Last Sunday was just about as good as it can get: the New England Patriots’ elite defense picked up right where it left off last season, and new starting quarterback Cam Newton looked every bit of himself in a 21-11 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Now, obviously, Miami isn’t one of the better teams in the league but the Patriots beat them in all three phases of the game and controlled the contest the entire 60 minutes.
However, all the hype surrounding New England after their Week 1 win will be heavily tested as the club heads to Seattle for a primetime matchup on Sunday night — two teams that are led by veteran head coaches and quarterbacks.
There is no question that the Seahawks and Patriots have been two of the more dominant teams in the NFL the past decade, and both will be looking to improve to 2-0 in a Super Bowl 49 rematch on Sunday night. New England’s defense will need to slow down one of the game’s elite quarterbacks in Russell Wilson while the offense will need to continue building on the foundation laid during Sunday’s win over the Dolphins.
Continue to build your identity as an offense
Last week we weren’t sure what the Patriots offense would look like offensively in Cam Newton’s first start in a Patriots uniform. However, after passing the ball just 19 times for the second time in the Bill Belichick era, the team has made it pretty clear that it wants to beat you by going heavy up front and pounding the ball on the ground.
Now, I don’t think this strategy is sustainable for an entire season even with Newton looking fully healthy. In order to really be a dangerous team, the Patriots will need to move the ball through the air. I do think, however, the passing game should get better as it’s clear it remains a work in progress.
With All-Pro safety Jamal Adams constantly causing havoc from all spots defensively and Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright leading the Seahawks’ front seven, Seattle has enough speed to match up well with the Patriots’ rushing attack. In order to come away with a win on Sunday Night, the Patriots will therefore need emergence from guys like N’Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Meyers to improve the passing game and move the ball more efficiently regardless of the situation.
Contain Russell Wilson
A lot of the Seahawks’ success through the air comes from Wilson’s ability to extend plays and make things happen down the field. Wilson is coming off almost a perfect showing in last week’s win in Atlanta, going 31 for 35 with 322 yards passing and four touchdowns. The Patriots’ front seven that collected just one sack last weekend will need to up its game a bit and make things difficult for Wilson outside the pocket.
Vertical threat DK Metcalf and speedster Tyler Lockett will serve as one of the tougher matchups for New England’s cornerback group led by reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore. Getting pressure and making Wilson hang in there and beat you from the pocket has to be priority number one for the Patriots, even though it is much easier said than done.
Get an early lead
It’s no secret Pete Carroll’s team is built for shootouts with its high-powered offense whereas the Patriots take a more balanced approach by running the football efficiently and controlling time of possession. The Patriots will need to get off to a good start offensively and get an early lead to really put Seattle on its heels and be able to stick to and execute the game plan.
These two teams are built a lot differently on both sides of the ball so being able to dictate the game from the start to keep Seattle guessing with Cam Newton’s dual threat ability, the Patriots have to get off to a good start and continuously play with a lead to have a chance Sunday night.
Prediction: Seahawks 28 - Patriots 17
Did you know?
- Only eight players remain on both rosters that played in Super Bowl 49: Julian Edelman, Devin McCourty, James White and Matthew Slater on the Patriots’ side; Russell Wilson, Bruce Irvin, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner on the Seahawks’.
- Cam Newton needs just 48 rushing yards to pass Randall Cunningham for second all-time among quarterbacks.
- James White will need five receptions to move into the top-10 in Patriots history.
- Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson will look to beat Belichick’s Patriots for the third time in four attempts.