The Patriots (7-1) will face the Seattle Seahawks (5-2-1) on Sunday Night Football. The last time these two teams squared off, the Patriots wound up winning Super Bowl XLIX on an impossible interception.
Attack the weaknesses of Seattle's Cover 3: The Seahawks don't play a complex defense like Rex Ryan does, they play a simplistic zone. They have solid players at all three levels of the defense: they can rush the passer, flow against the run, and cover the deep end of the field. That being said, the Patriots still have matchup advantages on the field. TE Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett are the key towards attacking Seattle's defense in the middle of the field, although I think this week 11 personnel may be a better option given Jeremy Lane's struggles this season.
Patriots need to be able to run against nickel defenses: The Patriots need to make the Seahawks pay for overplaying the pass when the Patriots utilize a 12 personnel group. That means running the ball off tackle with LeGarrette Blount, and the occasional futility run up the middle to keep the defense from cheating. The Seahawks have been particularly good at stopping the run, although the Patriots aren't going to be able to replicate the Bills rushing attack from Monday, so the Patriots could benefit from a few chunk runs from Blount. Dion Lewis will also be returning, although he's going to be eased into action.
Keep Russell Wilson in the pocket, don't let him make scramble plays: The Patriots did a terrific job at keeping Wilson from scrambling in Super Bowl XLIX and they'll need a similar effort to stall the Seahawks offense. Wilson is very good at improvising and hurting defenses late in the down. The Patriots have a pair of backups that are particularly mobile, even though they aren't as fast as a healthy Russell Wilson. Containment is going to be key for the pass rush, with Jabaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich being the best two edge options on the field. The Patriots secondary should do a decent job at forcing Wilson to hold onto the ball. In terms of the spy, I think the Patriots put the role in either Mingo or Hightower's responsibilities.
Kick the ball away from Tyler Lockett: This guy makes things happen on returns and is a threat to score every time he returns a punt or kickoff. In order to minimize the threat of a return, the Patriots are better off just punting the ball on the sideline and blasting the ball through the end zone. The Patriots are the superior team on paper, but a Special Teams play could change the momentum for Seattle like it did against the Bills last week. The Patriots special teams will be tested this week, the question is how well can they execute. If they can execute like they did in Week 3, the Patriots should be in good shape to win.
Patriots win this game 31-24. The Patriots will not trail for the duration of the game, although I think Brady's INT-free streak likely comes to an end. Brady should put up big numbers because he's very good at shredding apart zones and Seattle lacks the ability to cover the Patriots receivers in man coverage, especially when Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are both on the field. Defensively, we'll see how they operate after trading away a key player, but the game plan might mean the more athletic Mingo than Roberts, although Roberts has good speed for a LB anyway.