Sharp Football Analysis’ Super Bowl XLVIII Plays: First Half Under 24 points (1 unit) Seattle Seahawks/Over (+7 Point Teaser) (2 Units) See Props Section + Email for Props My computer believes this line is set VERY well. Much like last year, if this game is in New England, I have New England as a small favorite. In Seattle, Seattle would be favored. But on a neutral field, my ratings actually have the Seahawks as a slightly better team, approx. at Seattle -2. (FYI, in this exact spot last year, I said my line was Seattle -1 over the Broncos.) As far as the total is concerned, my model projects approximately 46 points when using regular season data alone, and that increases to 48 if the postseason is factored in. Which is why I found it very predictable the game total dropped from its open of 49 and is now sitting at roughly 47 to 47.5 at most shops. The First Half Under Seattle has gone over 24 in the first half just 3 times this season when Bobby Wagner has played in the games, but never since week 6. In other words, since week 7, when Bobby Wagner has played, the Seahawks have seen all 10 games remain at or below the 24 point margin in the first half. (They are 10-0 SU and 9-1 ATS in these games.) Since 2011, when the Seahawks have 2 full weeks to prepare for a known opponent (rules out the Divisional round games with 1 week to prepare), the Seahawks have NEVER allowed a 1st quarter point, and have NEVER allowed over 7 total points to an opponent. The 3 games that went over early in the season were vs good offenses, such as the Packers, Cowboys and Chargers. But one thing all those opponents had in common, is that their defenses were mediocre at best. Green Bay ranked 16th, Dallas ranked 22nd, and San Diego ranked 24th. Key Statistics for SB49 EDSR By now, everyone should know EDSR stands for Early Down Success Rate. It's an efficiency metric I created last year based upon success on early downs and eliminating 3rd downs (on offense) or forcing opponents to face 3rd downs (on defense). What you may not know (or not remember from last year) is that its the single MOST CORRELATED STATISTIC TO WINNING IN THE POSTSEASON that exists over the last 7 years. The first thing we do is strip out the huge favorites/dogs, and stipulate that games must be lined within 9 points of pick. That will give a more level playing field to evaluate the teams. Next, as you likely know, teams with a 2+ turnover edge win 88% of their games. So to determine efficiency of a stat, its best to strip them out. So let's let's only focus on games where one team doesn't have a 2+ turnover advantage: Teams who have the better EDSR in these games are 30-3-1 ATS (91%) in the postseason since 2007. Under the SAME general guidelines (games lined within 9, no team with a 2+ turnover margin): Teams who run for more total yards are 28-13 (68%) ATS Teams who score more points/total yards gained are 27-14-1 (66%) ATS Teams who gain more yds per play are also 28-13 (68%) ATS Teams who throw for better yds/attempt are also 30-11-1 (73%) ATS Teams who have the most total passing yards also 28-13 (68%) ATS Teams who gain more first downs are also 25-16-1 (61) ATS Teams who run for more yds/attempt are 26-15-1 (63%) ATS Teams who convert a better percentage on 3rd down are 21-19-1 (53%) ATS The Patriots have one of the more underrated defenses in the NFL. In their last 3 games where the Patriots had 2 full weeks to prepare for a known opponent (rules out the Divisional round games where they had 1 wk to prepare), their games have landed 13, 19 and 24 pts scored. The 24 pts was vs the Colts this year, a team with a stronger, up-tempo and pass heavy offense and a mediocre defense. NONE of these stats are better than 75% ATS in the postseason since 2007. None of them are close to the 88% correlation of winning the turnover battle by 2+ turnovers. But most importantly: I think a number of intangibles play into looking in this direction as well: None of them are anywhere close to the 91% correlation which EDSR shows. Field Conditions - if you recall the Pro Bowl just 1 week ago, multiple players were slipping on the surface of the University of Phoenix Stadium. I expect with the early intensity/jitters, we'll see a few players slip early in this game before they get a better feel for the footing. So let's break down the YTD EDSR of both of the Super Bowl teams and look at what they might do on Sunday: Patriots Probe with Gronkowski - I believe the Patriots will start this game with an offensive game plan, but part of that will be multiple formations early to see how the base defense of Seattle plays them. We know Seattle does not change too much pre-snap, but post-snap they will give different wrinkles. For this very reason, I believe plays will be called on which Brady may look for a simple pass option, while Gronk runs his route vs coverage. The Patriots will take their Surface tablets on the sidelines and determine the best opportunities for future drives, therefore, I think drives further into the game will be more successful with greater purpose. Seattle Seahawks EDSR Offensively, the Seahawks ranked 13th, with an overall rank of 12th vs Strength of Schedule (SOS) for EDSR Offense. Defensively, the Seahawks ranked 10th, with an overall rank of 9th vs SOS for EDSR Defense. New England Patriots EDSR Tempo - the Patriots will operate the hurry up. But early in the game, with 2 weeks rest, the Seahawks front 7 (particularly the front 4) should be ready to rush the passer. But as the game wears on, getting that pressure onto Brady is more and more difficult. Just ask the Ravens a few weeks ago, when Brady was barely touched in the 2nd half despite never calling run plays. Offensively, the Patriots ranked 7th, with an overall rank of 7th vs Strength of Schedule (SOS) for EDSR Offense. Trick Plays - The Patriots first pulled out the sneaky ineligible WR formations on the Ravens after getting in a hole and struggling to jump start their offense. The Seahawks ran their FG and punt fakes after being down and in desperate need of points offensively. As you can see, these plays usually would not occur in the first quarter. So there is far more of a chance we'll see trick plays for TDs in the last 3 quarters, particularly right at the end of the 1st half or all of the 2nd half. And these plays typically do catch defenses off guard and typically do result in points, so for our sake, let's hope they do save them for the 2nd half. Commentary In 13 of the last 16 Super Bowls, the first half was lower scoring than the second half. The problem betting that prop in this particular game (though it very well could hit) is both of these head coaches are defensive in nature, and are wizards with 2nd half adjustments. But the point remains, the first half generally starts slow in these big games. Therefore, in conjunction with the above reasons, I think this game does get off to a slower start. The Teaser: Most of the logical reasons for such a teaser are found in the pages which follow. However, there are a few basic Super Bowl trends & angles which have hit with regularity: In the last 13 Super Bowls (since 2001), teasing the underdog is a perfect 12-0-1. While favorites are just 6-7 SU and 3-10 ATS, including 6-6-1 in teasers. Since 2012, Seattle is a perfect 13-0 in teasers when not favored by 2+ points. They actually have won 8 of the 13 outright. They are 18-2 in teasers when on the road, and not favored by 5+ points. Teasing the over has gone 16-2-2 (89%) the last 20 years. Teasing the under is just 11-9 (55%). Defensively, the Patriots ranked 24th, with an overall rank of 26th vs SOS for EDSR Defense. As the large graphic on the following page demonstrates, Seattle's defense (red) is trending a bit stronger than the Patriots, but that is primarily because of one very bad game vs the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots defense was moving in the right direction defensively from week 8 to 9 all the way down to a stellar performance vs the Chargers. But since that week 14 game vs San Diego, defensively their numbers have gotten worse a bit, though they won twice in blowout fashion (v MIA and IND) and won twice in close games (v NYJ and BAL). The Patriots week 17 game vs the Bills is removed as they sat many starters for some or all of the game. Meanwhile, Seattle saw a similar late season swell in the numbers, moving higher from a week 15 game vs the 49ers to blowout games vs ARI, STL, CAR and a close win over GB. But the fact is if you look at the axis, Seattle's last 3 games are hugging the 0.2 mark defensively, whereas the Patriots have done significantly worse (0.7 and 0.35). An interesting takeaway is these teams ability to OVERCOME games where they lost the EDSR battle. Seattle has actually lost the EDSR battle in 4 of their last 7 games, yet won all 7, and the only game which was close was vs the Packers. Meanwhile, the Patriots have lost the EDSR battle just once, to Baltimore, since week 11. In fact, if you look at the Patriots to start the season, they lost the EDSR battle in 4 of their first 5 games. They really have turned it around at the end of the season. The only two teams, since a close week 7 game vs the Jets, to beat the Patriots in EDSR in a game were the Broncos and Ravens. And I certainly don't think the Seahawks fall into that company. So there is a very strong chance that for Seattle to win this game, they will have to do so despite losing the EDSR battle. They lost the EDSR battle 5 times close this year, and won 4 of the 5 (v SF, STL, CAR and GB, lost to KC by 4 pts) and lost the EDSR battle large to DAL, and lost by 7 points. Recapping the Last Meeting recording just 1 sack vs a gimpy Rodgers in Seattle and 2 vs Cam Newton, a QB who holds the football much longer than Tom Brady. The last time these two teams played, it was 2012 in Seattle. The Patriots led 2310 midway thru the 4th quarter. Seattle scored 2 TDs in the last 7 minutes, including one inside the 2 minute warning, to win 24-23. But lets look at how the Patriots built that lead. In the first half alone, the Patriots went 5/8 on third down, and made 3 trips into Seattle's red zone, converting just 1 for a TD against a red zone defense that is weaker this year. On 1st down play calls in the first half, Brady went 9/12 (75%) for 109 yds (9.1 ypa), 1 TD and a 130 rtg. They called just two first down runs in the entire first quarter. They gained 2 yds and 3 yds. Which is why they ended up passing twice as much as they ran on 1st & 10 play calls in the first half. So the Patriots chose to pass simply because they were having success doing so, and their run game was not exceedingly efficient. They started the 2nd half with two first and 10 passes, both of which were complete, and one first and 10 run. Once they gained a double digit lead, the team did become more balanced on 1st and 10, but that didn't stop the Patriots from calling pass plays. With an avg lead of 7-10 points in the 2nd half, the Patriots still called 28 pass plays and only ran the ball 16 times (for a total of 3.2 ypa). In fact, with a 10 point lead in the 3rd quarter, there was a Patriots 7 minute drive which trickled over to the 4th quarter. But in those final 7 minutes in the 3rd quarter, Brady threw 11 passes and they ran the ball just twice. Talk about not caring about balance, even with a lead. That drive, in the 4th quarter, ended with a Earl Thomas interception at the goal line. Marshawn Lynch ran just 9 times for 26 yards in the first half. The Patriots tried to "take away" Lynch, and it succeeded to an extent. But the burden fell onto Wilson, and he delivered. In the first half, Wilson went 9/12 for 155 yds, 1 TD and a 144 rating. Obviously, however, this Patriots defense (particularly the secondary) is much better than the 2012 unit. Seattle tried to get Lynch involved in the 2nd half, but to no avail. Lynch had 3 runs the entire 3rd quarter, for a total of 3 yards. He would finish the game with 15 rushes for 41 yds (2.7 ypc). It was a dominant performance by the New England run defense. KEY POINTS 1. SAME GAMEPLAN FROM BELICHICK We know how hybrid this Patriots offense is. We know, like a chameleon, they can change their style and figure out the best way to play to their opponent's weakness. One week it will use a solid run game, the next will be pass happy, and still the next would be a lot of balance. The Patriots know how to play the Colts, and they continued to run the ball very effectively on them in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots utterly dominated the Seahawks, IN SEATTLE, in their last game. That was a year when Seattle was the #2 overall defense, and #3 vs the pass, the same as this year. But their pass efficiency numbers were 19% better than average in 2012, this year that margin has slipped to just 9%. Meanwhile, whereas Seattle was 8% better than avg vs the run in 2012, they are now 25% better, and moved from 12th to 2nd this year. With those numbers, why would the Patriots pass any less, especially when riding Tom Brady's arm led to a 23-10 lead, IN Seattle, and when the Seahawks have struggled to rush the passer in recent games, Lifetime NFL Totals Records: Overs/Unders Combined = 402-270 (60%) They led 17-10 at halftime, and in the first half, Tom Brady threw 30 passes. That is not a typo. He went 21/30 for 216 yds, 2 TD and a 113 rating. The Patriots ran just 10 times (75% pass) for 3.6 yds/carry with Ridley and Bolden carrying the ball. This is why I believe the Patriots are so loose this week. They are feeling great, you can see it in their media appearances, and Bill Belichick even cancelled Saturday’s walk-through, saying he’s happy with the team’s mindset and work thus far. They KNOW what they are going to do, and it’s the SAME as what they did last meeting. So, what is the game plan I expect to see? A. Take Away Lynch: Defensively, Bill Belichick is a genius. He always takes away a weapon from his opponent, especially with time to prepare. Usually when you think of taking away a weapon, you're thinking of a WR, TE or some type of receiver. Belichick took away Lynch. As mentioned, Lynch averaged 2.7 ypc and was a total non-factor. It forced EVERYTHING onto Wilson. And while Wilson put up good numbers, guess who he was passing the ball to? WRs Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, and TE Zach Miller. Wilson has none any longer. While Baldwin and Kearse have played great, they are not Rice/Tate. And with the vastly superior secondary for the Patriots (ask Andrew Luck), there is no doubt Bill Belichick would like nothing more than to (once again) hold a 23-10 lead with under 8 minutes to go in the game, and watch as Russell Wilson tries to pass the ball into the teeth of this defense. And Belichick likely thinks is improbable that Wilson will have two 50+ drives for TDs in the closing minutes to cause the Patriots to lose. So it would absolutely not shock me in the least to see the Patriots smother Lynch, and snatch blitz Wilson (grabbing Lynch en route to Wilson). The key is containing the read option, but with Jamie Collins, the Patriots should be prepared. The Patriots will make Wilson, off of a 4 interception game, beat them with wide receivers who are certainly average, at best, in the NFL, and a below average TE. B. Brady's Legacy Game: Offensively, I certainly expect the Patriots to come out the gates balanced. They want to run the ball to not only slow the pass rush, but also wear it down using a fast tempo right off the start. In their first drive of the game, Brady threw two passes and converted 1 first down. On 1st & 10, they ran for 2 yds. On 2nd & 8, they ran again, for 1 yard. Faced with 3rd and long, Brady's pass fell incomplete, and the Patriots punted. After 2 passes which were successful, they ran twice (balance) but set up a 3rd and very long and punted. Guess what they did on their next drive? 6 straight passes, the 6th of which was a deep TD to Wes Welker. There is absolutely no reason to assume the Patriots start this game any differently. Try to run, but if not successful, immediately controlled passing with a sprinkle of some (very occasional) shots. I expect Brady to be passing early and often in this game. As mentioned, he had 30 attempts in the first half in the last game. Despite a solid 10 point lead in the 2nd half, the Patriots still called passes 75% more than run plays. If it ain't broke.... Which is why I call this Brady's Legacy Game. More on that next. Brady’s “Legacy” Game I truly believe at this time in his career, this is Brady's "Legacy" game. I said that almost two weeks ago, and I still believe it. Why? If you look at his career, after winning 3 Super Bowls in a short time, he's already a legend. But getting to three more Super Bowls over the course of the last 10 years, and losing all 3 amidst multiple team scandals would certainly not be a good way to end his career. He surely believes that he NEEDS one more ring, and he needs it now. I think the rest of us already know he's one of the all time greats, but he'll want to cement it, and there is no better stage than he will get Sunday, there is no better time, and especially after Peyton Manning was destroyed a year ago by this same team, a Brady win would be exactly the icing on his cake to top off a brilliant career (not to say he's close to being done). Those are reasons why it could be "Legacy-like". But he will have every opportunity because I really believe this game falls almost entirely on his shoulders. As I mentioned earlier, last time he met Seattle, he had 30 pass attempts in the first half and 58 in the game. I already mentioned I think the Patriots stick to a very similar game plan which was very successful. That means Brady has a ton of opportunities to pass the ball. But that last game was in 2012. What has Brady done recently vs teams similar to the Seahawks? Seattle was a top 5 run defense this year. New England has played 4 run defenses similar to Seattle in terms of efficiency: vs DEN (Wk 9) - Won 43-21: Brady: up the middle: 22/28, 225 yds, 4 TD, 1 Int = 125 rtg vs BUF (Wk 6) - Won 37-22: Brady: up the middle: 9/11 for 97 yds, 1 TD, 0 Int = 149 rtg DET #1 DEN #2 BUF #4 BAL #7 vs BAL (Wk 19) - Won 35-31: Brady: up the middle: 13/18 for 149 yds, 1 TD, 1 Int = 92 rtg Here are Brady's stats in those games, as well as the Patriots rushing output: vs DET (Wk 12) - Won 34-9: Brady: 38/53, 349 yds, 2 TD, 1 Int Runs: 20 for 90 yds @ 4.5/carry vs BUF (Wk 6) - Won 37-22: Brady: 27/37, 361 yds, 4 TD, 0 Int Runs: 27 for 50 yds @ 1.9/carry vs BAL (Wk 19) - Won 35-31: Brady: 33/50, 367 yds, 3 TD, 1 Int Runs: 13 for 14 yds @ 1.1/carry As you can see, the blueprint is there. Aside from a decent output vs the Lions, the Patriots did not have exceedingly productive run games, and relied on Brady to deliver the game. And he did, with stellar performances on HIGH VOLUME attempts: 53, 53, 50 and 37. So when you look at how New England has attacked strong run defense teams THIS YEAR with success, and combine that with how the Patriots attacked the Seahawks two years ago with success (led 23-10 midway thru the 4th), there is no reason to think the same type of plan which worked so well in those games would not be employed in this one. Which means the ball is in Brady's hand early and often, and the team wins or loses (its won all of these games) based on how successful Brady is in dissecting the defense. Its his Legacy game, and it will be fun to watch it unfold. How Does New England Attack in the Pass Game? In my opinion, the key is passes right up the middle, on all 3 levels (short, mid, deep). Seattle graded as 8th best defense in the NFL over the course of the season defending passes up the middle, but it was their weakness (they were definitely better on passes to the right or left). They have not faced a lot of exceptional quarterbacks late in the season, but in their last game, at home, vs a gimpy Rodgers, Seattle was exposed up the middle: Aaron Rodgers went 11/12 (92%) for 125 yds (10.4/att), 1 TD, 0 Int = 138 passer rtg on passes in the middle of the field. He also went 6/7 for 91 yds (13/att) on passes 10-19 yds downfield, sideline 2 sideline, which is a 119 passer rtg. This is right in the Patriots wheelhouse - they have been very good down the middle, and on short/medium passing this season. They are not a deep ball team. But Brady has been insanely good on short/mid passes up the middle. Passes 0-19 yds up the middle, he's completing 75% for 9 ypa, 19 TD, 5 Int and a passer rtg of 118 over the course of the entire season. 2014-15 Postseason Record (NFL+CFB) = 28-16 (64%) vs DEN (Wk 9) - Won 43-21: Brady: 33/53, 333 yds, 4 TD, 1 Int Runs: 25 for 66 yds @ 2.6/carry When these two teams met in 2012, as I mentioned earlier, they were pass heavy. Brady was not exceptional on passes up the middle, but this team is MUCH better in that department this season. In that game, Brady went 36/58 for 395 yds, 2 TD, 2 Int. In that game, Brady took 3 deep shots down field to the left (away from Richard Sherman) and went 3/3 for 101 yds and 1 TD. He took 4 deep shots to Sherman's side, and went 1/4 for 23 yds and 1 Int. That Patriots team was much different. Brady threw in that game 4 times to Deion Branch, 1 of which was picked (Sherman got it). He threw 12 times to Brandon Lloyd. Many of those were the deep shots. That game, they had Welker working underneath, Gronk and Hernandez doing TE things, and Woodhead out of the backfield, with Lloyd and Branch the deep threats. Brady and this 2014 offense are much less downfield in late 2014 than they were in early 2012. If the Patriots need any confirmation as to how to attack this Seattle secondary, first, they look at what Rodgers did to them last game, which I mentioned earlier. It was tremendous up the middle. Next, look at how the Broncos tried to attack them in last year's Super Bowl. The least successful means of attack was when the Broncos tried to run the ball: 14 carries gained a total of 27 yds. Overall, Peyton Manning went 35/48 for 282 yds, 1 TD and 2 Int. BUT, in short/medium passes up the middle, Peyton went: 25/28 (89% comp!) for 231 yds (8.25 ypa), 1 TD and 1 Int = 98 passer rtg. Look at that efficiency and those yds/attempt! Its so close of a mirror to Rodgers in Seattle's last game: 11/12 (92%) for 125 yds (10.4/att), 1 TD, 0 Int = 138 passer rtg Thus, I think its a lot of Rob Gronkowski and slot receivers (Edelman, Amendola) up the middle. Which is why I think a receiver like Brandon LaFell will not see a lot of action unless its on pick/rub route combinations where they spring him from the outside to the inside (and try to flip flop the CB matchup to take him off of Bobby Maxwell and onto Jeremy Lane). I think the bulk of the action in the pass game is NOT lateral screens to RBs (Seattle plays those very well), its underneath stuff to the slot WRs, and Gronk up the seams. The other edge for the Patriots is the fact that with Seattle playing so much base defense and then adjusting after the snap, it should allow the Patriots to dictate matchups in the pass game they want to target. For example, if the Patriots intentionally line up Edelman over Jeremy Lane, Brady will continue to attack that matchup. Same for if its Amendola. Lane is the weakest CB and will be targeted early and often by the Patriots. Third Downs Key for New England This matchup simply plays so much into strength on strength. Seattle does NOT give up big pass plays typically, and New England is NOT designed to routinely pass deep downfield. Therefore, the shorter pass game and an element of the run game should set up plenty of third down opportunities. In their last meeting with Seattle, New England had 18 third down attempts and converted 8. Looking at the strong run defenses they have faced this year, here are their 3rd downs attempted and converted: vs DET (Wk 12) - 14 attempted, 6 converted vs DEN (Wk 9) - 16 attempted, 6 converted If you look specifically at how he passed the football up the middle vs those solid run defenses I mentioned early, its PHENOMENAL: vs BUF (Wk 6) - 15 attempted, 7 converted NE played #1 DET, #2 DEN, #4 BUF and #7 BAL vs BAL (Wk 19) - 11 attempted, 6 converted vs DET (Wk 12) - Won 34-9: Brady: up the middle: 18/25, 204 yds, 1 TD, 1 Int = 93 rtg 13 games, the Patriots have converted 6+ third downs all 13 times. Now they face the Seahawks. The ONLY team who forced opponents into 3rd downs more in 2014 than the Seahawks were the Jets. Seattle made opponents attempt 3rd down the 2nd most often of any defense in the NFL. And thus, New England "should" attempt over 10 third downs, and I'd be shocked if they didn't convert at least 6, which they have done 13 out of 13 times since wk 3, including both games vs the Jets. How Does Seattle Get it Done? Much of this breakdown thus far has indicated things in favor of the Patriots. What they will try to do, and where I think they will find the most success. I definitely think defensively, the Patriots MUST try to stop Lynch and put this game on Russell Wilson. But before discussing Wilson, let's talk about this run game vs the Patriots defense. Seattle is the #1 most efficient rush offense in the NFL. The Patriots have played in just 4 games this year vs opponents who ranked in the top 6 in rush efficiency. (I'm not including wk 2 vs MIN which was the game that Peterson was suspended on Friday before the game.) In these 4 games, vs MIA twice, KC and GB, the Patriots are just 1-3 SU, and all the losses came by 5+ points. Since week 10, the Patriots have struggled even with average run offenses. They beat the Jets by just 1 point and the Ravens last week by only 4 points. These run units ranked 16th and 18th respectively. The Patriots won by more than 5 points in 5 games of their final 8, but 4 of those wins were vs teams who ranked 25th or worse in rush offense (IND x 2, SD and DET). Its important to get the ground game established early with Lynch. The Patriots will try to take it away early. But take a look at what other teams have done vs the Patriots early in the game (in the first half) in terms of a yds/rush in the first half, along w their run efficiency rank: MIA #2: 4.3 ypa KC #5: 7.7 ypa GB #6: 4.9 ypa DEN #7: 1.9 ypa CIN #10: 4.1 ypa CHI #11: 5.6 ypa NYJ #16: 4.1 ypa BAL #18: 6.7 ypa SD #25: 4.8 ypa These are not phony numbers, these are real. The only teams the Patriots run defense has shut down this season which was good over the course of the year was Denver. All other teams averaged 4.1 ypa or better in the first half. The average ranking of these teams was 11th, and the average ypa was 4.9 ypa. Seattle's run offense this year is better than ALL of those teams. The Patriots shut down teams like the Colts and the Raiders, holding them to 2.7 and 3.0 ypa, but those teams rank 27 and 32 in the NFL. Even bad run teams, like DET (29th) and BUF (28th) gained 4.1 and 4.0 ypa in the first half vs the Patriots. So while the focus will be on the Patriots stopping the run, this will be a big element of this game. Just because these other teams ran on the Patriots, that did not equate to success. Several of them were blown out in the 2nd half. But that is another wrinkle: Second Half Performance This entire season, the Patriots have led by over 7 points at halftime in just 6 games. These were games vs: MIN, CIN, CHI, DEN, DET and IND, and only one was on the road. They led once on the road by over 7 points, but lost that game (in MIA). On average, in these games, when leading by an avg of 17.6 at halftime, they win by 21.3. Lifetime NFL Playoffs Record: 112-64 (64%) on Sides/Totals inc. Super Bowl 12-5 (67%) The Patriots have converted 6+ third downs in 11 of their last 12 games (ignoring wk 17 when Brady sat the 2nd half). Additionally, since week 3, when the Patriots attempt over 10 third downs, they have NEVER converted fewer than 6: But when NOT leading by over 7 at the half, their average halftime margin is a 2 point deficit. So what they have done (in these 11 games) is pile on points in the 2nd half. They averaged 15 ppg in the second half in these contests, while holding their opponents to 8 points in the second half. But now they face the Seahawks. Since 2012, Seattle has trailed by more than 7 points at halftime in just 5 games (of 55 total). On average, they are down by 16.5 pts. They ended up WINNING 3 of these games, and the two they lost were by 2 points each! That's because their defense is SMOTHERING in the 2nd half, allowing just 5.2 ppg in those 5 games, while their offense scored an avg of 21. In their other 50 games since 2012, where they were not trailing by over 7 at halftime, they are 39-11 SU and 35-15 ATS. They hold opponents in the 2nd half to just 7 ppg in the 2nd half. They have lost just 1 game by over a TD, and that was to the Chargers week 2 of this season. This season, since week 11 Seattle has not allowed any opponent to score more than 7 ppg in the 2nd half. Their season average is just 7 ppg allowed in the 2nd half. So if this game is close at halftime (odds says it should be), its very unlikely that the Patriots pull away in the 2nd half, like they've done so often this year, scoring 15 pts in the second half. It certainly COULD happen, but its an underdog to happen. Can Russell Wilson Lead this team to another Ring? He's got them here, but he had almost as much help as last year, given the strong play of the defense and the beastly play of Marshawn Lynch. If we assume Bill Belichick sets out to stuff the run, it means he wants Wilson to beat him with his arm. Therefore, it is incumbent upon Wilson not only to deliver, but to also beat his "spy" and gain some yardage on the ground. The last 2 years, the Patriots have won by less than a TD or lost the game 18 times. Their opponents are 16-2 ATS and 18-0 in teasers in these close games. Many of these games have come vs QBs who, while not as elusive as Wilson, can move in the pocket and extend plays if they need to: All 4 games vs NYJ have been close. In 2014: GB, KC, MIA were close games, and those teams had Rodgers, Alex Smith and Ryan Tannehill. Flacco was also in the mix in the playoffs. In 2013: CAR, BUF, CIN and another game vs MIA, so add in Cam Newton, EJ Manuel and Andy Dalton to the mix. Of course, there were a couple pocket passers who fared well in 2013 (Peyton Manning and Drew Brees). The bottom line is while the Patriots don't want Wilson to get loose for rushing yards, they cannot allow him to get lose to extend the plays, either. And that's definitely something Wilson likes to do, as he typically exhausts every option down field before taking off. This season, Wilson takes the most time in the pocket of any QB. His average time to throw is 3.2 seconds. Usually, before he scrambles, he hangs in the pocket a whopping 5.3 seconds. That's far too long vs the Patriots. Wilson must be decisive: When he passes the ball within 2.5 seconds, his passer rtg is 113 and his completion percentage is 74%. When he passes the ball after 2.5 seconds, his passer rtg plummets to 74 and his completion percentage drops to 50%. Wilson should either pass in that 2.5 second window, or immediately look to scramble. He is by far the highest rated rusher of all QBs this year. Only Cam Newton was close. In the pocket, the weakness of the Patriots defense is defending the TE (where they rank 30th in efficiency) and the #2 WR (where they rank 17th). There have not been many games in his career where Wilson had 2 weeks to prepare for a known opponent. Aside from last year's Super Bowl, you have two Monday night games the last 2 years: One vs NO at home, one vs WAS on the road. This year in Washington, Wilson went 18/24 for 201 yds, 2 TD, 0 Int and a 127 rtg. Last yr vs New Orleans, Wilson went 22/30 for 310 yds, 3 TDs and 0 Ints for a 140 rtg. And in the Super Bowl vs the Broncos, Wilson went 18/25 for 206 yds, 2 TDs and 0 Ints for a 123 rtg. His lone loss was to the Dolphins in Miami his rookie year, but Wilson went 21/27 for 224 yds, 2 TDs and 0 Ints for a 126 rtg. That alone is tremendous for such a young QB playing away from home in 3 of those 4 games. But we'd be remiss to not include his rushing stats: @ MIA: 5 for 38 yds = 7.6/carry vs NO: 8 for 47 yds = 5.9/carry @ DEN (SB): 3 for 26 yds = 8.7/carry @ WAS: 11 for 122 yds @ 11.1/carry Wilson just seems to have complete understanding of the defense, where they will be, and can take advantage of it whether using his arm or his legs. He certainly will have a big test on Sunday, but he's shown he is up for these tests in the past. Final Sitting here today, I have this game played out in my head. I've been asked to pick the game score, so I'll share a total guess as to that score in conjunction with the way I perceive the game being played: The way I see it starting is slowly and cautiously. On the potentially slick surface, I think both teams try not to lost this game early. The Patriots will line Gronk up at many spots, and look for early matchups to exploit. Seattle's pass rush will be fresher, but Brady's pace and tempo and a balanced run/pass game will keep him relatively clean, though it would not shock me if the sleepy Seattle pass rush gets an early sack. Seattle will settle for FGs, the Patriots will have more red zone opportunities and might lead at the half in a close, low scoring game. In the second half, the rotation for the Seattle d-line will be tested, and Brady will have his efficient pass game humming. Though not scoring as many points as they typically score in the second half, thanks to Seattle's defense, the Patriots maintain their lead. But Russell Wilson uses his legs more in the 2nd half, and a few big pass plays open the run game a little more and Seattle closes the gap off of a turnover that sets up a short field score. The Patriots lead 24-23 late in the 4th quarter, with the ball. Seattle's defense is able to force a punt, and its up to Russell Wilson to pull another rabbit out of his hat. He's able to convert a 4th down and drive his team down the field close enough to attempt a FG, which Hauschka makes and instead of the game landing NE and Under, it moves to SEA and Over with a 26-24 final. This is, of course, a total guess. I'd have to be a real savant if I even got 20% of that correct, as most of game situation is dictated by score and time, so the odds of the game playing out like this are pretty slim. I have the total set about right, and my algorithm thinks Seattle wins by 2 points. Certainly its a toss-up by the math and by the line, so I don't see "value" in the side of Seattle, which is why I've shifted instead for a SEA / Over teaser. I don't like the over for the full game, but on the tease, I like it. I think the fact that Seattle’s red zone defense is not what it was last year should let the Patriots score a few, which will put Seattle in the position of getting more aggressive, so I think this one will exceed the teased total. Props I will release more of these between tonight and tomorrow. Some tomorrow will try to fade the influx of public money on the game. A couple I will release are based on logic shared earlier in this write-up. I will release the rest via email and posting on the site. Right now: New England Patriots Over 5.5 3rd down conversions -115 (0.5 units) Don’t Miss the 2015 NFL Draft Coverage & 2015 NFL Football Preview Magazine this Summer! Those individual statistics are mind numbing. With 2 wks to prepare for a known opponent, Wilson is a combined 79/105 (75% completions!) for 8.9 ypa, 9 TDs and 0 Ints. That's a 129 passer rating.
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