It’s the culmination of the football calendar and one of the biggest sporting events in the world. The eyes of the planet will be on Arizona on 1 February as the Patriots take on reigning champions Seattle Seahawks. In any Superbowl match-up, the stakes are huge. But this time round, it is a chance for the Patriots and in particular coach Bill Belichick and quarter-back Tom Brady to write their names even more firmly into NFL history.
After 22 games (2 play-offs and 4 pre-season), Belichick’s Patriots will arrive at the University of Phoenix Stadium as the marginal favourites, according to the NFL betting odds on William Hill online. However, there are so many sub-plots and individual match-ups to watch, this is likely to be one of the most evenly contested and intriguing Superbowl games for some time.
Much will be made of the psychological state of the two teams. Seattle are defending their title and displayed their enormous mental strength for all to see during an unbelievable NFC Championship game against Green Bay. Down by 12 points with less than 5 minutes remaining, touchdowns from Russell Wilson and the hugely impressive Marshawn Lynch were the touchstone for an incredible overtime victory. The Seahawks will likely believe that their name is on the Lombardi Trophy. If they do win in Arizona, they will become the first team to retain the trophy since the Patriots in 2004. It would also be a fitting farewell for coach Pete Carroll.
The Patriots by contrast enjoyed the simplest of passages to the Superbowl, crushing Indianapolis 45-7 in the AFC Championship game. In that sense, they are perhaps the more consistent team. They also have plenty to play for. The Belichick era is considered one of the legendary periods of NFL history already. Brady is thought of as one of the sport’s great players. A fourth Superbowl ring for these two Patriots icons will further enhance their legendary status.
So, what is likely to decide the outcome of the big game? In a nutshell, the Patriots can boast a better passing game than their opponents. If Brady can escape the attentions of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas (both are expected to be fit), then the Patriots will likely assert their authority over the best defence in the game. However, the Seahawks have a Grade A running game, especially considering their outstanding running back Lynch. It’s a close call for the big prize.