Free Super Bowl Pick: Expert Predictions for Patriots vs. Seahawks
by Alan Matthews - 1/29/2015
Green Bay Packers fans might argue, but I think Super Bowl XLIX got it right in that the NFL's best two teams are playing on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. It's our second straight chalk Super Bowl with AFC top-seeded New England facing NFC No. 1 Seattle. Since 1990, this is the fifth time in which both No. 1 seeds in the respective conferences reached the Super Bowl. It's the first time it has happened in back-to-back years. The NFC has won each of the four previous times there has been a matchup of No. 1 seeds.
Of course, the Seahawks are looking to become the first team to repeat since the Patriots in the 2003-04 seasons. Meanwhile, it's the sixth Super Bowl trip for Pats coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady and they look for their fourth ring. Some might put Brady ahead of Joe Montana as the best QB ever if Brady ties Montana (and Terry Bradshaw) with four Super Bowl titles. Brady certainly has much better regular-season numbers, but this is a very different era.
(By the way, might we see a rematch of this game next February at Levi's Stadium, home of the 49ers? Seattle is the +600 favorite to win Super Bowl 50 with New England No. 2 at +750 at Sportsbook.ag.).
This is the first Super Bowl matchup between teams that overcame a deficit of at least 14 points in that postseason. The Patriots did it in the divisional round against Baltimore and the Seahawks in the NFC title game against Green Bay.
In many ways, this game reminds me of last year's Seahawks-Broncos matchup. Seattle again has the NFL's No. 1 overall defense and escaped a very tight NFC Championship Game at home. Meanwhile, New England has one of the league's top offenses, won the AFC Championship Game easily and has one of the five-best quarterbacks of all-time. We all know what happened at MetLife Stadium a year ago as Seattle crushed Peyton Manning and Co.
Patriots vs. Seahawks Betting Story Lines
Injury-wise, if you can breathe you play in this game. Brady did have a cold this week, but big deal. There might be some worries for two Seattle defensive stars, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas. Sherman reportedly has torn ligaments in his elbow and Thomas a dislocated shoulder, but both will play. New England cornerback Brandon Browner, who played for Seattle last season, said the Patriots need to target those injured areas. Maybe he shouldn't have said so publicly, but believe me that type of thing goes on in the locker room every day. I expect the Pats to go right at Sherman and Thomas early in the game to see if their tackling ability is limited.
I do wonder what the Patriots do with Sherman as he has lined up offense's right side on 99 percent of his snaps this postseason. Combined, Carolina's Cam Newton and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers completed just 6-for-17 passes when targeting receivers outside the right numbers against the Seahawks in these playoffs with a TD and three picks (two by Sherman). Of the six completions, four were thrown within five yards of the line of scrimmage. By comparison, on throws to the rest of the field in the two playoff games, Seattle allowed 68 percent completions.
Can we learn anything from a common opponent this season? The Patriots and Seahawks both lost in Kansas City. New England was crushed 41-14 in Week 4, which is when everyone thought the Pats' dynasty was dead. Seattle lost 24-20 in Week 11. The common theme? The Chiefs were very successful on the ground in both. They rushed for 207 yards on 38 carries vs. the Pats and 190 yards on 30 carries vs. the Seahawks. Seattle had the No. 3 rush defense during the season and the Patriots No. 9. Incidentally, and this will hurt my editor, a Chiefs fan, but Kansas City is only the fifth team to beat both Super Bowl clubs but miss the playoffs that season.
I do think the running game will play a big role, even though as usual all eyes are on the quarterbacks and they are the two MVP favorites. Seattle allowed an average of 139 yards rushing in its four losses and just 73 in its 14 wins. Meanwhile, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has six 100-yard games this season and Seattle won five (only loss in K.C.). Seattle QB Russell Wilson had three 100-yard rushing games and the Seahawks won each of those via blowout. The Patriots will shadow Wilson with a spy to keep him in the pocket.
Patriots vs. Seahawks Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , this game is a pick'em with both also thus -110 on the moneyline. There are dozens of alternate lines, but I'll give just a few around a pick'em: Patriots -1 (-105), -1.5 (+100), -2 (+104), -2.5 (+108), -3 (+141) and -3.5 (+166). Seahawks -1 (-105), -1.5 (+100), -2 (+105), -2.5 (+109), -3 (+145) and -3.5 (+170). The total is 47.5, although there are also dozens of alternate total lines. It generally opened around 48.5, so it has dropped a bit. The side has been all over the place. No Super Bowl has ever finished with a pick'em line. I think the Pats will have a slight lean by kickoff.
The Patriots are 10-8 ATS this season and 11-7 "over/under." The Seahawks are 10-7-1 ATS and 9-9 O/U. New England is 9-3 ATS in its past 12 vs. teams with a winning record. The Patriots are 1-4 ATS in their past five after allowing less than 15 points in their previous game. New England is 0-4 ATS in its past four Super Bowls. Seattle is 5-1-1 ATS in its past seven after a win. The under is 4-1 in the Pats' past five Super Bowls. The under is 11-5 in Seattle's past 16 vs. teams with a winning record.
Free Super Bowl Pick: Patriots vs. Seahawks Betting Prediction
I don't look for either QB to reach 300 yards passing because we have maybe the two best cornerbacks in the game in Sherman (if healthy) and the Patriots' Darrelle Revis. Thus, they figure to shut down one half of the field. I'd be stunned if Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski doesn't get at least 10 targets, and he might be good MVP value should New England win. Ditto Lynch if Seattle does.
I'm torn here on my pick as I thought Denver would win last season, but sometimes it's easy to get blinded by an offensive team. I worry that Seattle has struggled in these playoffs. The Panthers gave the Seahawks a good game and Green Bay should have beaten them. New England largely has been crushing people since about Week 5, although the Ravens were very tough in the divisional round.
If Seattle still had a game-breaking receiver like Percy Harvin, it would be the choice. But if Lynch can be shut down, I'm not sure the Seahawks will score enough. I'll take New England and the under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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