Sorry everyone, I know its been awhile. The Patriots had the week off of work but unfortunately their bloggers didn’t. Let’s jump right into this.
The big news of the past week has been the trade of linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns for a conditional third round pick. This was stunning to a lot of people, myself included. As the week unfolded, things began to come out that made the reasoning behind the decision much more clear. Over the past few games, Jamie Collins playing time has decreased to the point where he has been essentially splitting time with rookie Elandon Roberts. There have also been reports that Collins tends to do his own thing on defense, leaving his assignment when he thinks he can make a better play. There were also rumors of fighting between himself and the defensive coaches. All-in-all, a much less ideal situation than any of us knew about.
I have swayed a lot on this decision by the Patriots. My initial reaction was that this was absolutely ridiculous. He is a spectacular athlete, and has the ability to completely blow up plays. I also didn’t understand it based on what we got in return. Collins is a free agent at the end of the season, which makes him harder to deal, but I still have to think we could have done better than a compensatory third round (basically fourth round) pick. There are a number of teams in contention that could use a player of Collins ability. This is my main reason for being still opposed to the trade. Collins certainly has his issues. His effort isn’t consistent, and he has shown time and time again that he cannot cover tight ends and running backs well (he got burned twice by Owen Daniels for touchdowns in last years AFC Championship, and was torched by Jason Witten during his first game as a Cleveland Brown last Sunday). However, the Patriots have a great chance to win the Super Bowl this year, and I believe that keeping him would have better for the team than a compensatory third round pick.
The Patriots also managed to win on Sunday without actually playing. The Ravens beat the Steelers, sending both teams to 4-4 records. The Raider beat the Broncos, sending Denver down to third place in the AFC West. The Seahawks beat the Bills, tightening the Patriots grip on the AFC East. They now ride comfortably into the second half of the season as the top team in the AFC. They also have one of the weakest second half schedules, with only two of their eight opponents holding records over .500. New England hosts one of those two teams on Sunday Night Football at Gillette Stadium.
The last time the Patriots and the Seahawks got together, we were treated to one of the greatest Super Bowls in NFL history. While this doesn’t have quite the same stakes, we can expect this to still be exciting and competitive, something many other primetime NFL games this year have not been. Both teams are playing well this, and are on the path to winning their respective divisions.
Seattle once again has one of the most talented teams in the league. They still have a number of core defensive players including Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Bobby Wagner. Their offense has Jimmy Graham and Russell Wilson. They also have a good coach in Pete Carroll. They are one of the most formidable opponents the Patriots will play all year. However, the Seahawks have been wildly inconsistent so far this year. They had two dominating wins over the 49’ers and the Jets, winning both games by at least two scores. They also had a close win against a talented Atlanta Falcons team in week five. These games have shown the Seattle we’ve seen in years past. However, they have had a number of other absolutely dismal games, including a 9-3 loss to the Rams, and a 6-6 tie with the Cardinals. Failing to score even a single touchdown in two games is concerning. Russell Wilson has been battling a knee injury, which could explain some of the lack of offensive production. The team has been performing well over the last few weeks as Wilson’s health has improved. The Seahawks’ defense has also been stingy all year. They are third in the league (behind Minnesota and New England) in opponents points per game, only giving up an average of 16.8 points per game. The only caveat to that is that the Seahawks have only player don spectacular offense in Atlanta. That is not enough to doubt their ability though, and the Patriots will have their work cut out for them.
The Patriots will be hard to predict offensively. In Super Bowl 49, the Patriots threw the ball fifty times, using quick routes on the bigger, physical defensive backs of Seattle. They only ran the ball a total of 21 times, showing how much their game plan relied on passing the ball. It’s easy to suspect that the Patriots will go with the same strategy, as it worked well for them in that game, and both teams have many of the same players. However, Seattle’s defensive line stud Michael Bennett is out with a knee injury, which could prompt the Patriots to try to force their will on the ground behind LeGarrette Blount. The game plan might also feature much more of Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, or even Malcolm Mitchell. Kam Chancellor (assuming he plays) and Earl Thomas will be tasked with covering Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski. Richard Sherman might be tasked with covering Julian Edelman, which would leave the Seahawks fourth defensive back covering Hogan, Amendola, or Mitchell depending on the offensive set. The Patriots will most likely try to exploit this option, rather than throwing into Seattle’s strength.
The Patriots will need to devise a different game plan than they did in 2014. First, Jimmy Graham was not playing for the Seahawks during the two teams’ last matchup. His presence will be a focus for the Patriots, as he is finally healthy after a gruesome knee injury last year. He had a great game last week against Buffalo, and the Seahawks will try to carry that momentum. In Graham’s only other matchup against the Patriots, as a member of the New Orleans Saints, he was held to zero receptions. The other big factor that the Patriots will need to worry about is containing Russell Wilson. In Super Bowl 49, Jamie Collins spent much of the game as a QB spy, so as to prevent Wilson from scrambling and making big plays with his feet. While this plan didn’t work particularly well (Wilson had a number of crucial runs), that was due more to Collins taking poor routes and slipping in the back field. On Sunday, the Patriots will either need to assign someone to spy on Wilson, or they will need to focus their defensive lineman on sealing the edge and not allowing Wilson to escape the pocket. New England will most likely play more often with one safety in coverage, and another in the box as an added defender against the run. They will force Seattle to beat their cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage rather than giving up big chunks of yards on the ground.
This will be a fun game for the Patriots. It will be a serious test, and a win would set the tone for the second half of the season. Unfortunately, I am on the fence. While I think they should win, they are almost due for a loss, and a team as talented as Seattle is the most likely one to give it to them. Either way, we can all finally be excited again for Sunday Night Football.
New England 27 Seattle 28
Until next time- B$