Tom Brady, New England Patriots
After defeating the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers respectively, the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks now square off in Super Bowl XLIX.

The Seahawks played a mediocre game against the Packers, but forced the Pack to settle for field goals on several trips inside the red zone. That left the door open for huge Seattle comeback in the fourth quarter as Russell Wilson found his groove (after throwing 4 interceptions) and Marshawn Lynch started rambling. A fortuitous onside kick recovery and a great throw by Wilson in overtime allowed the Seahawks to prevail.

The Patriots, on the other hand, dismantled a good Colts squad 45-7, but are now ensnared in one of the biggest controversies to hit the NFL, DeflateGate. Eleven of the twelve New England footballs were found to be underinflated which presumably gave the Pats an advantage gripping the ball, especially considering the weather conditions. This did not really affect the outcome, but anything that threatens the integrity of the game is taken very seriously by the league and its fans.

If the Seahawks play as poorly against New England as they played for most of the game against Green Bay, the Patriots will win big. However, New England needs to generate favorable matchups for Rob Gronkowski against the excellent set of linebackers and safeties that Seattle fields. Brady’s accurate passing will be going against what is probably the best secondary in the NFL, but injuries to both cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow) and safety Earl Thomas (shoulder) will lessen their effectiveness. An X-factor could be running back LeGarrette Blount, who has the size to pound away at the Seattle front and has excelled in post-season games.

Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick will take away the best offensive option, which for Seattle would be running back Marshawn Lynch. The Pats will force Russell Wilson to win the game. New England will try to minimize Wilson’s scrambling out of the pocket as well.

As far as special teams go, it would seem to be a wash — each kicker and punter is very capable. A possible differentiator here might be Patriot punt returner Julian Edelmann, who is fearless in dashing up the field. A line drive punt by Seattle might be a deciding factor.

If the Patriots can force Wilson to throw from the pocket on defense and get Gronk open on offense, they should win the game. However, it should be a fairly close contest, New England 31, Seattle 24.

Watercolor on Strathmore Multimedia board. Click on the image for a larger version. You can also purchase a print here.

Ezekiel Elliott

The Ohio State Buckeyes crushed the Oregon Ducks in the first National Championship Game played following a four-team playoff, beating them 42-20. The high scoring Ducks opened the game with a long touchdown drive, capped by a touchdown pass from the Heisman-winning QB, Marcus Mariota. Oregon’s quick start proved to be a complete mirage, as the game then turned entirely in the Buckeye’s favor for most of the remainder of the contest. OSU drove for the tying touchdown, scored by Ezekiel Elliott on a 33-yard scamper. From there on in, Oregon’s offense seemed out of sync going against the Buckeyes and the Ohio State offense, led by its huge and talented offensive line, pushed the Ducks around. After the opening drive, Oregon was seldom able to get into the tempo of their “Blur” offense and mistakes and lack of execution on 3rd and 4th down caused several drives to fizzle. Oregon was particularly ineffective in the red zone, scoring only that opening TD and settling for field goals or turning the ball over on their other opportunities.

For the Buckeyes, Elliott capped off one of the great 3-game streaks in college football history, rushing for a three-game total of nearly 700 yards against Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon.

In the championship game, Elliott ran 36 times for 246 yards and 4 touchdowns. He kept drives alive with 3rd- and 4th-down plunges and broke several long gainers that broke the back of the Oregon defense. Along with his teammate, Cardale Jones, Elliott turned in a postseason performance that catapulted the Buckeyes from the fringe of the playoff picture to National Champions. Ohio State returns many talented players next year, including Elliott and Jones, and must be considered the favorite to win it all again in 2015.

Watercolor on Strathmore Multimedia board. Click on the image for a larger version. This painting is also available from Fine Art America.

Marcus Mariota Oregon Ducks

Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks lived up to their hype as they blasted the defending champion Florida State Seminoles in the first NCAA Division I playoff game in history. The #2 ranked Ducks blew open a tight game in the third quarter and won going away, 59-20, over a tough FSU team that had managed to meet every challenge this season. Their 29 game win streak is over and it is likely that the talented but controversial Jameis Winston has played his last game in a Seminole uniform.

The game was 18-13 at the half, with the Ducks in the lead. In the third quarter, though, the Ducks offense and defence asserted themselves and a torrent of points piled up. Aided by 4 FSU turnovers, the fast-paced Ducks scored 6 touchdowns in the second half. Mariota, who has had one of the most outstanding careers in college football history, passed for 338 yards on 26 of 36 passing and 2 TD’s while also rushing for 62 yards and a touchdown as well. He kept the Ducks’ Blur Offense rolling and didn’t make any critical mistakes, outdueling his fellow Heisman winner Winston.

Oregon now takes on Ohio State for the National Championship on January 12th.

Watercolor on Strathmore Mixed Media board. Click on the image for a larger version. You can also purchase a print here.

Against the favored Indianapolis Colts, Ben Roethlisberger delivered an historic performance at Heinz Field on Sunday becoming the first quarterback to pass for more than 500 yards in a single game twice. Wearing their hideous bumble bee throwback uniforms, the Steelers surged ahead, but the Colts kept on coming on and scoring against the Steeler defense. This led Pittsburgh to continue to be aggressive on offence and Ben was very sharp. He completed 40 of 49 passes for 522 yards (fourth highest all-time) and 6 touchdowns. The yardage and touchdowns were all Steeler franchise records. Pittsburgh prevailed 51-34 and now face their bitter rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, next Sunday night.

Watercolor over pencil and ink.

Pencils on Strathmore Multimedia board.

Inks.

Russell Wilson put on a virtuoso performance against the Washington Redskins on Monday night. The Seahawks signal-caller not only passed for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 of 24 passing, but also rushed for 122 yards on 11 carries, scoring a TD. His long runs frustrated the Redskins, who seemed to have no answer when Wilson took off out of the pocket.

The Seahawks won the game 27-17 with Wilson responsible for all of Seattle’s touchdowns. Seattle goes on to face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Pencils on Strathmore Multimedia Board

Inks

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