The Patriots will play the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. For the coaches and the fans, we got a rare opportunity to scout a tough opponent right before a big clash on national television. The Seahawks pulled off a close win over the Bills, but the Seahawks did not look very dominant in any phase of the ball and was outplayed by the Bills for the first half of the game. However, the Seahawks were able to make enough stops in critical situations at the end of halves to pull off the 6 point wins. They got a bit of help from the officiating crew, but that’s not going to translate into the next game.
Seattle’s Offensive Line is exploitable: The Seahawks were unable to run the ball on the Bills defense, which held LeGarrette Blount to 43 yards last week. The Seahawks offense was one-dimensional and depended on Russell Wilson throwing downfield to move the sticks. The Patriots have been very good at defending the run in 2016, which could force Seattle to be one-dimensional. While the Patriots don’t have a great pass rush, there are some favorable matchups like Alan Branch inside or Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long on the edges. If the Patriots can force Wilson to hold onto the ball, the pass rush can be a factor.
Bills were able to run the ball over the Seahawks defense: I’m not sure if the Patriots are going to replicate a similar amount of success because you’re going from LeSean McCoy to LeGarrette Blount. McCoy is a shifty back that can break the laws of physics with his cuts while Blount is a downhill, 1-cut runner. The Seahawks have a lot of speed at the linebacker level, so it’s paramount that the offensive line be able to flow into the 2nd level to keep those linebackers away from the ballcarrier. I don’t expect the Patriots to have a big game rushing the ball, but if they can get some chunk plays on the ground it can go a long way.
Seattle’s secondary should be exploited by Julian Edelman again: Edelman had 9 catches for 109 yards and the winning score in Super Bowl XLIX. Seattle’s defense has always been susceptible to quick WRs like Edelman, this time Robert Woods sliced them up.
Woods was the best receiver on the field and nearly willed his team to victory. While Edelman has had a down season and he’s not nearly been as quick, Edelman should be able to exploit the holes in Seattle’s Cover 3 zone scheme. One matchup the Patriots should attack is Edelman/Amendola in the slot against Jeremy Lane, who stood no chance against Woods.
Seattle’s punt protection was leaky: Seattle’s first two punts did not very well as they struggled against a stunt. Jerry Hughes blocked the first punt, which led to the first TD for the Bills. On the very next punt, the Bills got pressure on the kicker that forced a short punt. I expect the Patriots to test the punt protection with a similar stunt early in the game to see how effective they are.
Kick the ball away from Tyler Lockett: Lockett is an X-Factor on special teams and the last thing the Patriots need is a big return. Lockett had a big kickoff return after the Bills first TD and a big punt return that set up a 2nd quarter TD. While the kickoff and punt coverage units have been above average all season, there have been moments where they’ve been beat on returns. The strategy will be directional punts and blasting the ball throughout the end zone on kickoffs. I will be reiterating this in the game plan post.
Seattle’s pass rush is still very good: Even though Michael Bennett is not likely playing on Sunday, Seattle still has studs in their pass rush. Woman-beater Frank Clark now beats up offensive lineman and Cliff Avril is still very effective rushing the QB, so there is a lot of pressure on Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon to continue to play well. It’s going to be paramount for the Patriots to be able to get the ball out quickly and not let those two have an impact. Seattle doesn’t have the same pass rush up the middle, so there should be opportunities to step up.
Seattle defense was unable to get off the field: If the Patriots stay disciplined and take what the defense gives them, they should be able to sustain long drives. The Patriots were able to do so in Super Bowl XLIX and were able to move the ball in the first half and the 4th quarter. Passes underneath to Edelman, Amendola, and White should open up downfield opportunities for the TEs. The Patriots X-Factor on offense could be Martellus Bennett, who will be the only Bennett brother playing on Sunday. Bennett will either be attacking holes in the zone or will get a favorable matchup against a linebacker like KJ Wright in man coverage. Against the Seahawks Cover 3 scheme, there should be a lot of easy throws for Tom Brady to take advantage of.