The Super Bowl is here, so that means the Verizon #WhosGonnaWin program is back. Fans are encouraged to join the #WhosGonnaWin conversation on Twitter and Facebook to predict who they think will win each playoff game leading up to Super Bowl XLIX. Verizon will turn the fans' predictions for the matchup into a spectacular nightly light show projected on the Collier Center building at Verizon Super Bowl Central in downtown Phoenix taking place Wednesday, January 28, through Saturday, January 31 at 7 p.m. MST. Fans will be able to stream the light show in NFL Mobile and on WhosGonnaWin.com. Plus, for the first time, fans can stream every NFL playoff game, including Super Bowl XLIX, live on NFL Mobile.
There is one week until the Super Bowl and while the Patriots have been here before, it's been a decade since their last victory. Of the players on the roster, only Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork experienced a Super Bowl victory with the Patriots, while Brandon Browner earned a ring with the Seahawks last season. Stephen Gostkowski and Dan Connolly have been on the roster for the past three Super Bowls, although Connolly spent the 2007 season on the New England practice squad.
Experience doesn't really provide an advantage when the Patriots are facing the reigning champions- but there are more than a handful of important players who were on the New England roster during the 2011 Super Bowl. The inexperienced members on the team will have to rely on them for insight on how to prepare for the most important game of the year.
Linebacker Jerod Mayo doesn't seem concerned about the difference in Super Bowl experience.
"I think guys [on the Patriots] know what they have to do- manage the anxiety and things like that," Mayo stated. "Other than that, it's going to be an exciting game. Seattle Seahawks, they have a great team. I know the guys are excited to put in a good week of practice and go out there and perform well."
For the Patriots, the goal is to compartmentalize the noise and just focus on the opponent. They're on to Seattle, as some might say, and the focus starts with the coaches.
"You know, I think the coaches do an excellent job of keeping us isolated from a lot of the outside things going on during Super Bowl weekend," Mayo said. "I think that's huge, as guys look at [the Super Bowl] as a business trip. And that's what it is. I mean, at the end of the day, if you win the game, you can do whatever you want after that. I think the guys are dialed in and ready to go."
While the team will declare the game a standard day in the office, the younger players will rely on the veterans in the locker room to help stabilize the nerves that will undoubtedly spread on game day. One of the key players, and another leader on the team, Rob Ninkovich is going to be important for the game plan.
Ninkovich played a crucial role against the Colts and managed to have his best game of the year in the conference championship game. His performance and his ability to peak at crucial moments didn't go unnoticed.
"You know Rob, he's a very versatile guy, he can run, he can do a lot of diferent things," Mayo said. "He can drop into coverage, he's a huge asset for this defense. Last week he played well and hopefully he has one more in him for this week. He'll be asked to do a lot of different things. He's a veteran on this team and a leader. He's been playing well for us lately."
As the Patriots plan for the Super Bowl, they will try and scheme away the Seahawks favorite offensive players. The New England defense prides itself in forcing the opposition to win left handed, or, in other words, use their roster depth to beat the Patriots.
For Seattle, there are three main players that need to defended: running back Marshawn Lynch (1,673 yards from scrimmage), wide receiver Doug Baldwin (833 yards from scrimmage), and, possibly most dangerously, quarterback Russell Wilson (849 rushing yards).
It's likely that the Patriots will place Darrelle Revis on Baldwin, similar to how they covered Steve Smith of the Ravens. If that's the case, then the New England front seven can key in on Lynch and making sure that Wilson doesn't escape the pocket.
"Obviously it's going to take a lot of different people to try and slow [Wilson] down," Mayo explained. "You know he can go out either side of the pocket. Being able to isolate and contain him and keep him in the pocket is going to be a huge thing. He's pretty fast; he can outrun a lot of guys to the edge. [The Patriots will] have to use a variety of people, whether it's a defensive back, a linebacker, or even a defensive lineman, to try and and slow him down."
The Patriots will certainly have their hands full with the Seahawks offense, but these New England players have been building up to this moment all year. They'll be ready.