Patriots Are Huge Favorite to Win AFC East, Tied for Third to Win Super Bowl

Patriots Are Huge Favorite to Win AFC East, Tied for Third to Win Super BowlThe Seattle Seahawks will be 2-3 when they host the New England Patriots in Week 6.

Most would agree that Seattle should be 1-3 instead of 2-2 entering this week's game at Carolina. The Seahawks were the beneficiaries of the "Fail Mary" touchdown pass on the final play of their home game Sept. 24 against Green Bay. The replacement officials ruled simultaneous possession between Seahawks receiver Golden Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings when replay showed the catch was clearly an interception.

That turned a 12-7 Packers win into a 14-12 Seattle victory and also turned a Packers cover into a loss for Green Bay supporters.

Seattle followed that victory with a 19-13 loss at St. Louis last week in which Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson — one of five rookie starters in the NFL — threw for just 164 yards and three interceptions. If Wilson doesn't start playing better than he has, the Patriots could be facing former Green Bay backup and big-ticket Seattle free agent acquisition Matt Flynn in Week 6.

Wilson ranks dead last in passing yards per game (149.0), second-to-last in yards per attempt (5.94) and 27th in quarterback rating (73.5). He also has the NFL's worst third-down passer rating (45.4), having completed just 11 of 27 passes for 77 yards, with one touchdown and one interception on that down.

Opposing teams are loading up the box to stop Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who is No. 1 in the NFL in rushing yards per game (105.8) and yardage after contact (199) as well as No. 2 in carries (92). Wilson hasn't been able to make teams pay downfield. The Seahawks rank 29th in total offense with 281.5 yards per game and are the only team in the league averaging more yards rushing (150.8) than passing (130.8).

Coach Pete Carroll gave Wilson a vote of confidence this week, but not exactly a strong one. The Seahawks, 30-1 to win the NFC title, are three-point road underdogs at Carolina.

Many expected Carolina (75-1 to win the NFC) to be a playoff team this season after Cam Newton's brilliant rookie season in 2011. But it's almost a must-win this week with the Panthers at 1-3 following a last-second loss at Atlanta last Sunday, in which Newton rushed for his 17th career touchdown, the most by any quarterback in his first two seasons.

Since the current playoff format went into effect in 1990, 23 teams have rebounded from a 1-3 mark to reach the postseason. Denver did it last year behind Tim Tebow. The 2001 Patriots, who also started 1-3, are the only team to win a Super Bowl after posting that record through four weeks.

Seattle and Carolina haven't played since 2010, when both teams' current starting quarterbacks were still in college. Wilson could find some success against the 22nd-ranked pass defense of Carolina. But the Panthers are 25th against the run, so it could be a heavy dose of Lynch again. Carolina has allowed a 100-yard rusher in the past three games. Lynch has eight triple-digit yardage games since Week 9 of last season, the most in the NFL by two.

The Seahawks haven't faced the Patriots since beating New England 24-21 in Seattle in Week 14 of the 2008 season. This will be Carroll's first game against his former team. He coached New England to a 27-21 record from 1997-99 (1-2 in playoffs) before being replaced eventually by Bill Belichick.

Next week is the start of a grueling schedule for New England. The Patriots fly across the country to Seattle, come home to face the Jets, and then fly to London to face the Rams before the Nov. 4 bye.

Updated Patriots Futures Odds

With the big win over Buffalo last week, New England's futures odds at Bovada moved from 17-2 to 7-1 to win Super Bowl XLVII. That's behind Houston (9-2), San Francisco (11-2) and tied with Atlanta. To win the AFC, unbeaten Houston jumped from 9-4 to 2-1 and the Pats from 7-2 to 3-1.

The Jets' ugly loss to San Francisco vastly shifted the AFC East odds, with New England moving from -250 to -500. New York, which has now lost star cornerback Darrelle Revis and top receiver Santonio Holmes for the season, has dropped to +900 to win the division.