Super Bowl Matchup: Do the Patriots or Seahawks Hold the Edge?

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On paper, Super Bowl XLIX looks like a matchup for the ages. With no shortage of drama leading up to Sunday night’s game, it can be hard to give a subjective analysis on what to expect when the New England Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks for the right to be called NFL champions.

Subjectivity can be difficult when breaking down positional matchups in any sport. With the help of Pro Football Focus (PFF), we have examined each position in the upcoming Super Bowl and had a look into which team holds the advantage at each position heading into the game.

A detailed description of PFF’s grading process can be found here.

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QUARTERBACK

Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson

  • PFF grade: 7.3
  • PFF position ranking: 13

New England Patriots – Tom Brady

  • PFF grade: 25.9
  • PFF position Ranking: 4

Advantage: Patriots

Brady is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game and will be making an NFL-record sixth career Super Bowl start in Glendale, Arizona. The Patriots hold a huge advantage at this position.

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RUNNING BACK

Seattle Seahawks – Marshawn Lynch

  • PFF grade: 20.5
  • PFF position ranking: 2

New England Patriots – LeGarrette Blount

  • PFF grade: 4.6
  • PFF position ranking: 20

Advantage: Seahawks

Lynch is coming off a huge game in the NFC Championship and has been one of the best running backs in the NFL ever since he was traded to the Seahawks. Blount has provided a much-needed spark to the Patriots backfield but is simply not on the level of Lynch.

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

WIDE RECEIVER

Seattle Seahawks – Doug Baldwin

  • PFF grade: 6.3
  • PFF position ranking: 20

Seattle Seahawks – Jermaine Kearse

  • PFF grade: -5.2
  • PFF position ranking: 178

New England Patriots – Julian Edelman

  • PFF grade: -2.6
  • PFF position ranking: 153

New England Patriots – Brandon LaFell

  • PFF grade: 2.3
  • PFF position ranking: 35

Advantage: Seahawks

This was a close call. The combined grades of Baldwin and Kearse add up to 1.1, whereas the combined grades of Edelman and LaFell add up to -0.3. The success, or lack thereof, of both groups will go a long way in deciding the outcome of this game.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

TIGHT END

Seattle Seahawks – Luke Wilson

  • PFF grade: -0.8
  • PFF position ranking: 77

New England Patriots – Rob Gronkowski

  • PFF grade: 22.9
  • PFF position ranking: 1

Advantage: Patriots

Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL. This is another huge advantage for the Patriots.

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OFFENSIVE LINE

Seattle Seahawks – Russell Okung, left tackle

  • PFF grade: -1.5
  • PFF position ranking: 72

Seattle Seahawks – James Carpenter, left guard

  • PFF grade: -6.6
  • PFF position ranking: 106

Seattle Seahawks – Max Unger, center

  • PFF grade: 12.4
  • PFF position ranking: 4

Seattle Seahawks – J.R. Sweezy, right guard

  • PFF grade: -7.6
  • PFF position ranking: 113

Seattle Seahawks – Justin Britt, right tackle

  • PFF grade: -18.5
  • PFF position ranking: 132

New England Patriots – Nate Solder, left tackle

  • PFF grade: -4.9
  • PFF position ranking: 88

New England Patriots – Dan Connolly, left guard

  • PFF grade: -22.4
  • PFF position ranking: 140

New England Patriots – Bryan Stork, center

  • PFF grade: -4.7
  • PFF position ranking: 45

New England Patriots – Ryan Wendell, right guard

  • PFF grade: 2.5
  • PFF position ranking: 31

New England Patriots – Sebastian Vollmer, right tackle

  • PFF grade: 15.5
  • PFF position ranking: 11 

Advantage: Patriots

According to PFF, the advantage here goes to the lesser of two evils. The total grade for the Seahawks is -21.8, and the total grade for the Patriots is -14. Both offensive line units will have their work cut out for them, as both will be facing excellent defensive lines.

Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

DEFENSIVE LINE

Seattle Seahawks – Michael Bennett, defensive end

  • PFF grade: 26.4
  • PFF position ranking: 2

Seattle Seahawks – Cliff Avril, defensive end

  • PFF grade: 9.8
  • PFF position ranking: 13

Seattle Seahawks – Kevin Williams, defensive tackle

  • PFF grade: -0.3
  • PFF position ranking: 59

Seattle Seahawks – Tony McDaniel, defensive tackle

  • PFF grade: -11.8
  • PFF position ranking: 123

New England Patriots – Rob Ninkovich, defensive end

  • PFF grade: -6.4
  • PFF position ranking: 83

New England Patriots – Chandler Jones, defensive end

  • PFF grade: 11.7
  • PFF position ranking: 11

New England Patriots – Vince Wilfork, defensive tackle

  • PFF grade: 10.4
  • PFF position ranking: 13

New England Patriots – Chris Jones, defensive tackle

  • PFF grade: -11.4
  • PFF position ranking: 42

Advantage: Seahawks

The Seahawks have the best defense in the league, which is aided by the team having an outstanding defensive line group. Expect Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to frequent the Patriots’ backfield on Sunday.

Elsa/Getty Images

Elsa/Getty Images

LINEBACKER

Seattle Seahawks – Bruce Irvin

  • PFF grade: 6.8
  • PFF position ranking: 11

Seattle Seahawks – Bobby Wagner

  • PFF grade: 19.2
  • PFF position ranking: 5

Seattle Seahawks – K.J. Wright

  • PFF grade: 13.5
  • PFF position ranking: 6

New England Patriots – Jamie Collins

  • PFF grade: 22.1
  • PFF position ranking: 3

New England Patriots – Akeem Ayers

  • PFF grade: 1.0
  • PFF position ranking: 30

New England Patriots – Dont’a Hightower

  • PFF grade: 27.1
  • PFF position ranking: 2

Advantage: Patriots

The Seahawks have one of the best linebacker groups in the NFL, but behind the exceptional play of Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, the Patriots get the nod here. Expect to see both groups make a lot of plays Sunday night.

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

SECONDARY

Seattle Seahawks – Richard Sherman, cornerback

  • PFF grade: 18.2
  • PFF position ranking: 3

Seattle Seahawks – Byron Maxwell, cornerback

  • PFF grade: -0.2
  • PFF position ranking: 45

Seattle Seahawks – Kam Chancellor, safety

  • PFF grade: 8.1
  • PFF position ranking: 20

Seattle Seahawks – Earl Thomas, safety

  • PFF grade: 13.6
  • PFF position ranking: 5

New England Patriots – Darrelle Revis, cornerback

  • PFF grade: 17.7
  • PFF position ranking: 4

New England Patriots – Brandon Browner, cornerback

  • PFF grade: -5.0
  • PFF position ranking: 79

New England Patriots – Patrick Chung, safety

  • PFF grade: 9.4
  • PFF position ranking: 12

New England Patriots – Devin McCourty, safety

  • PFF grade: 11.6
  • PFF position ranking: 8

Advantage: Seahawks

This is no knock on a Patriots secondary that has been great this year, but the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” is easily one of the best of all time.

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SPECIAL TEAMS

Seattle Seahawks – Jon Ryan, punter

  • PFF grade: 22.4
  • PFF position ranking: 6

Seattle Seahawks – Steven Hauschka, kicker

  • PFF grade: 9.2
  • PFF position ranking: 10

Seattle Seahawks – Bryan Walters, kick returner

  • PFF grade: 2.8
  • PFF position ranking: 18

New England Patriots – Ryan Allen, punter

  • PFF grade: -4.4
  • PFF position ranking: 31

New England Patriots – Stephen Gostkowski, kicker

  • PFF grade: 3.9
  • PFF position ranking: 21

New England Patriots – Danny Amendola, kick returner

  • PFF grade: 2.5
  • PFF position ranking: 23

Advantage: Seahawks

The Seahawks’ clear advantage here comes at punter, where Jon Ryan is far better than Ryan Allen of the Patriots. Both teams have excellent veteran kickers but average return games.