Today’s Pigskin Tackles Super Bowl XLIX
Which games within the game will play the biggest role in the outcome of Super Bowl Sunday?
Today’s Super Bowl Roundtable examines the most intriguing matchups when the Patriots and Seahawks have the ball. Weigh in with our panel of NFL experts, writers, and fans. Tweet your responses to @FanRagSports, @TodaysPigskin and to them personally. Let us know which forum topics you’d like to see covered and participate today.
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Today’s Super Bowl XLIX Forum Topic: Discuss the most intriguing matchups that will have an impact on the outcome when A) Patriots have the ball and B) Seahawks are on offense.
A) Gronk vs. Bam-Bam Kam!
Rob Gronkowski is the most unstoppable weapon in the NFL today running down the middle of the field, but he will have to deal with Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. The Seahawks’ DB is one of the hardest hitting players in the game, but the question is can he stop Gronk?
If the Patriots can get the running game going early on, it will force Chancellor into the box and out of position to keep Gronkowski from going over the top of this fantastic Seahawks defense.
Chancellor versus Gronkowski is the best matchup you will see in the middle of the field all year long, and we get to watch on the game’s biggest stage.
B) Russell Wilson vs. Chandler Jones
Chandler Jones is going to be chasing Russell Wilson all over the field Sunday afternoon and will often be used to spy the quarterback once he begins to scramble out of the pocket. If Wilson can get outside of Jones, it could mean a 30- or 40-yard gain down the sidelines for the fleet-of-foot quarterback. Jones has the speed to keep up with Wilson, but we have all seen the third-year quarterback make even some of the best pass rushers in the league look foolish. If Jones cannot keep Wilson in front of him at all times, it could create some serious issues for the rest of the Patriots defense.
A) LeGarrette Blount against linebacker Bobby Wagner
If there is a weak point in the Seahawks defense, it would be its trouble with the run game. Wagner is a great linebacker and once he returned from injury, Seattle has had better luck stopping the run. For the Patriots, Blount is a hard guy to stop once he gets going, so if he gets rolling, he can do some damage. Wagner is great at bringing guys down, but if he can’t get to Blount quickly, Seattle will be in for a long game.
B) Russell Okung and Justin Britt against defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich
New England is going to try and contain Russell Wilson, so it’s up to the Okung and Britt to hold those edges. Russell Wilson was sacked five times against the Packers in the NFC Championship because he wasn’t able to get away from pressure until later in the game. Seattle needs to do a better job of protecting Wilson or else the Seahawks will be in trouble.
A) Michael Bennett vs. Sebastian Vollmer
Most people want to focus on Kam Chancellor versus Gronk, but that matchup won’t matter if Tom Brady doesn’t have time to throw. Bennett is arguably the best defensive lineman in this game, possessing the quickness and versatility to wreak havoc from anywhere on the line. He mostly lines up at left defensive end, which pits him against Pro Bowl right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. Bennett earned the highest overall grade of any Seahawks defender from Pro Football Focus (+26.4), while Vollmer finished behind only Brady and Gronk with a grade of +15.5. Vollmer will have to step up against one of the NFL’s most disruptive linemen.
B) Dont’a Hightower vs. Russell Wilson
I fully expect Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to contain Seattle’s receiver duo of Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. The more interesting matchup will be how New England defends the running ability of Russell Wilson. Jamie Collins would seem like a logical choice, but his versatility and playmaking ability is too valuable to leave him in the spy role. Expect to see Hightower keeping tabs on Wilson, who led all quarterbacks with 849 rushing yards during the regular season. If he’s able to extend plays and pick up chunk yardage with his feet, the New England defense will be in serious trouble.
A) Brandon LaFell vs Richard Sherman
LaFell has blossomed with Tom Brady under center, and his big frame gives the Patriots a big target down the field. The question is whether Brady will take those odds often enough to make a difference. Seahawks RE Cliff Avril vs LT Nate Solder will be another important battle, with the winner owning the entire left of the line of scrimmage.
B) RT Justin Britt vs. DE Rob Ninkovich
Ninkovich isn’t a big name, but he can make big plays in prime time. Stopping Marshawn Lynch will be key for the Pats, but so will be keeping a lid on Jermaine Kearse, who was a common target of Russell Wilson’s over the last month. Darelle Revis will be tasked with breaking up that connection.
A) Rob Gronkowski vs. Kam Chancellor
Gronkowski is a force and has constantly dominated with his rare combination of size and speed. Typically he is matched up with a much smaller safety, however Chancellor is not in that category. His size should make it a much harder challenge on Gronkowski and could limit the Patriots ability to get him the ball. If Chancellor can take Gronkowski out of the game, it would cause huge problems for the New England offense.
B) J.R. Sweezy vs. Vince Wilfork
The Seahawks want to run the ball; there is no doubting that, and Sweezy plays an important role in opening up holes for Marshawn Lynch. That task won’t be easy against Wilfork, as we all know the impact he can have on a game. If Wilfork can get penetration and neutralize the Seattle run game, it could be hard for the Seahawks to keep up.
A) Michael Bennett against Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder
Tom Brady is good enough to find open holes in Seattle’s zone defense if he has time. If Seattle is going to get him off of his game, the key is to get in his face; they’ve done this brilliantly against very good quarterbacks like Drew Brees, and that pressure can decimate the passing game. Michael Bennett is Seattle’s sack leader for the year, and New England’s tackles must keep him at bay. The game could be won or lost at this point.
B): Russell Wilson against Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich
Whether he ends up running or throwing the ball, Wilson is deadly when you let him break the pocket and extend the play. For New England’s defensive ends, it’s going to be a delicate balance. They should try to get pressure, but they must keep containment at the same time. If they crash down too hard, Wilson will have no problem making plays.
Tomorrow’s Forum Topic: Super Bowl “X-Factors”