By Jonathan Rodrigues
Top 5 match ups for the final game of the 2015 NFL Season:
Tom Brady vs. Earl Thomas III
A Cardinal Rule for quarterbacks is to keep your eye on the safety. In Super Bowl XLIX we will be seeing two great quarterbacks facing off against some of the most talented safeties in the NFL. At 5’10”, Earl Thomas is one of the shorter free safeties in the NFL, but he is filled to the brim with talent. His postseason statistics are not stellar, and are overshadowed by his partner Kam Chancellor but, Thomas creates plays on defense and is very difficult to look-off. It will be key for Brady to challenge the Legion of Boom in totality as New England excels in a pass-heavy offense.
Jamie Collins vs. Russell Wilson
Jamie Collins has emerged as a versatile talent for the New England Patriots. He led the team in tackles and fumbles forced while adding 2 interceptions. When he drops back into coverage, his speed and height are very difficult to account for. He nearly intercepted Joe Flacco on multiple occasions while he was matched up against Owen Daniels in the AFC Divisional game. In the AFC Championship game against Indianapolis, Collins dropped back into coverage and intercepted Andrew Luck. Collins has only played in 4 postseason games in his career, and he has interceptions in two of them. Russell Wilson has had an incredible season, with minor anomalies in games such as the AFC Championship where he threw four interceptions at home. His total QBR ranked 12th among all quarterbacks at 62.4. Wilson will have to be aware of Collins’ ability to shift on instinct, one play he will drop back, the next he may speed through the offensive line.
The New England Front Seven vs. Marshawn Lynch
Marshawn Lynch’s success is key to a Seattle win. In games where “Beast Mode” rushed for a touchdown this season, the Seahawks have not lost. In Lynch’s career against New England he has averaged 53 yards per game and 3.8 yards per rush. Does this mean that Bill Belichick has the secret formula to stopping the machine that is Marshawn Lynch? It will be necessary that players such as Vince Wilfork, Rob Ninkovich, Dont’a Hightower, and Chandler Jones are able to contain the powerhouse running back. New England was 9th ranked in rushing defense allowing 104.3 yards per game, while Seattle is ranked first in rushing offense with 171 yards per game.
Rob Gronkowski vs. Kam Chancellor
The common opinion on the 6’6” tight end out of the University of Arizona is that he is an absolute monster. It takes multiple players to put number 87 on the ground after he catches the football. This match-up is very interesting as Kam Chancellor is arguably the most physical NFL safety. At 6’3” “Bam Bam Kam” is the perfect match-up to Gronkowski’s strength and physicality. Chancellor has proved his ability in the postseason, with interceptions against Carolina, San Francisco, and a game-changer against Peyton Manning in Super Bowl 48. Gronk has an ability to accelerate off of the line of scrimmage in an attempt to give Tom Brady a fast and reliable option as proved by his 14 touchdowns over New England’s regular and post season play. Gronk will have to work at a high physical rate if he wants the opportunity to spike the football on the NFL’s greatest stage.
The New England Patriots vs. DeflateGate
Over the past two weeks, the news on Super Bowl XLIX has been tainted by the popular talk of “Deflate Gate”. There have been many varying opinions by different news sources, scholars, and NFL executives, but one thing we have not discussed in its entirety is how “Deflate Gate” will impact New England going into the Super Bowl. If history repeats itself, then New England will go into Glendale with a large chip on their shoulders. After the emergence of “Spygate” New England did not lose a game for 3 months.