The New England Patriots head to Seattle this week to face the Seahawks on “Sunday Night Football.” Here’s everything you need to know about this primetime matchup:
Time: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: CenturyLink Field, Seattle
The Patriots entered the weekend as 4-point underdogs. It’s the first time they have not been favored in a regular-season game since Week 1 of the 2016 season, when they beat the Arizona Cardinals as 9-point ‘dogs in Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start.
The Seahawks have taken the last two regular-season meetings in this quadrennial series, winning 31-24 at Gillette Stadium in 2016 and 24-23 in Seattle in 2012. The Patriots, of course, defeated them 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX to close out the 2014 season.
Due to COVID-19 regulations, the Seahawks won’t have their notoriously noisy “12th Man” crowd in attendance, but poor air quality in Seattle amid the ongoing West Coast wildfires has been a point of concern this week. Smoke from the fires prompted the MLB’s Mariners to postpone one game and shift two series — including one scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday — to road venues.
Head coaches Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll both said Thursday they expect their game to be played without issue.
New England opened the Cam Newton era with a victory, defeating the Miami Dolphins 21-11 at Gillette Stadium. Newton provided 75 of his team’s 217 rushing yards and two of their three rushing touchdowns, and the Patriots’ defense — which played much of the game with six or seven defensive backs on the field — intercepted three Ryan Fitzpatrick passes.
Seattle also sits at 1-0 after dismantling the Atlanta Falcons 38-25. Quarterback Russell Wilson was superb, finishing with as many touchdown passes (four) as incompletions.
One Patriots player already has been ruled out for Sunday: rookie linebacker Josh Uche (ankle), who did not practice Thursday and was limited Friday. Uche was a healthy scratch in Week 1, so this will be the second straight DNP for the second-round draft pick.
Six Patriots are listed as questionable:
WR Julian Edelman (knee)
WR N’Keal Harry (shoulder)
DT Adam Butler (shoulder)
LB Brandon Copeland (knee)
TE Dalton Keene (neck)
ST Matthew Slater (knee)
Edelman’s level of participation Sunday bears monitoring. He led the Patriots in receiving yards against Miami (57 on five catches) but played just 58 percent of offensive snaps, his lowest snap rate since Week 3 of last season.
We’ll see if Keene, who sat out last week’s game with a neck injury, makes his NFL debut this weekend.
For Seattle, defensive end Rasheem Green and offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi are listed as doubtful, and ex-Patriots receiver Phillip Dorsett is questionable.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cam Newton, Patriots quarterback
The Patriots couldn’t have asked for a better Newton performance in Week 1. But the blueprint they followed in that season-opening win likely isn’t sustainable.
Newton’s 15 rushing attempts were his most in a game since 2014 and the second-highest total of his career. His 19 pass attempts (nine of which came off play-action) were the fewest by a Patriots QB since 2016 and tied for the second-fewest of the Bill Belichick era.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said this week he’ll continue to tailor each game plan to the opponent, noting the stark differences between Seattle’s Cover 3 defense and Miami’s man coverage-based scheme. Given their available personnel, the Patriots should remain a run-focused outfit, but Newton could see more passing opportunities against a Seahawks D that surrendered 450 yards to Matt Ryan last week.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, 82.5 percent of New England’s offensive plays against Miami featured either a handoff or play-action. Seattle allowed the third-most passing yards off play-action in the league last season.
Newton went just 2-6 against the Seahawks during his time with the Carolina Panthers but completed 83.3 percent of his passes in his most recent matchup, a 30-27 Seattle victory in 2018.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks quarterback
In a departure from their usual offensive M.O., the Seahawks put the ball in Wilson’s hands early and often last Sunday. The results were resoundingly positive.
Against Atlanta, Wilson went 9-for-9 for 86 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter and 25-for-31 for 322 yards and four scores for the game, tying the NFL record for completion percentage among QBs with at least 35 pass attempts and earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Belichick was effusive in his praise of Wilson this week, saying the uber-reliable 31-year-old has been underrated by fans and media members.
“I don’t really see anybody better than this player,” the Patriots coach said. “He can do everything. … His passing numbers are extraordinary. You can put him up against anybody since he’s been in the league — literally anybody — in any category, really.”
Wilson is arguably the NFL’s best deep-ball thrower, and his current stable of weapons (wide receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, tight ends Greg Olsen and Will Dissly, running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde) might be the most talented group he’s had to work with.
Damiere Byrd and N’Keal Harry, Patriots wide receivers
Byrd led all Patriots receivers in snaps against Miami (56 of 64) and was not targeted. Harry (51 snaps) caught five of his six targets but finished with just 39 receiving yards and fumbled on the goal line. Newton strongly backed Harry this week, so we’ll be watching to see if the 2019 first-rounder bounces back Sunday night. The Patriots need more from him and Byrd as their second and third wideouts behind a banged-up Edelman.
Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, Seahawks wide receivers
Receiver depth certainly is not an issue for Seattle. Lockett and Metcalf are one of the NFL’s top wideout duos, combining for 140 catches, 1,957 yards and 15 touchdowns a year ago. They were similarly productive in Week 1, with Lockett catching all eight of his targets for 92 yards and Metcalf — who was drafted 32 spots behind Harry last spring — catching four passes on eight targets for 95 yards and a touchdown. (Metcalf also dropped a pass, so his total should have been higher.) They’ll present an early challenge for the Patriots’ elite cornerback duo of Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson.
Kyle Dugger, Patriots safety
Dugger played just 11 defensive snaps in Week 1, but teammates are raving about his potential. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore said the second-round rookie is “going to help (the Patriots) win some games this year.” Safety Adrian Phillips compared him to Derwin James. We’ll see if Dugger takes on a larger role this week against Seattle’s deep and dangerous offense.
Jamal Adams, Seahawks safety
Remember him? The Seahawks gave up a haul to acquire the former New York Jets star this offseason, and Adams has lived up to his price tag thus far. He was excellent Sunday in his Seattle debut, tallying a team-high 12 tackles, one sack, two QB hits, two tackles for loss and four total pressures while allowing one catch on two targets for zero yards, according to Pro Football Focus. With more pass-rush snaps (11) than any other NFL safety in Week 1, per PFF, Adams will threaten New England’s offense in a variety of ways.