In a year that has been highlighted by poorly played games, NFL fans get a reprieve in Week 10. The New England Patriots host the Seattle Seahawks on “Sunday Night Football” in what might be the best matchup of the 2016 regular season.
New England has separated themselves from the rest of the league as the best team in football. Going 7-1 with the top record in the AFC, they are the clear Super Bowl favorites. As a result, the Seahawks are 7.5-point underdogs just six days after they were favored by nearly a touchdown in their Week 9 contest.
The Dallas Cowboys have the NFC’s best record, but Seattle might be the biggest threat to New England winning the championship. The Seahawks’ victory over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night gave them the NFC’s second-best mark, and they nearly defeated the Patriots when they met in the Super Bowl two years ago.
Seattle began the season as the Super Bowl favorites in the NFC, though they’ve looked very beatable through the first half of the season. While their defense has remained among the best in the league, the Seahawks’ offense hasn’t exactly been title-worthy. Only nine teams have scored fewer points than Seattle, and Russell Wilson’s numbers have paled in comparison to what they were a season ago.
Last season, Wilson led all quarterbacks with a 110.1 passer rating, and he still only ranks 13th in the NFL after having his best game of the year on Monday. Leg injuries have prevented him from running the ball much, and he’s on pace for a career-low 14 touchdown passes.
Conversely, Tom Brady is playing the best football of his career. His 133.9 passer rating is easily the NFL’s best, and he’s the MVP favorite even though he missed the first four games of the season because of his Deflategate suspension. Since Brady’s return, the Patriots have won four straight games by at least 11 points, averaging 34 points per contest. Brady has been victorious in 49 of his last 50 regular-season home games against AFC opponents.
The Patriots have the clear edge, and their offense might be too much for the Seahawks to handle. Seattle, however, might be primed to have one of their best scoring days, which could make for a relatively close, high-scoring contest.
Most of the Seahawks’ problems have stemmed from their offensive line, but that might not be as big of an issue on Sunday. New England has had trouble pressuring the quarterback all season long, tied for 28th with just 13 sacks. Wilson remains one of the NFL’s top signal callers, and if he has time to throw, the two teams might not have much trouble surpassing the over/under of 48.5.
Only the Minnesota Vikings have allowed fewer points than New England, but that doesn’t tell the whole story about the Patriots’ defense. They’ve taken advantage of playing against quarterbacks like Charlie Whitehurst, Landry Jones and Brock Osweiler. Both Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer posted passer ratings better than 100.0 against New England, and Wilson has a good chance to do the same.
Ranking 15th in yards allowed, New England’s defense has been somewhat of a disappointment in 2016. It’s why the Patriots traded linebacker Jamie Collins last week, and it’s why Seattle could be in Sunday’s game for most of the way.
Seattle’s defense, however, has been vulnerable in recent weeks, especially against the run. The Seahawks have felt the injuries to safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Michael Bennett, and New England’s No.8 rushing attack could be what puts the Patriots over the edge.
Prediction: New England over Seattle, 27-24