The Patriots are visiting the Seattle Seahawks in a stadium that is universally lauded for its deafening noise, but New England will also have to come to terms with a highly touted, yet underappreciated defense.
The Seahawks come into Sunday's game as the surprise No. 1 overall defense in the NFL, holding opponents to 258.6 yards per game and are second in points allowed (14.0). They have yet to allow an opponent to score more than 20 points in a game, and in wins against the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, and Carolina Panthers, the Seahawks have given up a total of 31 points. The transition to the league's top defense is a huge jump from last season's No. 9 overall ranking, when Seattle held opponents to 332.2 yard per game.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, former head coach of the Patriots, has led the Seahawks to a 17-20 record since returning to the NFL coaching ranks in 2010. His team is coming off a 16-12 win over the Panthers. The team is led by rookie quarterback Russell Wilson (79 of 125, 815 yards, 5 touchdowns, 6 interceptions) and defensive end Chris Clemons (5.5 sacks, 1 fumble forced).
The Patriots are coming off a blistering 31-21 win over the Denver Broncos in which the team's up-tempo, no-huddle offense kept the game out of Peyton Manning's reach. They'll attack the Seahawks with the No. 1 ranked offense in the NFL (439.4 yards per game), led by Tom Brady's passing attack and a newfound running game. In the last two games, the Patriots have rushed for 498 yards, led by back-to-back 100-yard games from Stevan Ridley.
The team will again be without safety Steve Gregory (hip), wide receiver Julian Edelman (hand), and rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower (hamstring).
Linebacker Tracy White (foot) is also out, leaving the Patriots' eighth-ranked run defense with only four linebackers available, including Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Bobby Carpenter, and Niko Koutouvides. Carpenter is likely to help the team in its base defense, coming out in sub packages for passing downs.
However, the team will likely be boosted by the return of tight end Aaron Hernandez, who made the trip to Seattle and is expected to play a limited number of snaps. Hernandez was injured in Week 2 of the season against the Arizona Cardinals.
Here are the details for today's game:
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET
Records: Patriots 3-2; Seahawks 3-2.
TV/Radio info: CBS (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Scott Zolak).
Projected starting lineups:
Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injuries for each team.
Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, RG Dan Connolly, RT Sebastian Vollmer, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon Lloyd, QB Tom Brady, RB Stevan Ridley, TE Aaron Hernandez.
Patriots defense: NT Vince Wilfork DT Kyle Love, RDE Chandler Jones, LB/DE Ron Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Bobby Carpenter, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S Tavon Wilson, S Patrick Chung.
Seahawks offense: WR Sidney Rice, LT Russell Okung, LG James Carpenter, C Max Unger, RG Paul MCQuistan, RT Breno Giacomini, TE Zach Miller, WR Golden Tate, QB Russell Wilson, FB Michael Robinson, RB Marshawn Lynch.
Seahawks defense: LDE Red Bryant, LDT Alan Brnach, RDT BRandon Mebane, RDE Chris Clemons, OLB Leroy MLB Bobby Wagner, OLB K.J. Wright, LCB Richard Sherman, RCB Brandon Browner, SS Kam Chancellor, FS Earl Thomas.
Inactives (more coming)
Patriots: Julian Edelman (hand), Steve Gregory (hip), Dont'a Hightower (hamstring).
Seahawks: John Moffitt (knee).