1. This was a terrific overall breakdown by Bill Barnwell at Grantland on how this match-up breaks down. Maybe what is most interesting is how this game comes down to basic football concepts like slant-flat and Y-Stick trying to beat straight Cover 3. New England will also try to create separation with rub routes and stacked formations but ultimately if Seattle can wrap up and prevent YAC, it is going to put pressure on Tom Brady to be highly accurate in the short to intermediate passing game and get the ball out quickly.
2. LaGarrette Blount and the Patriots rushing attack own the Indianapolis Colts. However, I’m not banking on a follow up big game from Blount. I’d be surprised if he cracks 40 yards and wouldn’t be surprised if Shane Vereen ends up being a bigger overall factor in what I think will be a limited performance for the Patriots running backs. The key players for the Patriots offense will be Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, who need to win match-ups in the middle of the field and create plays after the catch.
3. It is immensely important for Seattle’s pass rush to get to Tom Brady early and often. If Brady is knocked off his mark, it is going to make it nearly impossible to consistently move the ball against Seattle’s pass defense. Michael Bennett and O’Brien Schofield are critical players in this game for the Seahawks.
4. What “role” players could end up swinging a game like this? Kyle Arrington and Jeremy Lane are likely to be frequently targeted by the opposing team’s passing attack. Seattle will need pass catchers like Luke Wilson and Ricardo Lockette to make drive extending plays while Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse have to deal with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. New England needs a guy like Vereen or Brandon LaFell to break open for a big play or two in a difficult match-up and a banged up Bryan Stork to hold up.
5. How will Darrelle Revis be deployed? He could match-up with Doug Baldwin or they could elect to put him on Kearse, who is more of a big play threat and then roll safety help to Brandon Browner for Baldwin. Bill Belichick may also slide him around the formation depending on the down and distance. If Seattle does hit a big play in the passing game, it will likely either be from Baldwin or Kearse getting behind Browner for a catch or a long defensive pass interference penalty.
6. New England is unlikely to let Marshawn Lynch rip off any big runs but he should be able to grind out a workmanlike 20-25 carry, 100-120 yard performance.
7. How will Seattle ultimately get chunk plays and points? They need Russell Wilson to create outside of the pocket and extend a few plays for his receivers to get open against a stout Patriots secondary.
8. It is hard to see this game being a blow out either way, unless the turnovers pile up from one side. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Brady and Wilson each have one or two turnovers against such good defenses but I don’t see either piling them up or making a critical mistake that will set up immediate points for the other team.
9. It feels like each team emptied their bag of gadget plays already. Seattle used their fake field goal. New England used their ineligible formation and double pass with Julian Edelman. I don’t think we are going to see major trick plays or philosophy shifts for Sunday.
10. My Marshawn Lynch TAKE. I don’t know many, if any sports fans or writers under the age of 30 who dislike Lynch or give a crap about his approach to the media. The times he has spoken this week, to select media outlets, he has given insightful and worthwhile quotes. Personally, I have limited interest in standard, canned quotes that football players repeatedly say to the general media. I understand some of the media’s frustration but is there any value in Lynch going into Derek Jeter/Tom Brady mode and saying “we will work hard and hope to win” eighteen different times? Eh. I also found these quotes from Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett on the NCAA among among the most interesting things to come out of the past week of coverage.
11. Prediction? Seattle is going to win 17-14. This feels like a low-scoring, well-played, fairly clean game. I’ll take Marshawn Lynch as the MVP.
12. Staff predictions?
- Connor Rogers: 20-17 Seattle, Earl Thomas MVP
- Michael O’Connor: 31-16 Seattle, KJ Wright MVP
- Dalbin Osorio: 28-24 Seattle, Marshawn Lynch, MVP
- Kevin Bauer: 24-13 Seattle, Russell Wilson MVP
- Joe Malfa: 31-21 Seattle, Marshawn Lynch, MVP
Can you tell this is a Jets site?