Game Preview - Seahawks vs. Patriots

Seattle and New England have faced one another 14 times, with the teams splitting the series. Seattle has won five of the last six games, with New England winning the most recent game 30-20 in 2004. New England will be making its first trip to Seattle since 1993.

Injury Report

New England Patriots

Out: LB Pierre Woods (jaw)
Doubtful: LB Vince Redd (ankle), WR Kelley Washington (thigh)
Questionable: LB Tedy Bruschi (knee), CB Ellis Hobbs (shoulder), RB LaMont Jordan (calf), DE Ty Warren (groin)
Probable: C Dan Koppen (elbow)

Seattle Seahawks

Doubtful: QB Matt Hasselbeck (back)
Questionable: LB Leroy Hill (neck), T Walter Jones (knee)
Probable: DT Red Bryant (ankle), WR Koren Robinson (knee), S C.J. Wallace (hamstring)

Stats & Rankings

New England Patriots

Total: 9th (355.1 yards per game)
Passing: 11th (224.6 yards per game)
Rushing: 9th (130.5 yards per game)
Scoring: 18th (23.1 points per game)

Total: 13th (317.4 yards per game)
Passing: 16th (211.8 yards per game)
Rushing: 14th (105.6 yards per game)
Scoring: 12th (21.3 points per game)

Turnover Ratio: t-21st (-3)

Seattle Seahawks

Total: 31st (257.3 yards per game)
Passing: 31st (148.8 yards per game)
Rushing: 21st (108.5 yards per game)
Scoring: t-25th (18.0 points per game)

Total: 30th (386.7 yards per game)
Passing: 32nd (265.2 yards per game)
Rushing: 22nd (121.5 yards per game)
Scoring: 26th (25.9 points per game)

Turnover Ratio: t-23rd (-5)

Five Things to Watch

Here are five items to watch when the Seahawks host the New England Patriots on Sunday:

Deion Branch – A week into the 2006 season, the Seahawks acquired the former Super Bowl MVP from New England in exchange for a 1st round pick in 2007. For that draft pick, and a little over $22 million dollars, the Seahawks have received 115 receptions, 1,538 yards and 8 touchdowns from a receiver who has missed 14 of a possible 42 games since being acquired.

That's hardly the production Seattle expected to get from him, but the trade hasn't exactly benefited the Patriots, either.

New England used that 2007 1st round pick on safety Brandon Meriweather, who moved into the starting lineup this season, and is improving, but it's far too early to gauge how good of a player he's going to be.

There's also the matter of the Patriots coming within 30 minutes of making a return trip to the Super Bowl in 2006, but key dropped passes by Reche Caldwell contributed to the team's second-half collapse against the eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts. Many attribute that loss to a defense that couldn't stop the Colts' offense, which isn't false, but Branch's absence that season hurting the Patriots is undeniable.

Take where the aforementioned 2006 AFC Championship Game was played. Because the Colts beat the Patriots 27-20 in Foxborough earlier that season, in a game where Tom Brady threw 4 interceptions and posted the 2nd-worst passer rating of his career, the 12-4 Colts got to host the 12-4 Patriots. Would that game have gone differently had Brady had his #1 wide receiver? Hard to dispute otherwise.

Seattle's Offensive Line – The Seahawks placed starting left guard Mike Wahle and starting center Chris Spencer on injured reserve. The moves come three months after placing starting right guard Rob Sims on IR. Future Hall of Fame left tackle Walter Jones isn't expected to play, which would leave the Seahawks with a starting offensive line of Sean Locklear at left tackle, Floyd Womack at left guard, Steve Vallos at center, Mansfield Wrotto at right guard and Ray Willis at right tackle. If this were the second half of a late August game against San Diego, a line like that would be business as usual. Unfortunately, it's December.

Seneca WallaceStarting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck isn't expected to play. Considering the potential starting offensive line listed above, and the amount of punishment Hasselbeck took on Thanksgiving against Dallas, that's probably a good thing. Wallace started four games for the Seahawks this season (1-3) and while he was hardly mistake-free, he did a good job of not turning the ball over. His mobility should keep the Patriots' pass-rush honest, as well.

John Carlson – In the season's final four games, Carlson needs just 9 receptions, 99 yards and three touchdowns to set franchise highs by a tight end in those categories. Carlson has been one of the lone bright spots on offense this season, leading the team with 38 receptions, 456 yards and 3 touchdowns. If Carlson continues to lead the team in receiving, he'll be the 1st Seahawks rookie to do so since 1995 (Joey Galloway).

…On, Donner and Blitzen – Seahawks defensive coordinator John Marshall took some heat this week after opting not to blitz Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo until the 2nd half and the Cowboys led by 18 points, but let's be honest: If their blitzes were effective, the Seahawks:

  1. Wouldn't have the NFL's 32nd-ranked pass defense.
  2. Would have more than 6 interceptions on the season.
  3. Would have more than 3 sacks by non-defensive linemen. (4 of Julian Peterson's 5 sacks have come as a down lineman in either a nickel or dime package. Brian Russell and Leroy Hill have one sack each. The other 23 sacks have come from the defensive line.)

Now that the Holiday season is here, and the Seahawks are 2-10, why not give the fans and players what they want? Sure, it hasn't been a very effective defensive approach this season, but ‘tis better to go down swinging than to slowly have the life drained out of your team by 12-play, 80-yard drives.

Programming Notes

NBC's crew of Al Michaels, John Madden and Andrea Kremer were scheduled to call the game, but instead will be 2,763 miles away in Baltimore, Maryland after the game was "flexed" off primetime. Instead, CBS will carry the game, with Dick Enberg and Randy Cross in the booth. CBS has an anti-sideline reporter policy.


No Matt Hasselbeck, no Walter Jones, no Leroy Hill against a New England Patriots team coached by Bill Belichick in "must-win" mode? None of this adds up to a Seahawks win on Sunday.

Prediction: Patriots 33, Seahawks 13 Top Stories