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Scouting the Matchup: Patriots passing game too much for Seattle

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN

The Patriots leaned on LeGarrette Blount and the running game during Tom Brady's four-game suspension, but Blount has had a lesser role since Brady returned. Blount had at least 22 carries in each of the four games the Patriots were without Brady, and he produced two 100-yard rushing efforts during that span. He gained 123 yards against the Dolphins and 105 against the Texans. Blount has averaged 18 carries per game and has one 100-yard rushing performance with Brady in the lineup. Run defense has been a strength for the Seahawks, who have two excellent run defenders in linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner, although they struggled mightily Monday night against LeSean McCoy and the Bills. Advantage: SEAHAWKS

WHEN THE SEAHAWKS RUN

Seattle has been one the worst teams in the NFL this season when it comes to running the football. The Seahawks lost starting running back Thomas Rawls to a cracked bone in his fibula during a Week 2 loss to the Rams. He hasn't played since, but may return Sunday night after practicing this week. Backup Christine Michael has failed to rush for 100 yards in all but one game since he replaced Rawls. Nagging injuries have also robbed Seattle QB Russell Wilson of his mobility. Wilson rushed for at least 489 yards in each of his first four pro seasons, but has just  54 yards on 28 carries this year. In their last game the Patriots allowed a season-high 167 yards rushing to a Bills team that didn't have McCoy but otherwise the front has done a nice job.  Advantage: PATRIOTS

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS

Despite missing four games, Tom Brady may be making a run at the NFL MVP Award. Brady has thrown for 1,319 yards and 12 touchdowns in four games, and has a 73.1 completion percentage. No New England quarterback has had a pass intercepted this season. After being slowed by a hamstring injury, tight end Rob Gronkowski has 21 receptions for 473 yards and three touchdowns in his last four games. The Seahawks have allowed six passing touchdowns all season, which is the lowest total in the league. Seattle's 27 sacks rank third in the NFL behind Buffalo and Denver. Defensive end Michael Bennett (three sacks) had knee surgery on Nov. 2 and won't play against New England but Cliff Avril (9 sacks) and Frank Clark (6.5) have picked up the slack. Advantage: PATRIOTS

WHEN THE SEAHAWKS PASS

Wilson threw five touchdown passes in his team's first seven games, then went three games without one. Tight end Jimmy Graham has been a reliable weapon and is enjoying a resurgence. He has 38 receptions for 545 yards and three touchdowns including a pair of spectacular one-handed grabs Monday night. But Doug Baldwin and the rest of the receiving corps have been inconsistent. Wide receiver Tyler Lockett has been limited by an ankle injury and surpassed 35 receiving yards just once all season. New England's Malcolm Butler has been solid as the team's No. 1 cornerback, but the other cornerback spot appears to be unsettled. The inability to generate a pass rush - especially on third down - has been a problem. New England has just 13 sacks in its first eight games.  Advantage: PATRIOTS

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Patriots have had their issues on special teams during the first half of the regular season. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski has been the No. 1 concern. Gostkowski has missed three field goal attempts and two point-after kicks in eight games. His three missed field goals equals his total from last year. New England's kickoff coverage has been exceptional, but outside of a 73-yard kickoff return by Danny Amendola in Week 8 the return game has been lacking. Seattle has been good at covering kicks this season, but the Seahawks have been no better than average in the return game. Kicker Steven Hauschka has missed some key kicks and long-snapper Nolan Frese has been inconsistent. Punt protection has also been a problem at times and the unit had a punt blocked Monday night against the Bills. Advantage: PATRIOTS

OTHER FACTORS

The intangibles appear to favor the Patriots. New England is coming off of its bye week, which gave the players time to rest and recharge for the second half of the season. The week off also gave the New England coaching staff additional time to prepare for the Seahawks, and extra time has proven to be valuable to Bill Belichick in the past. The Patriots are 12-4 in the game that immediately followed their bye week since Belichick became the team's head coach. Their last loss in the game after a bye came in 2013 at Carolina (24-20). Seattle, on the other hand, was forced to prepare on a short week since the Seahawks played the Bills on Monday night. This isn't a typical road trip either, since Seattle had to fly across the country for this contest.   Advantage: PATRIOTS

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