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Danny Picard: Patriots vs. Seahawks could be a Super Bowl LI preview

Russell Wilson scrambles away from Dont'a Hightower in Super Bowl XLIX.

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Sunday night will be a rematch of Super Bowl XLIX. Malcolm Butler was the hero, as you know. The New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks and hoisted the Lombardi Trophy because of his miraculous interception.

Two years later, the Patriots and Seahawks are setting themselves up for a potential Super Bowl LI matchup in Houston on Feb. 5. First, they’ll have to do battle in Week 10, a primetime showdown at Gillette Stadium.

If the playoffs began today, before Week 10 officially begins, bot the 7-1 Patriots and the 5-2-1 Seahawks would receive a first-round bye. The Pats would be the No. 1 seed in the AFC, while Seattle would be the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

I understand that playing the “if the playoffs began today” game can be a dangerous thing to do before we even hit Thanksgiving, but if you’ve watched the NFL this year, you’ll know that there aren’t many “sure things” throughout the league. I’d like to think that the Patriots are one of the very few sure things, and that — like I told you a few weeks ago — they already have the No. 1 seed unofficially locked up.

The road to the Super Bowl, in the AFC at least, will go through Gillette Stadium. In the NFC, that road to the Super Bowl isn’t as clear-cut. But make no mistake about it, the Seahawks should be one of the favorites to come out of the conference.

It seems that Las Vegas sees it the same way. Seattle (+350) has the second-best odds to win the NFC, behind only the Dallas Cowboys (+320). And Seattle (+900) also has the third-best odds to win the Super Bowl, behind Dallas (+700) and New England (+200).

So it makes sense that the second-best odds for a possible Super Bowl matchup is the Seahawks vs Patriots (+700), while Cowboys vs Patriots (+650) is favorited to be the game we’ll see on Feb. 5.

Again, Vegas is right on the money with the Patriots coming out of the AFC. Nobody is beating them if the Conference Championship is in Foxboro, which it will be. And there’s a reason why the early Super Bowl line has the AFC as a 4.5-point favorite. That went up from -3 after Denver lost to Oakland last Sunday night. But there are still plenty of questions to be answered in the NFC.

If I had to put my money on someone right now though, I would put it on the Seahawks to win the conference and take on the Patriots in the Super Bowl. So, in my opinion, Sunday night’s Week-10 game at Gillette Stadium will be a preview of what’s to come in February.

The Patriots are a 7.5-point favorite in this one, which seems a little high, considering that the Seahawks’ defense ranks third in the NFL in points-allowed per game at 16.8. The Patriots’ defense ranks second in the NFL in the same category, allowing just 16.5 points per game. They trail only the Minnesota Vikings, who lead the league with 15.8 points-allowed per game.

The Seahawks are coming off a 31-25 win over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night, while the Patriots are coming off their bye week having won four straight games.

Since Tom Brady’s return, this Week-10 matchup will be the biggest test of the season, so far, for New England. It might end up being the Patriots’ biggest test of the entire regular season altogether when it’s said and done, which will make the rematch that much more entertaining at Super Bowl LI.

Perhaps they should just bring the Lombardi Trophy to Gillette on Sunday night.

Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” atdannypicard.com& oniTunes. Danny can also be heard weekends on WEEI 93.7 FM. Follow him on Twitter@DannyPicard.

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