SEAHAWKS’ NEXT OPPONENT
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (7-1)
5:30 p.m. Sunday, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
Against the Seahawks: This is the 18th meeting. You might recall the last one: Feb. 1, 2015, Tom Brady rallied the Patriots with two touchdowns in the final 10 minutes. That turned Seattle’s 24-14 lead in Super Bowl 49 into a crazy, 28-24 New England win for the NFL title – sealed by Malcolm Butler’s interception of Russell Wilson at the goal line in the final seconds in Glendale, Arizona. Of course, as Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday: “I don’t think any of that really matters this week.”
Each team has won eight times in the regular-season series. This is Seattle’s first game in Massachusetts since Oct. 17, 2004. Corey Dillon ran for two touchdowns, Brady completed 19 of 30 throws with a touchdown and interception, and New England won 30-20 after intercepting Matt Hasselbeck twice and sacking him three times. The Patriots last home loss to Seattle was in 1993, when Rick Mirer beat Drew Bledsoe.
Line: Patriots by 7½
What to know: Guess who is the NFL’s highest-rated passer. Again. At the age of 39, after a four-game NFL suspension at the start of this season for the DeflateGate ball scandal, Tom Brady is off to the best start of his 17-year career. His 133.9 passer rating is 15 points higher than another else. His 73-percent completion rate is 3½ points ahead of Matt Ryan. He has 12 touchdown passes and no interceptions. He’s gaining a league-best 9.8 yards per pass attempt. And so on. … Brady is two wins short of Brett Favre’s 199 career victories and three victories away from Peyton Manning’s NFL-record 200 wins. … One quasi-surprise indicative that Seattle’s isn’t the only winning team with an offensive line full of issues: Brady’s been sacked eight times in four games. Cincinnati got him three times and Buffalo four times – yet New England won each game by 18 and 16 points, so big whoop. … LeGarrette Blount and Martellus Bennett (Michael’s brother) are the latest to resurrect their careers by merging into the Patriots’ winning ways. Blount co-leads the NFL with nine rushing touchdowns. His 609 yards on the ground is 10th in the NFL, and he’s balanced New England’s offense more this season. The Pats are eighth in rushing, ninth in passing, sixth in points per game (27.1). … Julian Edelman is still Brady’s top receiving target (41 catches on 62 targets). But Bennett, the tight end the Patriots often split out, has four touchdown catches. That’s already short of the former Cowboys and Bears castoff’s career high for an entire season. … New England’s defense is middle of the NFL pack in everything – but surrendering points. The Patriots are second, allowing just 16.5 points per game. That’s just ahead of Seattle’s 16.8. … They don’t sack the quarterback a lot – Jabaal Sheard leads the team with 3½ sacks through eight games and New England’s 13 total sacks are 28th in the league. The Patriots were second in the NFL with 49 sacks last season. … The Patriots are 15th in total defense, 15th against the run and 18th against the pass. … New England had the league’s optimal bye: after eight games, at the exact midpoint of the regular season. The Patriots are rested. The Seahawks are coming to Boston Friday after winning at home over Buffalo late Monday night. … Coming back from that bye, Patriots had a rare Tuesday practice this week to begin preparing for the Seahawks. … Common opponents: The Patriots lost at home to Buffalo 16-0 without Brady, then won at Buffalo 41-25 with him in their last game. New England beat Arizona with Jimmy Garoppolo at QB in the opener in the desert 23-21 and beat Miami in week two without Brady 31-24. The Seahawks beat the Bills at home 31-25, tied at Arizona last month in overtime 6-6 and beat Miami at home 12-10 in their opener.
Quotable: "It’s pretty early, so, there’s a long way to go. Seven wins, it’s a good place, I think. Decent position. But coach always says ‘Seven wins won’t get you anything in this league.’ He’s right. We’ve got a lot of football ahead." – Brady, to Boston’s media including The Associated Press, on everyone anointing the Patriots as AFC champions with a pass straight to February’s Super Bowl 51 in Houston.