One week down and the Patriots look like they never left. Sure Tom Brady isn’t here, but New England once again controlled the game as they have so many times before. Everyone finally got their first look at Cam Newton and he did not disappoint. Newton compiled 230 total yards (75 on the ground) with two rushing touchdowns powering the Pats’ offense. Newton was also efficient in the air completing 15 of his 19 attempts and posting a 77.6 QBR (50 is average).
On the other side the defense looked like they never left. They continued their torrid pace of forcing interceptions, snagging three off Ryan Fitzpatrick. Most importantly, they held the Dolphins to just four third down conversions, and under 300 total yards for the game. Both solid marks that will allow them to control most games.
In the end, a lot of positives for a team that needed a good start, but now comes a very tough stretch for Belichick and company. New England now has a stretch where they face seven teams in the next nine games who had a winning record last year. The first of those games comes this week in Seattle.
Here is what’s happening Week two:
First Down: I would be remiss if I didn’t start off this week with a look at something more important than football. The air quality on the west coast is a major concern right now for everyone. Thoughts and prayers to everyone out there dealing with that.
As far as the game, this is a MAJOR issue. Obviously something to keep tabs on for the status of the game. Both coaches however, feel really good about the game being played. Moreover, both mentioned that based on forecasts they have seen the wind may push the smoke out and allow the air quality to increase. Either way, this is something to monitor as no one can predict what happens Sunday night.
Second Down: Another topic that will undoubtedly be brought up ad nauseum Sunday night is the Super Bowl 49 win by the Pats. On top of that expect to see the Malcolm Butler interception multiple times. I am sure Patriot fans will be okay with the latter. However it is amazing how things change.
When Seattle entered that game, they had an all-time defense and were looked at as the “Next New England” Since then they have made zero super bowl. Just goes to show you, there likely won’t be another Brady/Belichick run, well for a long time at least.
As far as who is still on the team from that Super Bowl, the Patriots have just four players. They have James White, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty. You could also throw Dont’a Hightower and Marcus Cannon in as well, but both are out for the year.
On the other side the Seahawks have five: Russell Wilson, Luke Willson, Bruce Irvin, KJ Wright, Bobby Wagner. Unfortunately the Legion of Boom didn’t make it to this game.
Third Down: Looking to the game on Sunday, the Seahawks offense looks powerful if their game against Atlanta is any indication. Seattle finished with 38 points, second most in the NFL for week one. Furthermore, they also let Russell Wilson take over the game and he rewarded them going 31 of 35 for 322 yards and four touchdowns. Stellar numbers, and surprising from a run first coach like Pete Carroll.
Despite those fantastic numbers, the Seahawks have a huge weakness. Their defense is nothing like people have been accustomed to see from them. In week one the Seattle defense allowed the Falcons to have: 26 first downs, seven of 14 third down conversions, 434 passing yards and 506 total yards, with passing yards representing the worst in the NFL. Yikes.
Safe to say that the Patriots should be able to find ways to attack.
Fourth Down: For people wondering how much of an impact a center can have, watch David Andrews all game and then you will have no more questions. Andrews finally returned. With that return, the interior offensive line showed that they are going to be a strength all year. According to PFF, the Patriots top three graded players were Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney and David Andrews in that order.
Moreover, interior offensive line possesses all guys that are the top 5-10 in their position. This should allow Josh McDaniels to be creative with his calls considering they are all very good athletes as well. There is also the depth of the running backs and this team is loaded. No excuse not to be a top rushing attack with the weapons they have. I would look for McDaniels and Newton to ride the hot hand in the backfield and churn out yards all year.
Prediction: Patriots 26, Seahawks 23
This is no doubt a tough game. The Seahawks could easily win this game and if they score in the high thirties again they will. However, I am banking on the Patriots secondary holding up against Russell Wilson. On the offensive side, I think this is a week the play action game will be huge. The Seahawks secondary and pass rush is very weak.
One key to note is Jamal Adams is a big time playmaker. Newton has to identify him before every snap with his skill blitzing. If Newton plays smart and the Patriots rush for over 140 yards, I think they win this game.
–David Albiani is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @david_albiani