This is a Sports Betting fantasy. What if Super Bowl XL were replayed today – before the 2006 season begins, but after the off-season moves? Would the Steelers manage to repeat their dominating defensive performance, as they did in their 21-10 victory last February? Or would the Seattle Seahawks show the world that they just had one bad game and were defeated on any given Sunday?
Let’s take a look at the personnel changes for each team in the off-season. For the Steelers, 3 starters were lost to free agency (Chris Hope, Kimo von Oelhoffen and Antwaan Randle El). Additionally, Jerome “The Bus” Bettis made his final stop at the Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit. Although Bettis did not make much of an impact on the field, Randle El did throw a 43-yd touchdown pass on a trick play reverse to Hines Ward for the knockout blow in the 4th quarter of the game. Hope and von Oelhoffen were key components to a “bend but don’t break” defense that allowed nearly 400 yards in the game, but held the Seahawks to 5-17 on third down. Replacing these departed players this season will be first-round draft pick Santonio Holmes (WR for Randle El), Washington free agent Ryan Clark (FS for Hope) and 2005 backup end Travis Kirschke (DE for von Oelhoffen). All in all, the players the Steelers lost were much better than the ones they replaced them with. The emotional impact of Bettis as team leader also cannot be measured.
The Seahawks did lose three significant players from the Super Bowl squad: Steve Hutchinson (G), Andre Dyson (CB) and Marquand Manuel (FS). However, the players brought in to replace them are not a significant downgrade at each position. Seattle used its first round draft pick on Univ of Miami CB, Kelly Jennings. Jennings will likely split time with veteran Kelly Herndon. Veteran Erict Pruitt will fill in dutifully for Manuel and Floyd Womack should fulfill the expectations placed on him several years ago in replacing Hutchinson. Perhaps the most significant off-season move could be the acquisition of Niners free agent linebacker, Julian Peterson. Once a dominant force that had to be accounted for on every play, Peterson has been slowed by injuries and attitude problems. If Peterson can return to his old form, you can practically punch Seattle’s return ticket to Super Bowl XLI.
So if they kicked it off today, how would it come out? I like the moves the Seahawks made in the off-season to improve an already great team. In this era of free agency, a team can always expect to lose a couple of key components. However, on paper at least, it appears that the Steelers lost a little more than the Seahawks. I also don’t think you can underestimate the impact of losing Bettis, either. Ii felt that the Steelers got a little lucky to catch the Seahawks on a bad day in Super Bowl XL, and don’t think it would happen twice. My prediction would be 31-14, with Seattle marching up and down the field with little difficulty.
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