By Joe Yamulla II Layout Assistant

    The past week’s AFC and NFC championship games received an incredible amount of attention. The Seattle Seahawks managed to pull off a miraculous comeback win in overtime against the Green Bay Packers 28-22, and gave themselves an opportunity to defend their championship from last season. It was a truly special moment at CenturyLink Field that gave many NFL fans (besides those in Green Bay, Wisconsin) something to smile about. Unfortunately, there is not as much to celebrate regarding the Seahawks Super Bowl opponent, the New England Patriots. They dominated the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 45-7 in the AFC championship game. However after the discovery of 11 inflated game balls, the New England’s win became controversial. This controversy is being referred to as “deflate gate” and has gone viral across social media, and a multitude of different news stations.

    This isn’t the first time New England has been accused of cheating in the NFL. In 2007, the Patriots were caught in a scandal called “spygate” which involved them illegally videotaping opposing teams offensive signals and using this information to gain an unfair advantage. Since they have a reputation for unfair play, they’re an easy target when it comes to other allegations. The issue first arose after Colts safety Mike Adams intercepted a pass from Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady. Adams took the ball to his equipment manager, and discovered that it was partially deflated. After the game, it was discovered that almost all of the Patriots’ balls, except one, had been under-inflated.

    The night of the game was cold and wet. As anyone who has played football in these conditions knows, a fully inflated ball feels like a rock when it hits your hands in the cold. It is hard to grip, catch, and handle. Each football has to weigh between 12.5-13.5 pounds per square inch (psi). Brady’s footballs were measured at about 10.5 psi. A softer football, especially in the cold, is much easier to throw, catch, and hold onto. Brady’s statement from 2011 regarding his preference for a deflated ball is certainly not helping his defense in this case. After a reporter asked him about what he thought about his teammate, Rob Gronkowski, spiking the ball after scoring, Brady answered,

     “When Gronk scores he spikes the ball and deflates it. I love that, because I like the deflated ball.”

     It would be absolutely unfair to say that New England won this game because they were using a ball that was easier to handle. They still beat the Colts up for the entire game. They ran the ball exceptionally well, and their defense shut Andrew Luck and company down. But, we can’t say that the balls had no influence on the game. They helped the entire New England offense in its ability to throw the ball, catch it, and to hold onto it. The problem with cheating, is that one instance usually leads to another, and it absolutely can not be tolerated in any sport. Cheating, regardless of how big or small it is, takes away from the integrity of the game. The league is a huge market, and fans pay big time money to see the best in the world play at the highest level. It is absolutely unacceptable for any team to cheat; it is cheating the league and its great fans. The NFL has already had a disastrous public relations season due to its disgraceful cases of domestic violence and abuse. If the Patriots are found to be guilty and behind this matter, they will receive a severe punishment and sanctions. They will be fined a large sum of money, lose first-round draft picks, and head coach Bill Belichick will most likely be suspended for an entire year. Even after all this has happened, the AFC championship game cannot be replayed, and the Patriots will still be playing for the Super Bowl in Arizona.

     It is a relief to say that the Seahawks will enter this game with no controversy or allegations of cheating. The Seahawks are a fearless group. They play hard-nosed, smash mouth football with strong defensive play from their defense known as the Legion of Boom. That defense is led by corner-back Richard Sherman, who is not concerned with the “deflate-gate” situation. The Seahawks may be known for their defense, however, their offense is certainly not to be ignored. They have a young, outspoken, and great leader in their quarterback, Russell Wilson. Wilson has solid receivers to throw to, such as Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin. Then, of course, there is the power running back Marshawn (Beastmode) Lynch.

    The Seahawks express a “never say die” attitude that Russell Wilson consistently preaches. Their win against the Packers was the perfect example of this. They were down 19-7 with 4 minutes left in the game. Green Bay even thought the game was over, as they played conservatively down the 4th quarter. Yet, Wilson ran in a touchdown to make it 19-14 with 2 minutes left. Then they recovered an almost impossible onside kick, and Marshawn Lynch scored on a 24 yard touchdown run. Wilson capped off a 2-point conversion to Luke Wilson that put the Seahawks up 22-19 with 1:25 left to play. The Packers fought back in the last minute, and Mason Crosby nailed a 48 yard field goal to send the game to overtime. Still, the Packer’s efforts to fend off Seattle were not enough, as Wilson finished the game in overtime with a game-winning 35 yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse.

     It was an uplifting win for Seattle, and a heartbreaking loss for Green Bay. Russell Wilson is blossoming into a superstar before our very eyes, and Seattle is trying to become the first back-to-back champs since ironically, the New England Patriots.

     It will be interesting to watch how the “DeflateGate” situation plays out during the Super Bowl week. One thing is for sure, and that is that all balls used in the big game will be measured and legal for use.

     Even with the allegations in place, no one can take away from Tom Brady and the Patriots’ accomplishments over the past decade. They’ve been one of the most dominant teams each and every year, and always find a way to win. The “DeflateGate” issue should not and will not affect the game. The situation is over and under review.

     The best thing that the Patriots can do, is go out there and prove that they are deserving to be champions because they can straight up play, not because they take advantage of a softer football. All of the controversy and speculation will probably even heighten the Super Bowl’s media coverage.

     This year’s game is certainly filled with debate and speculation, but Americans will still gather around their televisions on Super Bowl Sunday to enjoy the biggest game of the year.