NFL Handicapping: What Lies Ahead for Patriots and Seahawks
by Trevor Whenham - 2/5/2015
A few days have passed since the craziest Super Bowl in recent memory. The whole fourth quarter, and especially the final few seconds, don't make any more sense now than they did at the time, but the excitement certainly hasn't faded. We can't dwell in the past, though - we have to keep looking forward. The Seahawks and the Patriots go into next season with a lot of respect - Seattle is favored to win next year's Super Bowl, and New England is the second choice. A lot will change between now and the start of the season - most significantly the draft and free agency. So, what does each team need to accomplish if they want to get back to the promised land yet again?
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Here's a look at the four biggest priorities for each squad::
1. Lock up the young stars: Seattle is fortunate to have their leaders in place on both sides of the ball, and they will be around for a while. Unfortunately, while both Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner have been playing on major bargain contracts so far, both are in line for significant raises. They have more time with Wilson than Wagner, but now is the time to deal with both - while they have the cap space to deal with it.
2. Deal with Lynch: There are rumors that Marshawn Lynch could be looking to move on or even to retire. Needless to say, it would be in the team's best interest to convince him that this is a bad idea. If they can't lock him up then they need to figure it out quickly so they can find a worthy replacement.
3. Find a weapon for Wilson: Wilson is not dangerous enough with his arm yet, and a big reason for that is that he does not have his "it guy" - that one guy that he knows he can find and that he trusts implicitly. All the top quarterbacks have that guy, and Wilson really needs it. There is some potential in this lineup -- Chris Matthews was a Super Bowl star, and I have seen him play enough in the CFL to know it was no fluke. It is not an easy type of player to find - on paper, for example, Wes Welker wasn't obviously that guy when he headed to New England. That means that the Seahawks need to find a few guys that could potentially emerge as the much needed go-to guy.
4. Get their heads on straight: Losing a Super Bowl like that is the kind of thing that could rip a team apart if they aren't mentally tough. There is no shortage of blame that could be thrown around by angry players - Carroll, Wilson, Bevell, and so on. If a team can't shake off what happened and get focused quickly then it could throw the whole season next year into turmoil. How much of Denver's challenged season this year could be attributed to their Super Bowl beatdown last year?
New England Patriots
1. Lock up Revis: Darrelle Revis came to New England to prove he was again the best corner out there, and he did. He signed a two-year deal, but the deal was structured for salary cap purposes, so the cap hit would be impossible if left as it stands. He should be locked up, and fast.
2. Sort out the running backs: The team wound up with a decent situation at RB, but it was only by fluke. They made a whole lot of changes this year, and some seemed panicked. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are both free agents, so they are going to be forced into making some decisions and hopefully solidifying the position for more than a couple of games at a time.
3. Figure out the kicker: Stephen Gostkowski is the best kicker in the league for my money. He's a free agent, though, and the Patriots have once before let the best kicker in the sport go when Adam Vinatieri left. The team needs to, ideally, keep Gostkowski right where he is. If they can't then they need to figure out a worthy replacement. The Pats don't seem to hate close games, so a kicker is key.
4. Get comfortable at QB: Tom Brady proved yet again just how good he is in the Super Bowl. He's no spring chicken, though, and the last month of Peyton Manning's season showed us how quickly age and infirmities can sneak up on you. They should obviously ride Brady as long as they can, but it is more important than ever to be sure that they have a backup that they trust as things go forward. In theory I like Jimmy Garoppolo, but the team needs to be comfortable that he has a future, or work to find someone who could.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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