There are perils in basing opinions too heavily on the previous season. It once seemed the New England Patriots had the easiest schedule in the league, thanks in part to their matchup with the NFC West.
They got a rude awakening in Week 2, when the Arizona Cardinals became the first team to beat the Patriots in a home opener in 10 years. The Seattle Seahawks are an even better defensive unit than the Arizona defense, which held the Patriots to 18 points in that game.
The defense is Seattle's strong suit, but the offense has the propensity to hold the team back. Only once have the Seahawks scored more than 16 points in a game. That probably won't cut it against the Patriots.
Here's how New England can come out of Seattle with a win.
Find Ways to Get Wes Welker Off the Jam
The Seahawks defense doesn't have many weaknesses. From its large cornerbacks to its speedy defensive line and everything in between, moving the ball is going to be a challenge.
The Patriots have been one of the most balanced offenses in the league through five games, and they'll need to bring their A-game in the running game on Sunday for various reasons.
The Patriots offense is predicated on timing routes. The Seahawks defense has the ability to disrupt that timing. In a game like this, their ability to run the ball against favorable looks will be absolutely vital, as it will force Seattle to play on its heels a bit, forcing the corners to play off in coverage and opening up the timing routes in the underneath passing game that the Patriots love to run.
That's what happened when the Patriots beat the Denver Broncos this past Sunday.
The defensive backs, namely Chris Harris, couldn't jam Welker like they might have wanted to because the running game was so effective.
This pass, intended for Welker, fell incomplete. However, it demonstrates what the Patriots can do to get Welker open.
They love to run him on patterns across the formation, taking advantage of any cushion he may have by allowing him to beat defenders inside.
ESPN NFC West blogger Mike Sando brings up a great point about the success that St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola had against the Seahawks defense, and why that might mean good things for Wes Welker this week:
As I look at Welker, I keep coming back to him because out of the slot, he can beat that pressure. You can get the ball out so quick, that the defensive ends don't really have time to get to the quarterback. Welker over the last three weeks, according to ESPN Stats & Information, has 24 receptions from the slot. That is 10 more than any receiver in the league over that time period.
Welker runs a lot of routes similar to the ones Amendola ran successfully against the Seahawks, and part of that is in the route concepts getting him open on underneath patterns.
The defense has five guys at the line of scrimmage, but aside from the outside corner in press coverage, their defensive backs are playing off. They are prepared for the run because of Steven Jackson lined up behind Sam Bradford.
If the Patriots are able to run the ball on the Seahawks, their passing game will have more room to work with in the areas it excels the most.
Put the Ball in Russell Wilson's Hands
The Seahawks offense is similar to the unit the Patriots faced in Week 1 in Tennessee, and as such, the Patriots could utilize a similar game plan.
Both teams feature a mobile quarterback, and both offenses are predicated on the running game.
The Patriots front seven is solid in run defense, ranking fifth in the league by allowing just 3.4 yards per carry to opposing ball-carriers. As good a back as Marshawn Lynch is, the Seahawks running game hasn't been stellar and averages just 4.1 yards per carry, right around the middle of the pack.
If the Seahawks want to win, they'll need a big game from their quarterback. Russell Wilson is more mistake-prone than Jake Locker, with the Seahawks signal-caller being responsible for five interceptions in the past two games.
The Patriots defense earns its keep off forcing turnovers. Interestingly, though, Wilson has yet to throw an interception at home, and the Seahawks have yet to give up a single turnover on their own turf.
With all that being said, the Patriots can still play their signature brand of bend-don't-break defense—you know, the brand that increased New England's collective heart rate twofold in the final 30 minutes against the Broncos.
Some numbers to ponder? Glad you asked.
- According to Football Outsiders, the Seahawks are averaging just 27.45 yards per drive, ranking 26th in the NFL.
- Also according to Football Outsiders, the Seahawks average just .137 touchdowns per drive, ranking 28th in the NFL in that category.
- The Seahawks average 4.7 yards per play, the fourth-lowest average in the NFL.
The Patriots can afford to play conservative on defense and still come out with the win. That is, of course, barring the Seahawks drawing a bunch of Hail Marys into their game plan.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.