Patriots - Seahawks: Strategy & Matchups

Key Matchups between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots for their Week 14 game in Seattle.

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The Seahawks placed center Chris Spencer on injured reserve on Wednesday because of a continuing back problem, meaning Steve Vallos will start the remainder of the season.

They signed T Na'Shan Goddard off the New York Giants' practice squad, but that does not address their immediate needs for a backup center. If Vallos gets injured, converted guard Mansfield Wrotto will be the center. Wrotto has had trouble with the exchange in the past.

GAME PLAN: The Seahawks rank last in the NFL in pass defense, giving up 265 yards per game. They must find a way to contain New England's passing game, which features Randy Moss, who leads the team with eight touchdowns, and Wes Welker, who has 84 catches for 848 yards. The Seahawks also need to score touchdowns when they are in the red zone. They could not do that last week against Dallas, when they were forced to kick three field goals.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Seahawks CB Josh Wilson vs. Patriots WR Wes Welker - Wilson, who is listed at 5-foot-9, will face a big test in Welker, who ranks second in the NFL in receptions with 84.

Seahawks defensive line vs. Patriots offensive line: Seattle's defensive line has just seven sacks in the past five games. New England's offensive line has given up 40 sacks this season and was unable to keep Pittsburgh's pressure off Matt Cassel last week.

INJURY IMPACT: Walter Jones is suffering from a leg injury that hampered him last week against the Dallas Cowboys, when he uncharacteristically gave up two sacks, both to DeMarcus Ware. Jones will not practice all week.

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This has been a busy week in New England, starting with the loss of cornerback Jason Webster, who is out for the season, and the re-signing of linebacker Rosevelt Colvin. The Patriots also signed 23-year-old linebacker Angelo Craig to the practice squad.

Webster hurt his ankle in the first quarter against Pittsburgh and is now done for the year. Webster has had horrible luck with injuries throughout his career, which is one of the reasons he didn't make the team out of training camp. The Patriots brought him back later in the season after losing several defensive backs. His role will likely go to rookie Jonathan Wilhite, who filled in against Pittsburgh.

Colvin's role remains to be seen. Woods and Mike Vrabel had been starting at outside linebacker since Thomas went down, but Woods left Sunday's game with a mouth injury. Colvin might still have something left in the tank, but it'll mostly be as a situational pass rusher.

GAME PLAN: First and foremost, the Patriots need to run the ball effectively this weekend against what is an average at best defense. The loss of Laurence Maroney can no longer be used as an excuse. The Patriots need LaMont Jordan to chip in this weekend and they need more from Sammy Morris, who has been a non-factor since his return.

Without a running game, the Patriots could look as helpless this weekend as they did Sunday against Pittsburgh. The offense was too one-dimensional and Matt Cassel struggled mightily against one of the league's top defenses. The Seahawks aren't nearly as good, so look for Cassel to get back on track Sunday.

On the flipside, the Patriots must get after the passer again -- even if they don't have Warren in the lineup. Mike Wright and Jarvis Green need to do more, because it's clear this secondary is not good enough to get by without a consistent pass rush.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Patriots DE Richard Seymour vs. Seahawks LT Walter Jones. Seymour complained about not getting enough playing time against the Steelers, so he'll have the chance to prove his worth against a wily veteran like Jones, who is still tough to deal with despite the fact his best years are clearly behind him. The Patriots' pass rush has been far too inconsistent and they need Seymour to lead the charge for the stretch run.

Patriots WR Randy Moss vs. Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant. Will Seattle be bold enough to leave its defenders in one-on-one coverage with Moss? Miami tried and paid the price two weeks ago, so expect more trickery from Seattle, though it's worth noting Trufant has arguably been their best cover corner this season, so he might get some chances to guard Moss alone. Whoever wins this battle could affect the outcome of the game.

INJURY IMPACT: Colvin will be active Sunday, so expect to see plenty of the veteran linebacker with Woods' status uncertain. Whether Colvin can pick up where he left off after sitting out for 12 weeks remains to be seen.

--WR Sam Aiken should continue to get more opportunities now that Washington is nursing a thigh injury. Welker's availability is up in the air too, so Aiken may be a weapon in short-yardage situations.

--Wright will be asked to pick up the slack again in the trenches if Warren is unable to play. This is a tough predicament for the Patriots, who need to reestablish their pass rush and focus more on stopping the run during the final month of the season.

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