Rushing yards per game
Seattle offense: 140.2 (seventh)
New England defense: 82.2 (eighth)
When the Seahawks pass
Russell Wilson is running his third team in three years (the rookie starred at North Carolina State and Wisconsin the last two seasons), so intelligence and versatility are not in question. Wilson (generously listed at 5 feet 11 inches, 206 pounds) is a gifted athlete who is at his best when improvising outside the pocket. His lack of height limits his productivity in the pocket and he will abandon it prematurely and either tuck the ball and run or try to make throws on the run. When he does stay between the tackles, he has a tendency to lock on to his primary receivers and will too often force throws. Wilson presents a big challenge for Patriot pass rushers Chandler Jones (are we sure he’s a rookie?) and Rob Ninkovich (he’s dogged in pursuit). Sidney Rice is Seattle’s top receiver. A big target, the 6-4, 202-pounder has speed, strength, and smarts. He lacks bulk, however, and he isn’t the most aggressive guy when it comes to going across the middle. Golden Tate is a superb route-runner with excellent hands. The 5-10, 202-pounder has adequate quickness and speed and will fight for the ball. Tight end Zach Miller (6-5, 255) is a good athlete with soft hands and surprising speed. New England’s secondary has been making slow and steady progress.
Passing yards per game
Seattle offense: 147.0 (31st)
New England defense: 290 (30th)
Seahawks’ key player: Russell Wilson
An exciting and poised rookie, Wilson beat out high-priced free agent Matt Flynn for the starting quarterback job out of training camp. After an up-and-down start to the season, it remains to be seen whether he can keep it. One thing is for sure: He faces his toughest test against New England.
How he beats you: With athleticism and intelligence. Wilson has quick feet and a strong arm. He’ll never be the prototypical, drop-back NFL passer, but that’s OK — he has proven he can make plays and win games.
How to shut him down: By making him beat you with his arm. Wilson is quick and slippery. He is likely to see schemes he’s not used to Sunday, so he’ll abandon the pocket quickly and try to make plays with his feet. The Patriots have to punish him in open spaces.
SEAHAWKS’ KEYS TO VICTORY:
1. Pound away: Feed Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin early and often — even if they get stuffed early. This will force the Patriots to stack the box and loosen things up for Russell Wilson.
2. Golden boy: Receiver Golden Tate is a playmaker. Problem is, he loses interest easily. Keeping him in the flow from the get-go will keep his competitive juices flowing for the full 60 minutes.
3. Stack and shed: Seattle must close off the running lanes and prevent the Patriots from maintaining the balance they love. Seattle’s secondary is talented and it has the ability (along with the noisy crowd) to disrupt the receivers and Tom Brady.
PATRIOTS’ KEYS TO VICTORY:
1. Stand tall: The run defense has been stout. It needs to continue to be that way (Seattle loves to run the ball) to force coach Pete Carroll to rely on Russell Wilson to essentially win this on his own.
2. Special attention: Leon Washington is one of the league’s elite return men. New England’s gunners have been great so far, and they’ll need to be again in order to keep the ultra-slick Washington in check.
3. Bruce almighty: Seattle defensive end Bruce Irvin is a rare talent. He uses explosiveness and power to blast off the edge and rattle quarterbacks. The Patriots have to pay special attention (hello, Rob Gronkowski) to this monster.
Patriots 27, Seahawks 17
Jim McBride can be reached at email@example.com.