GLENDALE, Ariz. — After two weeks of drivel, welcome to an actual football game.
The last game of the season takes place tonight when New England and Seattle meet in the Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Patriots will be trying to win their fourth Super Bowl in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era, but their first in 10 seasons (after winning three in four years: 2001-03-04). The Seahawks are seeking to become the first back-to-back champions since New England.
Before sharing my thoughts on this game, here’s an upset from Falcons Central. It turns out they may not need the “12’s” like the Seattle Seahawks — the nickname for their rabid fan base — because they’ve been accused of just popping in a CD. The Falcons are being investigated by the NFL for piping in fake crowd noise at home games through the Georgia Dome sound system. This might seem like not that big of a deal to you and is merely the attempts of a team’s desperate game operations department to pump life into a building. But it’s a potentially serious violation that could cause the team to be fined or lose a draft pick.
Now, about the game.
In the week leading up to my arrival in Arizona last Sunday night, I liked Seattle to win, for all of the usual reasons: defense, Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson and their ability to pull out victories when nobody expected them to (see: NFC title win over Green Bay, which forced the Falcons to wait to hire Dan Quinn).
But I’ve changed my mind. I’m going with New England.
Let’s start with the fact that these are two great teams on the field and great organizations off of it, and I can easily come up with 25 reasons why either team will win. But:
— Brady and the Patriots tend to play at their best when the hate level is turned up. “DeflateGate,” along with “Spygate” and a reputation for rule-bending, has cast doubt on the legacies of Brady, Belichick and the Patriots in this era. But I see Brady playing well tonight — even with a full inflated ball.
— Seattle’s secondary is banged up, most notably free safety Earl Thomas (dislocated shoulder) and cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow).
— The late-season addition of LeGarrette Blount — who had been phased out and effectively quit on Pittsburgh — has strengthened the Patriots’ running game, providing needed balance for Brady.
— As good as future Falcons coach Dan Quinn’s defense is, I’m not sure theSeahawks have an answer for Patriots tight end RobGronkowski.That said, it wouldn’t surprise me if Seattle won — so there, I’m sufficiently covered.What are your thoughts on today’s game? I’ll live blog as much as I can during the game.
•A writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
— AJC: Another possible embarrassment for Falcons: Fake crowd noise — MyAJC: There’s no confusion about pecking order on Super Bowl teams — AJC: Dan Quinn could have final day on 53-man roster — MyAJC: Blank speaks but remains vague on Falcons’ restructuring — MyAJC: Tiger Woods’ problems aren’t just physical anymore — AJC: Is it Tiger time … or is Tiger Woods’ time over? — MyAJC: LeGarrette Blount walked out on team — and straight to Super Bowl — AJC: Georgia’s Lockette playing for third straight Super Bowl team — MyAJC: Dan Quinn says he’s ready for next challenge (with Falcons) — AJC: Lynch goes into interview Beast Mode again (surprise!) — MyAJC: Great or not, Patriots’ legacy is forever tarnished — AJC: Seattle players say Quinn will be ‘great head coach’ for Falcons — AJC: Brady says ‘feelings got hurt’ by accusations (really?) — MyAJC: Hawks are closest team to rare Atlanta sports title — AJC: Matt Ryan doesn’t believe deflating footballs is the norm — MyAJC: Al Horford finally past injuries and frustration with Hawks — AJC: Stall, lie, cheat — it’s the Patriots’ way, and perfectly timed — AJC: DeflateGate: It’s time for NFL to forfeit games for cheaters — MyAJC: Walsh-Montana still top Belichick-Brady on coach-QB mountain — AJC: Seattle’s Super Bowl only delays Falcons’ hiring of Dan Quinn — AJC: Oddsmaker says Braves’ win total will be ‘low 70s’ (with reader poll) — MyAJC: Braves’ moves carry Coppolella’s fingerprints — AJC: There goes Evan Gattis as Braves take another big hit