Stop us if you have heard this before—the New Orleans Saints will travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks for a postseason matchup in one of the most intimidating venues in the NFL.
Drew Brees and company tried their luck in 2011 in a wild-card matchup in Seattle and were upset by the 7-9 Seahawks, 41-36.
The bad news for Saints fans is that Seattle team really had no business being in the playoffs and still managed to find a way to win. It's safe to say this season's version of the Seahawks is much better.
Will the 2014 divisional-round clash play out better for New Orleans, or will the 13-3 Seahawks move one step closer to a Super Bowl?
Let’s dig into some featured players and a prediction.
The 12th Man
Home-field advantage may be a bit overanalyzed at the NFL level, but you can’t say enough about the difference it makes for the Seahawks.
Seattle has won five consecutive home playoff games and will look to win its 16th game in 17 tries in front of the home fans. New Orleans traveled to Seattle in Week 13 for a Monday Night Football showdown and left the victims of a 34-7 blowout.
On the flip side, the Saints’ win in Philadelphia last week was their first road playoff victory in six attempts.
Look for the Seattle fans to be deafening from the opening kickoff, much like they were in Week 13 when the Saints posted a mere 188 total yards, the lowest in a single game since Sean Payton took over as head coach.
Seattle’s fans may be critical when it comes to throwing New Orleans’ offense off its rhythm, but the Seahawks’ top-ranked pass defense (172 yards per game and 28 interceptions) will be even more important.
Richard Sherman led the way in the secondary with his NFL-best eight interceptions and will be tasked with guarding the likes of Marques Colston and perhaps even Jimmy Graham at times.
New Orleans relies on its passing game to win, and Sherman and company gave Brees fits in Week 13.
Brees threw for an abysmal 147 yards, which was his lowest output in nearly a decade, largely because his go-to receivers had trouble breaking free from Sherman. Look for the NFL’s best cornerback to produce a critical interception in the divisional round.
If there was ever someone “due” for an impact game heading into this playoff matchup, it’s superstar running back Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch tallied an impressive 1,257 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns this season, but he hasn’t cracked the 100-yard rushing barrier since Nov. 10 against the Atlanta Falcons.
He was held to a mere 45 yards in the Seahawks’ win in Week 13 against New Orleans, although that game was well in hand long before it was over.
However, this being Seattle, there is sure to be some rain when the Saints and Seahawks take the field.
The best way to move the ball in poor weather is with a workhorse running back, which is exactly what Lynch is in the backfield. The Seahawks will grab an early lead and milk the clock behind the dominating running of Lynch.
He may not pull off a mind-blowing run like the last time Seattle beat the Saints in the postseason, but he will be the best offensive player on the field.
Seattle 27, New Orleans 13
The game will be closer than the Monday Night Football matchup from earlier in the year, but the Seahawks are a legitimate juggernaut right now, and the Saints are merely their first postseason victim.
Look for Sherman and the defense to force an early turnover, which will rattle Brees going forward. Lynch will gradually sap both the clock and the will of New Orleans’ defense as Seattle pulls away in the second half.
Follow and interact with Bleacher Report writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.
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