL. Lead by ever-improving Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom secondary, the Seahawks have been virtually unbeatable. Last year the Seahawks came one fateful play away from back-to-back rings and will be out to finish the job this year.
The Seahawks are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor make up far and away the best secondary in football despite losing Byron Maxwell. Furthermore, the addition of Jimmy Graham will revolutionize the Seahawks offense. Not only will Graham become a weapon for Russell Wilson, but he will also force defences to respect the pass. This should make life easier on the aging Marshawn Lynch. Russell Wilson should have another strong year, and Graham should help to avoid the offensive inconsistencies that plagued the Seahawks through the middle of the season.
The only team the Seahawks need to fear is the Green Bay Packers. Last year in the playoffs, the Packers outplayed the Seahawks for most of the game until their collapse in the fourth quarter. Aaron Rodgers has demonstrated his ability to move the ball against the Seattle secondary, and had Green Bay scored touchdowns instead of field goals, Rodgers could have easily put the NFC Championship away by the end of the third quarter. This year Green Bay remains the greatest threat to a third trip to the Super Bowl for the Hawks.
Despite the general strength of the NFC, I have Seattle winning their second Super Bowl. Their defense is simply too strong, and Russell Wilson is too good. They will likely finish atop the NFC, and I don’t believe any team will be able to beat the Seahawks and the 12th man at CenturyLink Field in the playoffs. Last year, Wilson needed to have arguably the worst game of his career for Green Bay to come close to beating Seattle. I think last year’s close contest will prove to be a fluke and that the Seahawks will win the NFC and beat whichever team the AFC produces.