We enjoyed an unblemished championship-game round, accurately predicting the Seahawks and Patriots both would win outright, and also going perfect against the spread by picking the Packers with the points and New England to cover. (Somewhere, Packers and Colts fans were commiserating after Green Bay managed one of the biggest gag-jobs in sports history and Indy meekly laid down, 45-7). Now it’s time to ride the momentum of our champ-game results as if it were a horse and I knew how to ride.
Final regular season
PATRIOTS (14-4) vs. SEAHAWKS (14-4)
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Line: NE by 1
Cote’s pick: NE 27-23
TV: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC
The Villain Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, has no warm ‘n fuzzy Cinderella in it, nobody in a white hat. Except in America’s upper Northeast and upper Northwest, where the Patriots and Seahawks are home, much of the rest of the country hates these teams – and with reason. Bill Belichick and New England are seen as rules-benders or as outright cheaters by some. Pete Carroll and Seattle are seen as cocky and tough to like, exemplified by surly Marshawn Lynch and preening Richard Sherman. But Sunday’s game could attract a record TV audience for that very reason and also because this matchup has history’s attention. Seattle could become the NFL’s first back-to-back champion in 11 years. And Belichick and Tom Brady could win their fourth Super Bowl (but first since 2004) to pretty much end all arguments about who is the greatest coach/QB combo of all time. Another intrigue Sunday is the evenness. Look askance at anyone who claims to be sure (or even confident) who’ll win. Two No. 1 conference seeds, both teams with seven Pro Bowl players, all-time series tied 8-8, most recent meeting decided by a 24-23 score – could this 49th Super Bowl be any more even? These teams also ranked 1-2 this season in point differential, with the Patriots plus-155 and the Seahawks plus-140. No wonder it’s a near-pick ’em game, with the Pats generally a 1-point favorite but the game dead even by some Vegas sports books. Bottom line: You might prefer that the Pats and ’Hawks both lose but you’ll watch because these are two great teams portending one great game. Lynch and Rob Gronkowski spearhead two big-time offenses, but I’d rather have Brady on Sunday than Russell Wilson. I just would. Seattle’s defense is better all-round but New England will remind that its D is plenty good enough. The difference for me will be intangibles. Seattle just won, while Brady has the hunger of having lost twice since last being champion. Beyond that, the Patriots have endured the “Deflategate” mess that portrayed them as cheaters, and also the smaller indignity of the fire alarm at their team hotel mysteriously twice sounding in the wee hours this week. I see this as an angry, extra-motivated Patriots team. And I see a defiant owner Robert Kraft lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.