Super Bowl XLIX Preview – Patriots vs. Seahawks
Mike Clay supplies you with everything you need to know about Super Bowl XLIX.
Super Bowl XLIX Preview – Patriots vs. Seahawks
If you like football and statistics, you’ve come to the right place. If not, well, keep reading anyway.
This doesn’t need much of an introduction other than to say that down below is an extensive evaluation of the two teams who will share the field in Super Bowl XLIV.
Matchups By The Numbers
Averaging 67.6 plays per game – fifth-highest in the NFL
Averaging 3.1 touchdowns per game – third-most
->Averaged 1.75 touchdowns per game during Weeks 1-4, but sit at 3.8 in 13 games since (Week 17 not included as the starters didn’t play the full game). Perspective: Denver paces all teams with a 3.3 mark this season.
71 percent of touchdowns are passes – 14th-highest
->Rate is 56 percent since Week 10 bye, which better aligns with 58 and 50 percent marks in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Pass called on 60.7 percent of plays – 17th-highest
->Balanced attack a product of game flow:
—>57 percent expected pass rate – lowest in NFL
—>65 percent preferred pass rate – second-highest
Facing an average of 58.8 plays per game – second-lowest in NFL
Allowing 1.6 touchdowns per game – lowest in NFL
->Six touchdowns allowed over last eight games. That includes three scores in two playoff games.
71 percent of allowed touchdowns are passes – 13th-highest
->Allowed more than two passing touchdowns in a game once this season (Week 2).
Pass called on 60.5 percent of opposing offense’s plays – 14th-highest
->Balanced attack a product of game flow and opponent’s philosophy:
—>65 percent expected* pass rate – highest in NFL
—>57 percent preferred* pass rate – second-lowest
*On average, opponents game-planned to run the ball against Seattle, but they were forced to throw as a result of trailing in the game.
Averaging 63.3 plays per game – 15th-lowest in the NFL
Averaging 2.6 touchdowns per game – 11th-most
->Since scoring at least three touchdowns in each of first four games, averaging 2.4 touchdowns per game since Week 5, which is right at league average.
52 percent of touchdowns are passes – third-lowest
->Well below rates during Russell Wilson’s first two seasons: 2012 (61 percent) and 2013 (63 percent)
->Wilson failed to eclipse two passing scores in a game during the regular season, but tossed three against Carolina in the divisional round.
Pass called on 53.5 percent of plays – third-lowest
->Run-heavy attack a product of game flow and philosophy:
—>58 percent expected pass rate – fourth-lowest in NFL
—>57 percent preferred pass rate – sixth-lowest
Facing an average of 64.3 plays per game – 13th-highest in the NFL
Allowing 1.9 touchdowns per game – fifth-lowest
->Allowed 14 touchdowns (two rushing) in nine games since Week 10 bye. That includes four to Baltimore in the divisional round.
80 percent of allowed touchdowns are passes – fourth-highest
Pass called on 62.2 percent of opposing offense’s plays – eighth-highest
->Pass-heavy attack a product of game flow and philosophy:
–>64 percent expected pass rate – third-highest in NFL
–>59 percent preferred pass rate – 10th-lowest
*On average, opponents used a run-balanced gameplan against New England, but they were forced to throw as a result of trailing in the game.
1. Tom Brady – Brady finished the regular season as fantasy’s ninth-ranked quarterback, but his production was far from consistent. He averaged 11 fantasy points per game during the first four weeks of the season, before improving to 27 per game during Weeks 5-9 and 17 per game from Weeks 10-16. Brady finished no better than 20th among quarterbacks each of the first four weeks, no worse than sixth Weeks 5-9, and no better than sixth Weeks 10-17. What’s interesting about the split is the aforementioned note that the Patriots are scoring more through the air than they have in past years. A 16:0 Pass:Run touchdown split during Weeks 6-9 is a big reason for that. Brady has seven touchdowns in two playoff games, but the Patriots offense is unlikely to put up anything close to 40 points (their playoff average) against Seattle. New England figures to lean heavily on its running game in this one, which, along with Seattle’s elite pass defense, will limit Brady’s ability to put together a big game.
2. Jimmy Garoppolo – 2014 second rounder is the primary backup to Brady
1. LeGarrette Blount – After totaling 21 carries, 80 yards and one touchdown in his three prior appearances, Blount exploded for 30 carries, 148 yards and three scores against the Colts in the AFC Championship. It’s the third consecutive game against the Colts in which a single Patriots running back has achieved a minimum of 24 carries, 148 yards and 3 scores (Blount x2, Jonas Gray). Blount will continue to defer passing-down duties to Shane Vereen, but he’s clearly ahead of Gray, who didn’t play a snap until late in last Sunday’s blowout. New England called a run on 33 of Blount’s 42 snaps. Including the playoffs, he’s averaging an impressive 4.6 yards per carry with New England this season.
2. Shane Vereen – New England’s passing-down back, the team has called pass on 87 percent of Vereen’s snaps since its Week 10 bye. He’s totaled 29 carries, 36 targets and one touchdown during the span. New England will need to trail in the second half for Vereen to play a significant role in the Super Bowl (not inconceivable against Seattle), but he’s still unlikely to see a huge barrage of targets.
3. Jonas Gray – Since rolling over Indianapolis to the tune of 37 carries, 201 yards and four touchdowns back in Week 11, Gray has 24 carries, 84 yards and one touchdown. Clearly buried behind Blount on early downs, Gray played only the final five snaps of the AFC Championship.
4. Brandon Bolden – Primarily focused on special teams, Bolden has 34 touches on the season.
5. James Develin – New England’s fullback has 10 touches this season and is an extremely deep sleeper to find the end zone against Seattle
6. James White – The 2014 fourth-round pick is a probable inactive.
1. Julian Edelman (Primary coverage: Richard Sherman) – Edelman’s primary position is wide to Brady’s right (39 percent of routes). He also spends plenty of time in the slot (42 percent, split evenly between each side) and is occasionally wide left (19 percent). Sherman has been elite in coverage again this season and plays left corner 91 percent of the time. Brady has been forcing the ball to Edelman as of late, targeting his top wideout 27 percent of the time since Week 10. Edelman was 13th in fantasy points in PPR formats prior to missing the final two games of the regular season. Brady will look his way plenty against Seattle, but his ceiling is much lower than usual.
2. Brandon LaFell (Primary coverage: Byron Maxwell) – LaFell runs 50 percent of his routes wide to Brady’s left. He dabbles in the slot (18 percent) and will be on Sherman’s side for one third of his routes. Maxwell has been fairly average this season and lines up at right corner 81 percent of the time. Since scoring twice back in Week 13, LaFell has one touchdown and has failed to eclipse 70 yards in a single game. The good news is that he’s averaging 7.2 targets per game during the span. Of course, with Maxwell and Sherman in coverage, he’s unlikely to make a big impact against Seattle.
3. Danny Amendola (Primary coverage: Jeremy Lane) – Amendola has run 80 percent of his routes from the slot. Jeremy Lane missed a big chunk of the regular season, but has been decent in coverage when called upon. He’s Seattle’s primary slot man, lining up inside 93 percent of the time. Amendola put together a string of strong performances recently, but savvy onlookers realize that each had an explanation. Edelman missed Week 16 (11-8-63-0), New England’s starters rested Week 17 (played 80 percent of snaps, 6-4-24-0) and Amendola caught a 51-yard touchdown on a trick play in the divisional round (6-5-81-2). Unsurprisingly, Amendola played only 29 snaps en route to one catch for 8 yards on three targets against Indianapolis. His snaps have been up slightly at the expense of Tim Wright, but not enough that he’s likely to make a significant impact.
4. Others: Brian Tyms, Matthew Slater, Josh Boyce – Slater will be active as a special teamer. Tyms is the fourth wide receiver, but, same as Boyce, could be inactive.
1. Rob Gronkowski – The best tight end in the NFL easily paced the position in fantasy points during the regular season. Gronkowski caught 82 of 124 targets for 1,134 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was one of two tight ends to eclipse 1,000 yards and one of nine players in the entire league to catch 12 or more touchdowns. Gronkowski’s 20 playoff targets nearly doubles second-place Owen Daniels’ 11 in the category. With Sherman and, to a lesser extent, Maxwell locking down the outside, Brady figures to keep Gronkowski very busy down the seam.
2. Michael Hoomanawanui – Primarily used as a blocker, but has five playoff targets after handling five during the entire regular season.
3. Timothy Wright – After scoring six touchdowns during the regular season, he’s played eight snaps during the playoffs.
1. Russell Wilson – He made up a ton of ground with his legs, but Wilson finished the regular season third among quarterbacks in fantasy points. He was fairly consistent, as well, ranking as a top-12 passer in 62.5 percent of his games, which trailed only Andrew Luck (81.3 percent) and Aaron Rodgers (75 percent). Wilson finished the regular season 17th in drop backs, which allowed only 3,475 yards (15th) and 20 touchdowns (16th) through the air. Of course, he also paced the position with 118 carries, 854 yards and six touchdowns. The rushing production alone would’ve been enough to finish 24th in fantasy points among running backs. Wilson tossed three touchdowns against Carolina two weeks ago, but that marks the only game this season in which he’s eclipsed two in a game.
2. Tarvaris Jackson – Primary backup to Wilson
3. B.J. Daniels – Unlikely to be active as third quarterback
1. Marshawn Lynch – Fantasy’s No. 3 running back this past season, Lynch scored a position-high 17 touchdowns on 317 touches. For perspective, DeMarco Murray, fantasy’s top running back, scored 13 times on 450 regular-season touches. Lynch has carried his dominance over to the playoffs. He scored against Green Bay and has 216 rushing yards on 39 carries (5.5 YPC). Robert Turbin had been eating into Lynch’s carry total a bit, but the split is now 39:9 in favor of Lynch during these playoffs. New England’s run defense is decent, but Lynch is also involved as a pass-catcher and is a strong candidate to reach 20 touches.
2. Robert Turbin – After totaling 28 carries during Seattle’s previous three games, Turbin racked up only two against Green Bay. Averaging less than one target per game over the past month and a half, Turbin is unlikely to steal many touches from Lynch on Super Bowl Sunday.
3. Christine Michael – Michael carried the ball 34 times after Week 6 during the regular season, but he’s been completely phased out during the playoffs.
4. Will Tukuafu – Seattle’s primary fullback has played 33 snaps during the playoffs. He touched the ball once all season and that happened to be against Green Bay in the NFC Championship.
1. Doug Baldwin (Primary coverage: Kyle Arrington) – Baldwin has run 73 percent of his routes from the slot since Percy Harvin was traded. The Patriots like to shadow/dictate matchups, but Seattle’s underwhelming unit makes predicting those matchups tricky. I’m projecting that Arrington, New England’s primary slot corner, will be on Baldwin quite a bit. Arrington is okay in coverage and has shadowed T.Y. Hilton (twice), Eddie Royal, Jeremy Ross and Jarius Wright this season. It’s also very possible that elite cover corner Darrelle Revis will be asked to shadow Baldwin. More on him later. Baldwin ranked 27th among wideouts in PPR fantasy points following the Harvin trade. He’s seen a hefty 24 percent of Seattle’s targets since that point, including 33 percent against Green Bay in the NFC Championship. Baldwin is Wilson’s top target.
2. Jermaine Kearse (Primary coverage: Darrelle Revis) – Kearse is tricky for defenses to track down because he moves around the formation more than most wide receivers. He’s wide to Wilson’s left 21 percent of the time, in the slot 46 percent and wide right 32 percent. Kearse (6’1/209) has a size edge on Revis (5’11/198), but he’s covered tons of opposing top wide receivers this season. They include Greg Jennings, James Jones, Dwayne Bowe, A.J. Green, Sammy Watkins, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Reggie Wayne, Golden Tate, Randall Cobb, Keenan Allen, Jarvis Landry, Steve Smith and Donte’ Moncrief. Kearse has two touchdowns in the playoffs, but keep in mind that he only scored one during the regular season. Kearse has seen 18 percent of Seattle’s targets during the playoffs, which is actually down from the 20 percent he enjoyed during Weeks 7-15. The average depth of Kearse’s nine playoff targets is a massive 31.1, which obviously pinpoints him as a boom/bust play.
3. Ricardo Lockette (Primary coverage: Brandon Browner) – With Paul Richardson on IR, Lockette ran a career-high 29 routes against Green Bay on Sunday. Seattle’s new No. 3 wideout rarely lines up inside, running 90 percent of his routes on the outside this season. Brandon Browner usually takes on bigger wide receivers and sometimes tight ends, which makes a matchup with Lockette (6’2/211) or tight end Luke Willson the probable outcome. Browner debuted in Week 7 and went on to shadow the likes of Coby Fleener, Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Malcom Floyd and Torrey Smith. Browner shadowed Fleener and Dwayne Allen in the AFC Championship, but note that the Indianapolis tight end duo lines up in the slot quite often, whereas Willson primary lines up in-line.
4. Others: Kevin Norwood, Bryan Walters, Chris Matthews – Six wide receivers were active against Green Bay, but this trio combined to run six routes.
1. Luke Willson – Now atop Seattle’s tight end depth chart, Willson is second on the team in targets during Seattle’s last three games. Only Baldwin has more. Willson played 62 of 73 possible snaps against Green Bay, which was well ahead of Tony Moeaki’s 19. As mentioned earlier, it’s possible New England asks Browner to shadow Willson, but the 30-year-old corner has not been very good this season.
2. Tony Moeaki – As noted, Moeaki was limited to 19 snaps against Green Bay. He blocked on 12 of those snaps and figures to again be limited to situational blocking duties against New England. He’s a deep sleeper to catch a touchdown.
3. Cooper Helfet – Helfet has been busy at times this season, but was inactive as the third tight end against Green Bay.
|PATRIOTS||Carries vs. D Package||Percent of Carries|
|SEAHAWKS||Carries vs. D Package||Percent of Carries|
I’ve written at length about opportunity-adjusted touchdowns (OTD) in the past. If you’re new to the stat, be sure to check out the original introductions to rushing and receiving OTD. This past offseason, I also improved my methodology and you can read the rushing, passing, and receiving articles via the provided links. In a nutshell, the OTD metric weighs every carry/target and converts the data into one number that indicates a player’s scoring opportunity. Playoff data is included.
|Marshawn Lynch||319||14||9.9||LeGarrette Blount||93||6||5.1|
|Russell Wilson||109||7||4.6||Jonas Gray||93||5||5.0|
|Robert Turbin||83||0||0.9||Shane Vereen||98||2||4.1|
|Christine Michael||34||0||0.4||Stevan Ridley||94||2||3.4|
|Percy Harvin||11||1||0.2||Tom Brady||26||1||2.8|
|Doug Baldwin||102||4||4.6||Rob Gronkowski||144||14||8.6|
|Jermaine Kearse||73||3||4.3||Brandon LaFell||127||8||7.1|
|Cooper Helfet||24||2||1.6||Julian Edelman||147||4||6.8|
|Paul Richardson||41||1||1.6||Shane Vereen||82||3||4.5|
|Marshawn Lynch||48||4||1.6||Timothy Wright||32||6||3.1|
|Luke Willson||48||4||1.4||Danny Amendola||50||3||2.0|
|Robert Turbin||21||2||1.0||Brian Tyms||12||1||0.8|
|Percy Harvin||26||0||1.0||Kenbrell Thompkins||10||0||0.5|
|Ricardo Lockette||18||2||0.8||Michael Hoomanawanui||10||0||0.2|
Wide Receiver vs. Cornerback Matchup Chart
Click HERE for an explanation of the columns. Matchup analysis is provided in the above capsules.
|OFF||DEF||Left WR||Ht||Wt||%||Right CB||Ht||Wt||%||T/G||Cov||FP|
|NE||SEA||Brandon LaFell||6’3″||210||50%||Byron Maxwell||6’1″||207||81%||5.5||46||40|
|SEA||NE||Ricardo Lockette||6’2″||211||58%||Brandon Browner||6’4″||221||55%||5.5||59||48|
|OFF||DEF||Right WR||Ht||Wt||%||Left CB||Ht||Wt||%||T/G||Cov||FP|
|NE||SEA||Julian Edelman||5’10”||200||39%||Richard Sherman||6’3″||195||91%||4.0||10||20|
|SEA||NE||Jermaine Kearse||6’1″||209||32%||Darrelle Revis||5’11”||198||51%||4.7||18||33|
|OFF||DEF||Slot WR||Ht||Wt||%||Slot CB||Ht||Wt||%||T/G||Cov||FP|
|NE||SEA||Danny Amendola||5’11”||195||80%||Jeremy Lane||6’0″||190||93%||4.4||40||20|
|SEA||NE||Doug Baldwin||5’10”||189||59%||Kyle Arrington||5’10”||190||61%||3.4||49||32|
1. Russell Wilson (SEA): 17-of-29, 214 yards, 1.3 TD, 0.7 INT, 7 carries, 45 yards, 0.2 TD, 18 FF Pts
2. Tom Brady (NE): 22-of-37, 242 yards, 1.7 TD, 0.9 INT, 2 carries, 2 yards, 0.2 TD, 15 FF Pts
3. Tarvaris Jackson (SEA)
4. Jimmy Garoppolo (NE)
1. Marshawn Lynch (SEA): 19 carries, 80 yards, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards, 0.8 total TD, 14 FF Pts
2. LeGarrette Blount (NE): 16 carries, 62 yards, 0.7 TD, 10 FF Pts
3. Shane Vereen (NE): 4 carries, 15 yards, 5 targets, 3 receptions, 28 yards, 0.2 total TD, 6 FF Pts
4. Robert Turbin (SEA): 5 carries, 19 yards, 1 target, 1 reception, 9 yards, 0.1 total TD, 4 FF Pts
5. Jonas Gray (NE): 1 carry, 6 yards, 0.1 TD, 1 FF Pt
6. Brandon Bolden (NE)
7. Christine Michael (SEA)
8. James Develin (NE)
1. Julian Edelman (NE): 9 targets, 6 receptions, 64 yards, 0.4 TD, 1 carry, 5 yards, 9 FF Pts
2. Doug Baldwin (SEA): 6 targets, 4 receptions, 53 yards, 0.3 TD, 7 FF Pts
3. Jermaine Kearse (SEA): 5 targets, 3 receptions, 45 yards, 0.3 TD, 7 FF Pts
4. Brandon LaFell (NE): 6 targets, 3 receptions, 43 yards, 0.3 TD, 6 FF Pts
5. Ricardo Lockette (SEA): 3 targets, 2 receptions, 26 yards, 0.2 TD, 4 FF Pts
6. Danny Amendola (NE): 4 targets, 3 receptions, 23 yards, 0.2 TD, 3 FF Pts
7. Kevin Norwood (SEA)
8. Chris Matthews (SEA)
9. Bryan Walters (SEA)
1. Rob Gronkowski (NE): 9 targets, 5 receptions, 67 yards, 0.5 TD, 10 FF Pts
2. Luke Willson (SEA): 5 targets, 3 receptions, 37 yards, 0.2 TD, 5 FF Pts
3. Tony Moeaki (SEA): 1 target, 1 reception, 11 yards, 0.1 TD, 2 FF Pts
4. Timothy Wright (NE): 1 target, 1 reception, 7 yards, 0.1 TD, 1 FF Pt
5. Michael Hoomanawanui (NE): 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards, 0.1 TD, 1 FF Pt
6. Cooper Helfet (SEA): 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards, 0.0 TD, 1 FF Pt
1. Stephen Gostkowski (NE)
2. Steven Hauschka (SEA)
Want projected points/rankings custom to your unique league settings? Check out our Custom Rankings Tool.
New England Patriots 24
Seattle Seahawks 21
MVP: Tom Brady