It was only two seasons ago that the Patriots met the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. However, only about half the players on either team remain with their respective clubs as the two foes prepare to face each other again this Sunday night in Foxborough.
The most familiar face, of course, is Seattle QB Russell Wilson. Despite being less than 100-percent healthy at the moment, Wilson remains a danger to New England's defense, which hasn't had much success taking down opposing passers this season.
"It's difficult any time you have a guy that's mobile that can make every throw on the field, is very accurate, is a very good quarterback in the pocket, and yet, when things aren't looking so good, he can pull the ball down and try to run for a first down," defensive end Rob Ninkovich pointed out.
Wilson is also among the best at completing passes on the run, when it appears he's given up on options through the air.
"He gets [the ball] out of there pretty fast," safety/co-captain Devin McCourty observed. "Just from being a free safety watching him, it's a look, and once he looks, it's just gone. It's not so high that it's easy to just run under it from no matter where you are on the field, but he has an ability to drop it in there on those deep balls. I think the pass to [Doug] Baldwin [this past] Monday night was an example of that. It looks like it's a lot of air, but it was just enough for him to run under it and it drops right in there. To me, [Wilson]'s biggest gift is being able to see it and get rid of it. Whether it be on the move or in the pocket, once he makes that decision, it goes and it gets there."
"He can move when he wants to move, when he needs to move," remarked head coach Bill Belichick. "I think that's the big thing. I mean he's not a guy that runs to run. He runs and makes plays so if you don't contain him, if you don't control him, if you let him extend the play then you're basically looking for trouble. If you do then you've got to defend all of the other things. He's certainly capable of making plays in the pocket and out of the pocket and you've got to defend it.
"And again, I think when he runs usually it hurts you because you don't have it defended, whether that's a scramble for a first-down or a keep off the running play or whatever it is. If you have it defended then he'll not run. He just makes great decisions. He's a tremendous competitor. I have all of the respect in the world for Russell Wilson both on and off the field."
On the other side of the ball, Seattle's defense remains one of the best in the NFL. At the moment, though, that unit is a bit banged up as well. Like their quarterback, the Seahawks are nevertheless able to make life difficult for opposing offenses.
"Some of the best defenses I've played in my whole career," QB Tom Brady explained, "they just do what they do and they do it at an extremely high level. This is one of those teams. They've led the league in scoring I think over the last four years, giving up the fewest amount of points. It's a relatively aggressive plan that they have… a very sound defense. They don't give up anything and that's why you can play that style. There are no voids in zones; there are no voids in the running game. It's hard to throw the ball on these guys."
To hear Brady and the Patriots tell it, this isn't just a Super Bowl rematch, but also a potential Super Bowl preview.
"Coach [Belichick] says, if you love football," added Brady, "Sunday night here at this stadium is going to be a great place for it."
Whatever kept rookie DB Jonathan Jones off the practice field Tuesday was not an issue on Wednesday. He was back with this teammates for a workout in shells on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. Every other Patriot was in uniform, including RB Dion Lewis. His PUP roster exemption expires a week from Thursday. Meanwhile, there's still no sign of offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer and Tre' Jackson, the team's two other PUP players.
New England now has an opening on the 10-man practice squad after the New York Jets claimed defensive lineman Anthony Johnson for their 53-man roster.