How to pick a Super Bowl winner

PHOENIX — Three things to know when trying to predict the Super Bowl …

The average victory margin is more than two touchdowns, 15.4 points, although the games are trending closer of late. Since the New York Giants beat New England by a field goal here seven years ago, four of the past six were decided by six points or fewer. Seattle’s 43-8 victory over Denver last season was not even the most lopsided game in the previous 48. San Francisco beat Denver by 45 points after the 1989 season. The Patriots have been the exception. Their victories over St. Louis, Carolina and Philadelphia were all by a field goal — one as time expired and one with four seconds left.

It means picking the winner of the game is usually enough to be on the right side. There have been only six games in which the winner did not cover the spread. New England enters Sunday’s game as a one-point favorite after receiving most of the early action. Seattle’s 35-point margin of victory a year ago was the greatest by an underdog, inasmuch as the Seahawks went off as a 2-1/2-point underdog.

If you think you know how many points will be scored, you probably don’t. The game has gone over the predicted total 24 times and under 23. (There was no total on Super Bowl I, Green Bay’s 35-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.) In this age of rules purported to help the passing game, six of the last 10 results were under.

D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Falcons beat writer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and 2014 Professional Football Writers of America president:

 "I’m going with Seattle, 35-31 over New England. I think the defense will get enough stops at the end, maybe a turnover and a touchdown to allow the Seahawks to prevail."

Jerry Colangelo, former managing partner of the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks:

"I tell you, there are two great coaches involved, number one. An interesting dynamic with all that has happened this year with all that has happened in the NFL. I’ll probably go against the grain, but I’m going to pick Seattle. By seven."

Larry Stone, sports columnist, The Seattle Times:

"I’ll pick Seattle, 30-24 in overtime, the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. Pretty much a coin-toss game, so the Seahawks will win because they win the coin toss."

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Ed Werder, NFL insider, ESPN:

"I’m going to predict that the Seahawks will successfully defend their Super Bowl championship. I think the Patriots are a good run-defense team, and since I question their ability to stop Marshawn Lynch, I really question their ability to stop Marshawn Lynch and a running quarterback. I think it could like a Saturday afternoon college football offense that the Seahawks put out there.

Tony La Russa, chief baseball officer, Arizona Diamondbacks:

"I pull for coaches that I know the best. I know Pete (Carroll) a little and I know Bill (Belichick) a lot. One of my best friends. I’m pulling for the Patriots because of Bill."

Tara Lipinski/Johnny Weir, U.S. national figure skating champions:

"Rob Gronkowski. He will win. We have a crazy double-crush on Rob Gronkowski, which really determines our choice of the Patriots. We love Seattle. We love Starbucks. We want him to win because we would do anything for him. We just told him. I don’t know if it went over well, but it is out in the open."

Bob Kemp, sports talk show host at NBC 1060 AM Phoenix:

"First of all, I think it is going to be a low-scoring game. I think they are the two best secondaries in the NFL. Neither of them gives up big plays. I’m expecting more field goals than touchdowns. I’m taking New England, 23-16. I think they have an opportunity to run the ball without (Jordan) Hill and (Brandon) Mebane playing for Seattle, and I think they will be able to create some kind of mismatch on the outside with (Rob) Gronkowski. I think (Shane) Vereen will be a big deal in this game, too, catching balls against linebackers. I think (Dont’a) Hightower and (Jamie) Collins can bracket (Russell) Wilson on the zone read. I think the biggest concern for New England is Lynch just pounding them, but I don’t think they have any respect for Seattle’s wide receivers, so I think it is going to be eight in the box and (Brandon) Browner and (Darelle) Revis can cover the wideouts. The biggest concern for New England is (Tom) Brady. He puts up a lot of balls that are fifty-fifty balls. Against the Seattle secondary, that might not be such a good idea."

Troy Renck, Denver Broncos NFL reporter, The Denver Post:

"Patriots, 27-24. Gronkowski will be the difference. He’ll find a way to make a play or two that Seattle can’t defend."

Keegan Bradley, PGA golfer, who competed in Waste Management Open this weekend:

"I’d like to win this (golf) tournament, but just to be here and be able to go watch the Patriots play in the Super Bowl is a dream come true. I have had a few text messages here and there with some of the boys, but I want them to do their thing, get rested. I have watched every game this year, and I like to sit in the same spot. This is really embarrassing, but I have a set of wide receiver Patriot gloves I put on now and then. I had them on the last time they were losing against the Ravens. I took them off and I left them at home. I didn’t bring them."

Kerry Eggers, Sports columnist, The Portland Tribune:

"I’m going to pick New England, 24-21. I just think defense and Tom Brady will be too much for the Seahawks."

Adam Eaton, center fielder, Chicago White Sox:

"I’ve gone back and forth for the last couple of weeks, but you have to go with Seattle. You really do. I’m not sure what the score is going to be, and I hate picking against New England. Both very good teams. I saw Seattle play against Arizona. They are a very tough team. They play a good, physical brand of ball and I think they will score just enough points to win."

Nick Cafardo, national sports writer, The Boston Globe:

"Seattle’s pass defense will be too much too handle for the Patriots’ offense."

Mike Jurecki, Cardinals insider, FOX Sports 910 AM Phoenix:

"I like New England in the game. I’m going to go 27-23. Obviously, if Seattle is able to get pressure on Brady, like the Giants did without blitzing, that is the only way I see the Pats not winning game. I like the Patriots. I think they obviously will be motivated, coming in trying to prove something. We’ll see if they can contain Russell Wilson. You give Bill Belichick two weeks to prepare, I like him in that matchup." 

Daniel Hudson, Washington Redskins fan, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher:

"31-24, Patriots. Brady leads a two-minute drill to go ahead late."

Bob Condotta, Seattle Seahawks beat reporter, The Seattle Times:

"Seahawks 31, Patriots 24. That’s probably a little more high-scoring than people think, but it seems like Super Bowls sometimes run counter to what everybody expects. I think the Seahawks are a little bit more balanced team, their defense playing so well down the stretch and their running game. I think that’s the key to winning big games and that they will figure out a way to do that and pull it out." 

Mike Klis, Denver Bronco beat reporter, The Denver Post:

"Seattle, 27-17. I learned from last year that defense prevails."

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