NFL Week 2: Seahawks vs Patriots Game Preview

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When it comes to franchises that are models of consistency, two teams that top the list are the Seattle Seahawks (who have been the playoffs seven of the last eight years and eight of ten seasons with coach Pete Carroll, including consecutive Super Bowl appearances) and the New England Patriots (who have won eleven consecutive division titles, been to the playoffs 17 times in 20 seasons with coach Bill Belicheck – including 16 of the last 17 – in which time they’ve reached nine Super Bowls, winning six). 

In fact, the Patriots were the only team with more playoff appearances in the 2010s than the Seahawks’ 8, as New England reached the postseason every single season. Similarly, the only coaches with more wins that Carroll’s 100 since joining the Seahawks in 2010 are Mike Tomlin with 102 wins and Bill Belichick, who has an NFL record number of wins for a decade with 125, a full 10 clear of the 2000s Indianapolis Colts. So to say these teams know success is an understatement, and they’re two of the most popular teams for NFL betting with good reason.

Both teams are also regularly exciting, too. One of their more recent meetings, in fact, was Super Bowl XLIX, which the Patriots won 28-24 when Malcolm Butler intercepted Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line with less than 30 seconds remaining. The all-time series is tied 9-9, with the past four contests being decided by a margin of a single score or less. As a result, it’s not surprising the NFL betting lines are tight, with most sportsbook casino lines favoring the Seahawks between -3 and -4. Online sports betting so far is relatively even between the two teams, too, as both teams looked good in their openers; the Seahawks roared by the Falcons 38-25 in a game that was never in doubt and the Patriots cruised by the Dolphins, 21-11. As a result, this is one of the marquee matchups of NFL Week 2.

Key matchups to watch

There are plenty of key matchups to watch, but the first is quite possibly the Seahawks against the wildfire smoke; if the air quality index (AQI) remains above 200 (as it has in Seattle for much of the past week-plus, making it fortunate for the NFL that the Seahawks’ opener was in Atlanta) the NFL could require the game be played elsewhere. This is definitely something to monitor. While Seattle’s home-field advantage may have already been dulled by the lack of fans, on account of COVID-related precautions, having their home opener moved elsewhere still seems far more likely to affect the Seahawks than the visiting Patriots.

The matchup of contrasting styles and coaches will also be worth keeping a close eye on it. In previous seasons, the Seahawks have been a run-heavy team, frequently only turning to quarterback Russell Wilson’s arm once down late, whereas the Patriots lived with then-quarterback Tom Brady’s ability to find the open man. This season, though, the Seahawks started the season throwing, and the Patriots went with a rushing attack led by new quarterback Cam Newton. Seeing what was opponent-specific last week and what may be part of a larger season-long trend will be a fascinating part of NFL Week 2, and perhaps nowhere is that more true than with these two teams.

Seattle Seahawks

C.J. Prosise of Seattle Seahawks carries the ball at Gillette Stadium November 2016

In previous seasons, one of the biggest concerns for online sports betting fans was coach Pete Carroll’s increasingly conservative scheme and playcalls. Despite having one of the NFL’s most mobile and skilled quarterbacks in Russell Wilson, the Seahawks had a maddening tendency to focus on the run until the fourth quarter—to the point that “Let Russ Cook” has become a rallying cry among Seahawks’ fans.

While the Seahawks were very much a run-heavy team last season (6th most likely to run in the league last season after actually running more than throwing – the only team to do so-  in 2018), often asking Wilson to make fourth-quarter magic – which he did, throwing 6 “clutch” TDs last season while compiling a 122 clutch quarterback rating, they came out slinging last week. Of the Seahawks’ 14 first-quarter playcalls, 11 were pass plays. In that first quarter, Wilson went 9-9 for 86 yards, additionally adding 28 more yards on an option run and drawing a 41-yard pass interference penalty. He was also sacked twice. If we use that 11-14 as a reference, though, the Seahawks drew up pass plays 78.5% of the time in the first quarter—and they never really let up off the gas, either, finishing with a 65.5% pass ratio—which was also the first time in the Wilson era in which they won a game by 10 or more points and had a pass ratio above 60%.

Similarly, Carroll showed much more aggressive play calling in Week 1; instead of playing field position games midway through the third on 4th-and-5 from the Falcons’ 38, he let Russ cook—and Wilson rewarded him with a scoring dagger to DK Metcalf that made it 21-12 and the rout was soon on.

Against the Patriots, key questions to watch for the Seahawks include:

  • Whether they’ll continue to let Russ cook;
  • Where they’ll play – and when they’ll know for certain if the game is being moved;
  • If their defense truly is improved.

Wilson is a difficult quarterback to defend because he is so good at extending plays and making magic happen on the run. Last year the Patriots had far and away the best pass defense in the league by DOVA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). This year, however, they were definitely the team hit hardest by COVID opt-outs, and while most of the opt-outs were on the offensive side, two were defensive leaders: linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and safety Patrick Chung. The Patriots also lost linebackers Kyle Van Noy (Miami) and Jamie Collins (Detroit) and defensive tackle Danny Shelton (Detroit). That’s five players who played significant snaps last season, and while Belichick is a genius when it comes to replacing lost free agents, those are all holes Wilson will try to exploit if given the chance.

As for when the Seahawks will know where the game is being played? In Week 1, it wasn’t certain that the 49ers and Rams would get to host their games until the day of, and it’s possible that in NFL Week 2, the Seahawks might also not know whether the contingency plan (unknown at this time) is necessary until game day. Currently the AQI forecast for the rest of the week looks better, but that could change at any time and is worth monitoring, especially as it could have implications for NFL betting lines.

Finally, the Seahawks’ defense has declined each year since their consecutive Super Bowl appearances. Is the addition of Jamal Adams what the squad needed to get their post-Legion of Boom mojo back? Adams was certainly all over the field in Week 1, but Coach Belichick and the Patriots will likely present more of a challenge than the Falcons did last week.

New England Patriots

Julian Edelman of New England Patriots during game against the Seattle Seahawks at Gillette Stadium November 2016

In their first game post-Brady, coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots didn’t seem to miss a beat as they pivoted into a run-heavy attack. While the Dolphins likely weren’t the stiffest competition, quarterback Cam Newton looked healthy for the first time in nearly two full seasons, running the ball 15 times for 75 yards, eight first downs, and two touchdowns. He also completed 15 of 19 passes for 155 yards.

Key questions for the Patriots as they face a stiffer test in the Seahawks include:

  • Whether or not Newton will continue to be used so much as a runner, or if that was a game-specific look;
  • If Newton’s receivers can take advantage of the Seahawks’ reworked secondary;
  • How Belichick will adapt to what the Seahawks give him.

The Seahawks run defense struggled at times last season, giving up more than 100 rushing yards in 10 of their 18 games (including playoffs), including getting gouged for more than 150 yards 4 times, led by the 253 rushing yards they gave up to the Cardinals in an ugly Week 16 loss. If the Patriots choose to run, they may well find success.

The reworked secondary looks a bit more promising for the Seahawks, despite giving up a misleading 450 passing yards to Matt Ryan and the Falcons in Week 1; most of that yardage came after the game was well in hand, with 201 of those passing yards coming in the fourth quarter alone.

Finally, there’s the Belichick factor. Considered the greatest NFL coach in history with good reason, he will scheme wins out of the talent he has to work with. The question, then, is whether or not he’s had enough time to determine exactly what he has to work with this season—and how to best use those players.

NFL Week 2 Preview Summary

Even if this looks like a less-talented and significantly retooled Patriots team, it’s always unwise to count out a Bill Belichick-coached squad. Given how closely these teams have played each other in recent seasons—and the uncertainty surrounding whether or not the game can even be held in Seattle—it may be wise to another close one here.

Betting Picks and Predictions

Given the online sports betting respect shown both the Seattle Seahawks (who averaged between 9-10 wins for most NFL betting lines) and New England Patriots (who generally were in the 9-win neighborhood despite losing NFL GOAT Tom Brady to free agency), it makes sense that the line is in the Seahawks -4 neighborhood; most online sportsbook casino conventional wisdom supports another close game here. Given the contrasting potential styles, it’s hard to know what to expect from the over/under of 45, either, in such a young season.

Our prediction: Seattle Seahawks: 24, New England Patriots: 21

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