9 Things to Watch For in Super Bowl XLIX

Andy Livingston

At long last, we have arrived at the XLIXth installment of the Superb Owl Super Bowl. The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will face off on a night usually reserved for the best and brightest in television advertising. Since you’ll need something to do in between commercials, here are nine things to keep your eyes on when they’re not watching racy Go Daddy ads.

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01. Deflated Balls
Yeah, we know. You’ve been inundated with bad jokes about balls for two weeks, but don’t expect it to go away anytime soon. The ability to deflate the ball makes it easier to pass, they’re easier to grip and catch compared to a fully inflated slick and hard ball. So, every Pats completion will get filed under the “Suspicious” category when the investigation begins. LOL, just kidding! This is the NFL we’re talking about.

02. LeGarrette Blount
In the wild card round against the Ravens, Blount was held to one yard on three attempts as the Pats escaped in a nail-biter, 35-31. But in the 45-7 whooping of the Colts in the AFC Championship, he rushed for 148 yards on 30 carries. This is typical of how inconsistently Blount has been used since he was acquired by New England late in the season. The Seahawks game plan relies heavy on ball control, riding Beast Mode and letting their stellar defense to help keep opponents scoring opportunities to a minimum. Maintaining a good rushing game will help the Patriots offset that, so expect a healthy Blount dose early in the game.

04. Doug Baldwin’s Dropped Passes
Keep an eye on the amount of passes Doug Baldwin drops, because he rarely does. In the Seahawks’ 31-17 win over Carolina, Baldwin was a target four times and caught three of them. Against the Packers in the NFC Championship, he was targeted nine times and caught six of them. Throughout entire season, Baldwin averaged three or less missed catches in all but one game, where he missed four. Baldwin operates as the number one receiver, and pretty much has stick’em on his palms. If you need a drinking game that will still let you drive home at the end of the night, taking a sip for every one of Baldwain’s drops should do the trick.

04. Seattle Cornerbacks
Richard Sherman gets most of the attention because of his aggression and trash talk, but he backed it up with four interceptions, one forced fumble and two touchdowns during the 2014 season. So if he’s the best corner-cover in the league, then his teammate in the Seattle backfield, Byron Maxwell, with six interceptions, must be pretty damned good too. They each picked-off Aaron Rodgers in the conference championship, and if the Patriots get behind and have to go deep to make up for lost time, Maxwell and Sherman should have a feast. Deflated balls or not.

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05. Julian Edelman’s Hands
Edelman didn’t lose a single fumble during the entire regular season. And while he did have two fumbles in the playoffs, he didn’t lose either. He is not a big deep threat, only one reception this year went for more than 45 yards, but is a slot threat on every possession and is used consistently in the Pats throwing rotation. Given that Seattle’s previously-mentioned cornerbacks rely heavily on man coverage, Edelman and his crossing patterns will likely be put to the test in Glendale.

06. Russell Wilson on the run
Wilson is not necessarily a prolific runner, but his ability to scramble is too dangeRuss to ignore. In two playoff games this year, he rushed seven times in each game, usually to escape a broken play for short yards (which is a big deal when you consider the NFL counts sacks as “rushing attempts” for quarterbacks), he peeled off runs of 14 yards and 15 yards, and against Green Bay he scored a rushing touchdown too. Wilson also scored six rushing touchdowns during the season, and the Seahawks receivers don’t exactly strike fear into their opponents, so expect the Patriots to prioritize keeping Wilson contained in the pocket.

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers

07. Marshawn Lynch’s ability to make people angry
Beast Mode has an innate ability to make people angry, whether it’s his on-the-field dominance of over 1,300 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns with only two lost fumbles, or his off-the-field swagger of wearing his own company’s logo at media day just to spite the NFL and celebrating by, uh, adjusting himself. Lynch is a key to the offense—maybe the key—averaging 20 carries or more eight games during the regular season and while the rest of the team was trying to give away the NFC Championship, he ran over the Packers for 157 yards. Expect some fun conversations to pop up on your social media feeds if he has a big day.

08. Patriots: Losingest Super Bowl Team?
Sure, everybody talks about Tom Brady the Super Bowl winning quarterback, but if Brady loses this game the Pats become the losingest team in Super Bowl history. The Patriots currently sit at four losses in the big game, tied with the Bills and Vikings, so one more would put them alone in first place with five. Sure they won three in the Brady era, but Robert Kraft always has his eyes on the record books. The big question is; will Bill Simmons ever mention this stat?

Tom Brady goofy

09. Tom Brady’s five-yard Passes
Throughout the season, Brady managed a per-pass yard average of just over seven yards. But in two of the four losses, he averaged five yards or less per pass. He hasn’t gone deep a ton this year, with only two completions for more than 50 yards, but he will dink and dunk his way down the field, relying on those big handed receivers and a running game that may or may not show up. If he gets flustered and can’t get it beyond that five-yard threshold, the chances of the Patriots losing the game mount increasingly.

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