Here are the top five Patriots vs. Seahawks matchups I will be watching come Super Sunday:
1. Marshawn Lynch vs. Pats’ Front 7
This matchup will make the biggest impression on the game. If Lynch can pound the rock all game long, New England will have a hard time pulling out a win. However if Vince Wilfork and the big boys up front can control the line of scrimmage, and Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins do their job behind them, the Patriots will have a much easier time winning the championship.
2. Rob Gronkowski vs. Seattle LB’s, Safeties
The Patriots’ number one offensive weapon is obviously Gronk, and they will be looking to get him involved early. There is nobody on Seattle that can cover this dude 1-on-1, so it will be interesting to see how they elect to cover him. Will they constantly double him? Chip him at the line? Roll all the coverage his way? If Gronk is getting so much attention, the Pats need to isolate other matchups. If not, you feed the beast all game long.
3. Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder vs. Seattle Edge Rushers
As I have said for the last two weeks, there are matchups the Patriots can exploit in the back end on Sunday. However if Tom Brady doesn’t get any time to throw, it won’t matter. That is why Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer have to be at the top of their game this week, because Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are two of the best in the business. Vollmer is one of the best right tackles in the game, and aside from a few stretches at the beginning of the year, and at the end of the season, Solder has been solid as well.
4. Russell Wilson vs. Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich
Stopping Marshawn Lynch is key, but making sure Russell Wilson stays in the pocket is also important for New England. He is extremely dangerous when he escapes to the outside, especially when he decides to throw it down the field. The best way to prevent this is all the pass rushers staying in their rush lanes, particularly on the edge. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich have to be aware of where they are in their rush to ensure Wilson doesn’t escape. Putting pressure on him isn’t nearly as important as it is to keep him where he is most uncomfortable: in the pocket.
5. Jermaine Kearse, Luke Wilson vs. Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington
One interesting matchup I can’t get out of my head is the combination of Kearse and Wilson against Browner and Arrington. Will Browner check the shiftier Kearse all game long? Or will the Patriots put their best slot corner on Kearse like they did with T.Y. Hilton? On third downs, and in the red zone, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the bigger Browner stick with Wilson, because he can be an x-factor for Seattle, especially considering New England’s struggles to cover tight ends with their safeties and linebackers at times over the last couple of years. Either way, I think the Patriots have the advantage in this department.