The Patriots (7-5) visit the Seahawks (2-10) on Sunday — marking their first trip to Seattle since 1993 — and here are five nuggets of note on the Seahawks:
1) Defense has been overmatched in the passing game. Opponents are averaging 265.2 passing yards per game against the Seahawks, which ranks the Seattle defense 32nd out of the NFL’s 32 teams. Problems have been wide ranging, from an inconsistent pass rush (top rusher Patrick Kerney is on injured reserve) to coverage issues in the secondary. Cornerback Marcus Trufant is the Seahawks’ top defender.
2) Slugglish after halftime. The Seahawks have not produced immediately after halftime, scoring just 22 third-quarter points on the season. Only the Bengals (20) have scored fewer points in that quarter. For perspective, the Patriots have scored 76 points in the third quarter this season.
3) Down year for Matt Hasselbeck. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been limited to just seven games and he’s completing just 52.2 percent of his passes, with 10 interceptions against five touchdown passes. The Seahawks were hit by a string of injuries at wide receiver early in the season — coach Mike Holmgren joked that the team was hiring players from the local Chevron gas station — but the situation has since stabilized. Mike Sando’s NFC West blog on ESPN.com has an extensive breakdown of the Seahawks’ offensive approach in their last game, a 34-9 loss to the Cowboys.
4) Interior of offensive line is vulnerable. The Seahawks will line up with backup Steve Vallos at center, with injury situations also resulting in changes at both guard spots. This should give the Patriots’ linemen up front, specifically nose tackle Vince Wilfork, a chance to control the line of scrimmage.
5) Mike Holmgren’s final season. At the start of the year, head coach Mike Holmgren announced this would be his final season in Seattle. Holmgren is planning to take the 2009 season off. His replacement will be Jim Mora, the former Atlanta Falcons head coach (2004-2006) who is in his first season as Seattle’s defensive backs coach.
ANALYSIS: The Seahawks have had extra time to prepare, having played on Thanksgiving. They have lost five in a row, with their lone wins on the season coming against the Rams (home) and 49ers (road). Although the Patriots are banged up on defense, and have struggled to consistently defend the pass, the Seahawks haven’t been explosive offensively (31st in the NFL in passing yards). The feeling here is that this should be a game with some points scored. The Patriots haven’t lost two in a row since the 2006 season. Prediction: Patriots 31, Seahawks 27.