PHOENIX — Almost as dominant as New England's performance in the AFC championship game was the showing for Pro Picks in both conference title matches.
Now comes the toughest choice of all, and even the odds makers are uncertain on this one. The Seahawks (No. 1, AP Pro32) have gone from a 3-point favorite to, well, no favorite at all. The Patriots are a slight favorite, and that seems logical for the top two seeds.
The Patriots (No. 2, AP Pro32) seek their fourth championship in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. Seattle is after a second straight crown, the first team to manage that in a decade. Guess who did it most recently?
Yep, New England.
Of course, the Patriots (14-4) also lost their past two trips to the big game, both to the Giants.
"We've had some pretty tough losses in past Super Bowls, but none of those matters at this point," quarterback Tom Brady said. "We've got to go out there and we've got a big challenge. We've got a team that is the defending Super Bowl champs. Those guys worked hard. They've earned their spot here. They've won two great playoff games, and we have, too, so that's what makes for a great fight."
Styles make for great fights, too, and this is a classic matchup: potent offense for the Patriots, stingy defense for Seattle (14-4).
In many of those, the defensive team winds up the winner, as happened last year when the Seahawks manhandled Peyton Manning and the Broncos. They'll need to be just as efficient this time against Brady.
"To be honest with you, we don't think about that," defensive end Cliff Avril said. "We look at it as just another opponent in front of us. But ... those are two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, so obviously it does have a little bit of weight behind it."
In 2014, Seattle got off to such a quick start — a safety on the first offensive snap for Denver — that the Super Bowl never really was close. With New England's ability to rally, including from a pair of 14-point deficits against Baltimore in the divisional round, the Seahawks recognize they can never relax.
Nor can the Patriots, knowing very well that Seattle's recent achievements make it as formidable as any opponent could be.
"I don't care about them being the top defense, that doesn't bother me," running back LeGarrette Blount said. "They were good enough to get here, just like we were good enough to get here. They're not immortal. They can be beaten."
Given recent developments, it seems much of America is rooting for New England to be beaten on Sunday, citing the deflated footballs investigation and a past history of stretching the rules (Spygate). If that is so, sorry America.
PATRIOTS, 27-24, overtime
2014 RECORD: Against spread: This week (2-0); Season (132-122-5). Straight up: This week (2-0); Season (176-88-1)
Best Bet: 8-12 against spread, 12-8 straight up.
Upset special: 9-9 against spread, 7-11 straight up.
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