Game Preview: Seahawks at Patriots

Game Preview: Seahawks at Patriots
Game Preview: Seahawks at Patriots
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Scott Kacsmar

Call it a Super Bowl XLIX rematch, or a Super Bowl LI preview, but Week 10's matchup between the 5-2-1 Seahawks and the 7-1 Patriots on Sunday night is one of the most interesting games on the 2016 schedule. In a season that has been lacking in great teams, these two might be the best each conference has to offer. The outcome of this game could also go a long way in determining if the Seattle DVOA dynasty continues, or if the Patriots score a huge win as they gradually climb toward the top spot in our rankings. Remember, the Seahawks are the only team to lead the league in DVOA in four straight seasons, and we feel confident that would be the case even if DVOA was tracked back to 1950.

Currently, this year's Seattle team ranks third in DVOA (20.6%), with the Patriots (19.3%) close behind at fifth. However, the Patriots are 7.5-point home favorites this week, and Bill Belichick is 12-4 after the bye week since 2000. Seattle is coming off a physical (and slightly controversial) 31-25 win over Buffalo on Monday night. The only other time the Seahawks were 7.5-point underdogs in the Wilson era was at San Francisco in Week 7 of the 2012 season. Seattle lost 13-6, but at that point the Seahawks were not yet the annual contender that we have come to expect.

If the Patriots cover in style, then they could end one of the greatest streaks in NFL history, because no one has been able to blow out the Seahawks in the Russell Wilson era. Seattle has led or been within one score in the fourth quarter of 96 consecutive games (including playoffs), the longest streak in NFL history. The second-longest streak belongs to the 2008-2012 Packers at 69 games. Seattle's last blowout loss was 24-0 in Pittsburgh in Week 2 of the 2011 season. A big part of Seattle's DVOA dominance is the lack of poor performances over the course of a 60-minute game. Sure, Seattle has had bad halves, and even bad 56-minute starts, but by the final snap, the Seahawks have always given themselves a chance to win each game for multiple seasons now. Wilson was this competitive for two different colleges, and Pete Carroll had a similar run for years at USC, so this is not that surprising.

A trip to New England on a short week is arguably as difficult as any of the games Seattle has faced during this streak. If last year's NFC divisional round meeting in Carolina, against a 15-1 No. 1 seed, was the previous toughest matchup, then it should be noted that Seattle trailed 31-0 before rallying for a 31-24 final, barely keeping the streak alive with a late touchdown. At least this game is going to be at night instead of 10 a.m. Pacific time.

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Over-analysis of the stats between these teams is not necessary through eight games for each, especially when Wilson has been dealing with several injuries and Tom Brady has only started the last four games. Both teams rank in the top 10 in special teams, but you can probably give a slight edge to New England there. If there is indeed a Super Bowl LI matchup between these two, which was my personal preseason prediction, then we'll have more data to go on then, but for now, let's just look at some of the more interesting numbers that this matchup presents.


The strength vs. strength matchup, according to DVOA, is clearly New England's No. 3 offense against Seattle's No. 6 defense. Specifically, the passing game is where to watch since it is unlikely that the Patriots will do much damage on the ground with LeGarrette Blount against the No. 3 run defense. For reference, in Super Bowl XLIX, the Patriots ran the ball 19 times for 60 yards, while Brady dropped back 51 times. Seattle must get Brady off his spot with a strong pass rush, which was successful at times in that game before Cliff Avril left with an injury following Brady's second interception.

Avril is having a big season with 9.0 sacks, but the Seahawks will be without Michael Bennett on the other side this week. Believe it or not, Brady's 2016 pressure rate has actually been slightly higher than that of Wilson's this season. Both offenses rank in the bottom six in pass pressure rate, according to SIS charting. Brady has been able to handle the pressure well these last four games, though Seattle is easily the best defense he will have seen yet.

Third down is always a key area to watch. I still contend that New England's fourth-quarter comeback never takes off in the Super Bowl if Brady does not step up to hit Julian Edelman on a third-and-14 for 21 yards. Safety Kam Chancellor, who is expected to return from injury this week, popped Edelman on that catch, but the receiver held on anyway on a game-changing play. Over the last three games, the Seahawks have allowed offenses to convert 31-of-53 (58.5 percent) third-down plays. Brady has converted 59.0 percent of his third-down dropbacks this season, and he is averaging a blistering 14.43 yards per pass on 35 third-down passes.

Running back Dion Lewis could return to action this week, but James White has done very well as the receiving back for the Patriots. In Super Bowl XLIX, Shane Vereen's 11 receptions for 64 yards were a good complement to the running game, and that could be another way that New England tries to attack this defense. The Seahawks are still vulnerable to tight ends (23rd in DVOA), which is a big issue when dealing with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. Gronkowski leads the NFL with 22.0 yards per reception, and since Brady's return, he is averaging 118.3 receiving yards per game. Bennett is always a threat in the red zone with the attention paid to Gronkowski. With Edelman in the slot and Chris Hogan as the designated deep threat, this offense has a variety of ways to attack a talented defense like Seattle's.

The Patriots also are not beating themselves this season. While New England has six fumbles lost, the three starting quarterbacks have yet to throw an interception on 249 attempts. Only the 1960 Browns (nine games) and 2008 Redskins (eight games) made it through the first eight games of a season without an interception before New England. Seattle has just eight takeaways this season, including six interceptions.

New England has scored at least 27 points in each of Brady's four starts this season. Despite the tough defensive matchup this week, scoring in the upper 20s at home seems reasonable. Just how large of a point total the Patriots can hang on Seattle could determine whether this becomes the first blowout for the Seahawks in the Wilson era.


Well, we won't be wondering where the handoff to Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line is this time. Once again, the much more volatile matchup between these teams is the Seattle offense (14th in DVOA) against the New England defense (18th). Perhaps the biggest difference between this year's Seattle team and those from 2012 to 2015 is the lack of production in the running game. The Seahawks are 23rd in rushing DVOA after ranking between first and seventh in each of the previous four seasons. Yes, Lynch's retirement and Thomas Rawls' injuries are two big problems, but the further decline of the offensive line and Wilson's leg injuries have also slowed things down.

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Wilson has been one of the most prolific rushing quarterbacks in NFL history, but he is averaging 6.8 rushing yards per game in 2016 after averaging 38.0 yards per game in his first four seasons. We don't have the updated numbers for 2016 yet, but I would imagine that Wilson is using his legs less than ever before, trying to play the game from the pocket more. In fact, ESPN had a graphic on Monday night's broadcast that showed that Wilson is not leading the league in out-of-pocket passes like he usually has in his career. While Wilson has passed for at least 225 yards in each game this season, he has just seven touchdown passes and a measly 2.6 percent touchdown rate (previous career average: 6.1 percent).

This has led to an inconsistent scoring offense, though things were on point against Buffalo last week. While the Seahawks shockingly never even targeted a tight end in their Super Bowl XLIX loss, Wilson-to-Jimmy Graham has been very effective this season. Graham made two one-handed touchdown catches against Buffalo, and even if he is the second-best tight end on the field on Sunday night, he should be a factor as the Patriots play their first game after trading linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland.

New England has been mediocre by DVOA's standards against each receiver type, but weakest against tight ends (24th) this season. Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tyler Lockett still make for a formidable trio of wide receivers. While Wilson went bombs-away in the Super Bowl with the unknown Chris Matthews accounting for 109 yards, I would expect a more controlled attack this week, similar to what Wilson did from the pocket in a 2012 victory over the Patriots.

The scoring lulls for Seattle this season are a definite concern when playing a red-hot offense. Seattle has scored fewer than seven points in three first halves this season, and only went on to score 21 points in those three games combined (1-1-1 record). Despite another mediocre DVOA ranking, the New England defense continues to excel in points allowed under Bill Belichick. In fact, the Patriots have allowed two fewer points than the Seahawks (134) this season, good for No. 2 in the NFL. Neither of these teams has allowed more than 25 points in a game this season.

New England is about the last place where a team can afford to fall behind. Since 2001, the Patriots are 99-1 at home when leading by at least eight points at any time in the game. Last year, the Eagles ended that winning streak at 94-0 after turning a 14-0 deficit into a stunning 35-28 win in Week 13. If you think a fourth-quarter comeback is likely, then think again. Since 2001, fourth-quarter comeback opportunities (down 1 to 8 points with possession) are 1-49 (.020) in New England. You should have a good idea of the owner of the one win.

Given that the Bengals and Steelers (with Landry Jones at quarterback no less) were able to hang within a score of these Patriots in the fourth quarter, I think Seattle's no-blowout streak continues this week. However, I could also see New England still covering after a late field goal for a 27-17 win. The Seahawks have not lost by more than 10 points in their last 91 games, which is another NFL record. The next closest active streak is 19 games by Denver. The Patriots will take a win any way they can get it, but a domination of the Seahawks could be a major statement that this team is prepared to run the table the rest of the season.

We'll leave you with a look at the Seattle streak of 96 games without a blowout. Seattle is 65-30-1 (.682) during this streak, and has allowed 18 fourth-quarter comebacks and 20 game-winning drives during the 30 losses. There were only 13 games in which Seattle did not hold a lead in the fourth quarter or overtime. There have only been three games in which Seattle was unable to have an offensive possession while down by one score in the fourth quarter, including two games in the final month of the 2015 season.

Seattle Seahawks: The Record-Setting 96-Game No-Blowouts Streak
G# Date Opp. Result Won By Note G# Date Opp. Result Won By Note
1 9/25/2011 ARI W 13-10 3 49 1/11/2014 NO W 23-15 8
2 10/2/2011 ATL L 30-28 - Down 30-28 w/1:49 left 50 1/19/2014 SF W 23-17 6
3 10/9/2011 @NYG W 36-25 11 51 2/2/2014 DEN W 43-8 35
4 10/23/2011 @CLE L 6-3 - Down 6-3 w/3:05 left 52 9/4/2014 GB W 36-16 20
5 10/30/2011 CIN L 34-12 - Down 20-12 w/4:45 left 53 9/14/2014 @SD L 30-21 - Down 27-21 w/3:04 left
6 11/6/2011 @DAL L 23-13 - Down 13-6 to start 4Q (no poss.) 54 9/21/2014 DEN W 26-20 OT 6
7 11/13/2011 BAL W 22-17 5 55 10/6/2014 @WAS W 27-17 10
8 11/20/2011 @STL W 24-7 17 56 10/12/2014 DAL L 30-23 - Blown lead w/3:16 left
9 11/27/2011 WAS L 23-17 Blown lead w/6:18 left 57 10/19/2014 @STL L 28-26 - Down 21-13 w/14:54 left
10 12/1/2011 PHI W 31-14 17 58 10/26/2014 @CAR W 13-9 4
11 12/12/2011 STL W 30-13 17 59 11/2/2014 OAK W 30-24 6
12 12/18/2011 @CHI W 38-14 24 60 11/9/2014 NYG W 38-17 21
13 12/24/2011 SF L 19-17 - Blown lead w/2:57 left 61 11/16/2014 @KC L 24-20 - Blown lead w/13:41 left
14 1/1/2012 @ARI L 23-20 OT - Tied 20-20 in OT (3-and-out) 62 11/23/2014 ARI W 19-3 16
15 9/9/2012 @ARI L 20-16 - Blown lead w/4:59 left 63 11/27/2014 @SF W 19-3 16
16 9/16/2012 DAL W 27-7 20 64 12/7/2014 @PHI W 24-14 10
G# Date Opp. Result Won By Note G# Date Opp. Result Won By Note
17 9/24/2012 GB W 14-12 2 65 12/14/2014 SF W 17-7 10
18 9/30/2012 @STL L 19-13 - Down 19-13 w/3:09 left 66 12/21/2014 @ARI W 35-6 29
19 10/7/2012 @CAR W 16-12 4 67 12/28/2014 STL W 20-6 14
20 10/14/2012 NE W 24-23 1 68 1/10/2015 CAR W 31-17 14
21 10/18/2012 @SF L 13-6 - Down 10-6 w/11:58 left 69 1/18/2015 GB W 28-22 6
22 10/28/2012 @DET L 28-24 - Blown lead w/0:20 left 70 2/1/2015 NE L 28-24 - Blown lead w/2:02 left
23 11/4/2012 MIN W 30-20 10 71 9/13/2015 @STL L 34-31 OT - Led 31-24 in 4Q, down 34-31 in OT
24 11/11/2012 NYJ W 28-7 21 72 9/20/2015 @GB L 27-17 - Blown lead w/9:28 left
25 11/25/2012 @MIA L 24-21 - Led 21-14; MIA GWD w/0:00 left 73 9/27/2015 CHI W 26-0 26
26 12/2/2012 @CHI W 23-17 OT 6 74 10/5/2015 DET W 13-10 3
27 12/9/2012 ARI W 58-0 58 75 10/11/2015 @CIN L 27-24 OT - Led 24-7 to start 4Q
28 12/16/2012 @BUF W 50-17 33 76 10/18/2015 CAR L 27-23 - Blown lead w/0:32 left
29 12/23/2012 SF W 42-13 29 77 10/22/2015 @SF W 20-3 17
30 12/30/2012 STL W 20-13 7 78 11/1/2015 @DAL W 13-12 1
31 1/6/2013 @WAS W 24-14 10 79 11/15/2015 ARI L 39-32 - Blown lead w/8:41 left
32 1/13/2013 @ATL L 30-28 - Blown lead w/0:08 left 80 11/22/2015 SF W 29-13 16
G# Date Opp. Result Won By Note G# Date Opp. Result Won By Note
33 9/8/2013 @CAR W 12-7 5 81 11/29/2015 PIT W 39-30 9
34 9/15/2013 SF W 29-3 26 82 12/6/2015 @MIN W 38-7 31
35 9/22/2013 JAC W 45-17 28 83 12/13/2015 @BAL W 35-6 29
36 9/29/2013 @HOU W 23-20 OT 3 84 12/20/2015 CLE W 30-13 17
37 10/6/2013 @IND L 34-28 - Blown lead w/8:55 left 85 12/27/2015 STL L 23-17 - Down 23-17 w/0:17 left (no poss.)
38 10/13/2013 TEN W 20-13 7 86 1/3/2016 @ARI W 36-6 30
39 10/17/2013 @ARI W 34-22 12 87 1/10/2016 @MIN W 10-9 17
40 10/28/2013 @STL W 14-9 5 88 1/17/2016 @CAR L 31-24 - Down 31-24 w/1:12 left (no poss.)
41 11/3/2013 TB W 27-24 OT 3 89 9/11/2016 MIA W 12-10 2
42 11/10/2013 @ATL W 33-10 23 90 9/18/2016 @LARM L 9-3 - Down 9-3 w/1:53 left
43 11/17/2013 MIN W 41-20 21 91 9/25/2016 SF W 37-18 19
44 12/2/2013 NO W 34-7 27 92 10/2/2016 @NYJ W 27-17 10
45 12/8/2013 @SF L 19-17 - Blown lead w/0:26 left 93 10/16/2016 ATL W 26-24 2
46 12/15/2013 @NYG W 23-0 23 94 10/23/2016 @ARI T 6-6 OT - Tied after 2nd OT poss. (missed FG)
47 12/22/2013 ARI L 17-10 - Blown lead w/2:13 left 95 10/30/2016 @NO L 25-20 - Blown lead w/12:24 left
48 12/29/2013 STL W 27-9 18 96 11/7/2016 BUF W 31-25 6


13 comments, Last at 12 Nov 2016, 5:47pm

#1 by PatsFan // Nov 11, 2016 - 5:50pm

Looks like WR Chris Hogan has an excellent chance to be sidelined for the game :(. He's listed as questionable (back) and the local beat reports say they've seen him in the locker room moving very gingerly.

Points: 0

#2 by Zheng // Nov 11, 2016 - 7:08pm

But are you overinflating the impact on the Patriots offense? This is a high pressure game for both teams.

Points: 0

#4 by theslothook // Nov 12, 2016 - 12:57am

Seattle's defense is schematically the wrong defense for this offense. I'm not sure a defense exists to schematically take away what NE is doing. It took a herculean effort from one of the greatest defenses of all time last year to disrupt this machine; and that game was at home. Despite a near decade long hegemony for this offense, teams still struggle to take away what NE does best. Death by a thousand paper cuts where NE uses every trick in the book to get those plays open. Bunch formations, tight splits, pick plays, motion, no huddle quick snaps, screen plays etc etc. Brady has a knack for knowing which option is open first and delivers the ball promptly. On top of that, Gronk is having his best and most transcendent season and Brady has finally been able to hit the deep pass this year.

Against this machine at home? I don't see Seattle surviving at all. And I say this as one of fo's most bitterest anti NE fans out there.

Points: 0

#9 by ramirez // Nov 12, 2016 - 11:39am

In SB 49, New England was able to adjust to Seattle's ability to stop deep passing by going to their short passing game in the 2nd half. That's why you saw so many screens to Vereen on those 2 4th quarter scoring drives. Brady is fantastic at pre-snap reads and exploiting matchups, he doesn't turn the ball over, and he's patient if he gets to 3rd and 8. The reason why Brady has "finally been able to hit the deep pass" is because he finally has a viable deep threat in Hogan. Since Moss left, Brady has been throwing to guys like Gronk, Hernandez, Edelman, and Welker. Obviously, if Hogan is out, NE will have to stick to the short passing game like they did in the Super Bowl.

Brady is also moving in the pocket better than he was a couple of years ago, so we'll see how successful the Seattle rush is at disrupting him. It also looks like Dion Lewis may play in this game, and if he's healthy, it will bring a whole new dimension to the NE offense.

Points: 0

#3 by theslothook // Nov 12, 2016 - 12:55am


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#5 by Pen // Nov 12, 2016 - 2:01am

Seattle had Brady under control until Avril went out and Lane got injured. Barring the same, I'd say this years pass rush is even better. I'm guessing that this game won't see either team get over 25 points.

Points: 0

#6 by FireSnake // Nov 12, 2016 - 4:59am

Can you please stop the "Bill Belichick is 12-4 after the bye week since 2000" bs?

BB wins circa 3 out of every 4 games, no matter if there is a bye, an election or whatsoever.

The same holds true for his press conferences: always in a good mood on friday;)

Chris Hogan would be a tough loss, and I don't think Dion Lewis provides that much of an added dimension ...

Points: 0

#8 by RobotBoy // Nov 12, 2016 - 5:26am

Unlike White, Lewis can run between the tackles so his presence on the field doesn't automatically signal 'pass.' Last year he was a revelation and averaged almost five yards a carry and 11 yards a catch. Whether or not he's fully healthy, or ever will be, is another story but he's a more unique piece than Hogan, whose production can be picked up by other receivers.

Points: 0

#11 by Pen // Nov 12, 2016 - 3:54pm

If we're going to throw out meaningless numbers, Brady has never thrown less than 2 INTs per game against the Legion of Boom. Seattle is 4-1 when underdogs by more than 7 pts in the Wilson era and has beaten the spread all five games.

Points: 0

#7 by RobotBoy // Nov 12, 2016 - 5:16am

Under normal conditions, I'd say 'coin flip' but the situation - banged-up Seahawks on short rest, in NE, against a team coming off a bye - certainly tilts the field. Wilson seems to recovering from his injury but other than that, NE has a lot in its favor. The bye could lead to rust and a slow start but if the Pats are clicking early, Seattle will struggle to score with them. Does NE ignore Seattle's rush game and bring in extra DBs, with maybe a safety close to the line to spy Wilson?

Points: 0

#10 by sportymouth // Nov 12, 2016 - 1:57pm

good info patsfan

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#12 by mehllageman56 // Nov 12, 2016 - 4:13pm

It's a home game for the Pats, and they're coming off a bye, but it's a night game against a West Coast team. And I don't think Belichick had them go stay on the west coast for a week this time. Should be a good game.

Points: 0

#13 by PatsFan // Nov 12, 2016 - 5:47pm

Lewis has been activated. I'd imagine he'd be pretty limited in how many snaps he'd get, though.

Points: 0

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