The New England Patriots are now mere one-point favorites over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, taking place Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Based off the most recent point spread from Vegas Insider, and a comparison of both teams’ stats, it’s certainly understandable why this is one of the tightest and toughest Super Bowls in history to predict.
Let’s take a look at several key stats on offense and defense and see which team holds an advantage ahead of the NFL’s biggest game of the year. All stats below are based off how New England and Seattle finished in the regular season.
Passing: New England 9th, Seattle 27th
New England’s Tom Brady posted one of the better years of his long career with 4,109 yards and 33 touchdowns to nine interceptions, and he has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. The Patriots frontline allowed only 26.0 sacks all season.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson is known for making excellent decisions in the pocket, but the Seahawks don’t ask him to throw a lot like most teams do of their quarterbacks. Wilson was only 19th in the league with 452 pass attempts, and he took 42 sacks during the regular season. Wilson did post a 95.0 passer rating and threw for 20 touchdowns, but both were down from his first two years in the league.
Rushing: New England 18th, Seattle 1st
No offense could match Seattle’s rushing attack in the regular season, and certainly no defense could stop it. The Seahawks gained 172.6 rushing yards per game behind Wilson and top running back Marshawn Lynch’s 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns.
After Stevan Ridley went down with a major injury, New England’s No. 1 rusher was rookie Jonas Gray, who gained 412 yards and five touchdowns, but half of that yardage came in one game this year. The Patriots may have more depth in the backfield with Gray, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen, but they haven’t matched Seattle’s production.
Receiving: New England 11th, Seattle 26th
Since the Patriots throw more than the Seahawks, its only natural that their receivers have gained more yardage this season. There’s tight end Rob Gronkowski, who’s one of the toughest players to tacle in the NFL and he led the team with 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. Behind “Gronk” there’s receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell, and tight end Tim Wright. That group totaled 17 touchdowns in the regular season.
Seattle counters with receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, who combined for 1,362 yards and four touchdowns. Lynch was actually third on the team with 37 receptions for 367 yards and four scores by himself. But second year tight end Luke Wilson emerged late in the season and caught another 22 balls for 362 yards and three scores.
Turnovers: New England t-1st, Seattle 3rd
Any game comes down to which team takes care of the ball the best, and neither New England nor Seattle is careless with the football. The Patriots committed 13 total turnovers (9 INTs and 4 fumbles), while the Seahawks totaled 14 (7 INTs, 7 Fumbles).
How Brady and Wilson maintain possession will be one of the deciding factors in the game. Brady tossed nine picks in the regular season and Wilson had seven. However, in two postseason games each, Wilson’s chucked up four INTs compared to Brady’s two.
Total Defense: New England 13th, Seattle 1st
For the second straight year, the Seahawks led the NFL in total defense (267.1 ypg) and points allowed (15.9 ppg), a feat no team has accomplished since the 1985 and 1986 Chicago Bears. With a loaded secondary that includes team-interception leader Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell, Brady could be in for a rough day.
But the Patriots fielded an impressive defense as well this season, jumping from No. 26 overall last season to No. 13 in 2014. And while they might have given up more yards than 12 other teams in the league, the Patriots were one of only eight teams to allow less than 20 points a game, 19.6 per to be exact.
Sacks: New England 13th, Seattle 20th
They might be separated by seven teams, but the actually sack discrepancy between the Patriots and Seahawks is largely negligible. New England recorded 40 sacks all year, and Seattle 37.
Interceptions: New England 12th, Seattle 18th
Another minor difference, with New England snatching 16 errant passes and Seattle 13. But the Seahawks have such a loaded secondary that its difficult not to consider this an advantage. Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebacker Jamie Collins could change everything though. Revis led the team with 14 passes defended, a number of which could have been picks, and Collins totaled two interceptions when he dropped back into pass protection.
Clearly this matchup is too close to call one team outright better than the other, but we’ll find out Sunday.