NFL Wild Card Preview: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
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If home-field advantage in this year's Wild Card Weekend were determined solely by the competing teams' records, the home venues would be the exact opposite of what they are under the current system.
The New York Jets (11-5) would be hosting the Indianapolis Colts (10-6) and the Baltimore Ravens (12-4) would have the home-field advantage over the Kansas City Chiefs (10-6). Heck, the Green Bay Packers had the same record (10-6) as the Philadelphia Eagles and would have had the edge due to winning the head-to-head matchup in the regular season.
But perhaps the biggest injustice is the Seattle Seahawks, who get to use their "12th man" against the New Orleans Saints despite being the first team in a nonstrike season to go to the playoffs with a losing record.
According to AOL Fanhouse, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the league will consider making some changes to playoff seeding in the offseason, but will first see how these playoffs play out.
In other words, Goodell wants to see how the Seahawks do in the playoffs.
Will they get their collective manhood crushed to the Qwest Field turf? Or will they follow the path of the 2008 Arizona Cardinals and ride their home-field advantage all the way to the Super Bowl?
Like Seattle, Arizona lost badly to some teams that missed the playoffs despite having a better record. The 2008 Cardinals (9-7) lost to the New England Patriots (11-5) 47-7, whereas the Seahawks lost 41-7 to the Giants and 38-15 to the Buccaneers; both of those teams missed the playoffs with 10-6 records.
As with the Seahawks, many football experts thought the Cardinals didn't belong in the playoffs and would get spanked on their own turf in the Wild Card round. Instead, Arizona beat the Atlanta Falcons, then won on the road against the Carolina Panthers and at home in the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles (all teams with better records, I might add).
There is a slight chance (to say the least) that Seattle might have similar success in this year's playoffs. After all, Qwest Field does give the Seahawks one of the strongest home-field advantages in the NFL.
And, may I add, the Saints have never won a playoff game on the road in their franchise's history. New Orleans has also been turnover-prone this season, as evidenced by Drew Brees' 22 interceptions.
If Seattle (and by Seattle, I mean both the Seahawks' defense and the home crowd) can force the Saints offense into making multiple mistakes, the Seahawks may have a chance in this one.
However, with the way Seattle has played against teams outside of the NFC West (only three of their wins were non-conference ones), I just can't imagine the defending Super Bowl champions blowing this one.
Plus, we're talking about the No. 3-ranked offense in New Orleans going up against the No. 27-ranked Seattle defense. This is way too big a mismatch to ignore.
My prediction: New Orleans 35, Seattle 14
If the Seahawks do follow the Cardinals' path and earn a surprise trip to North Texas, it would create two different questions.
How much does home-field advantage matter in the playoffs? Does a division winner deserve home-field advantage regardless of record?
The 47-7 blowout loss to the Patriots suffered by the 2008 Cardinals was in a snowstorm. Would Arizona have reached the Super Bowl if they had to play at Philadelphia?
The same question will be asked about the Seahawks if they beat the Saints on Saturday. After all, they did lose to New Orleans in the Superdome 34-19 earlier this season.
When the NFL decided long ago to award home-field advantage according to playoff teams' record, wasn't it with the intention of rewarding the teams that won more games?
This article, and much more, can be seen on Drew Rosten's Sports Thread at http://drewrosten.blogspot.com/. Check out the Sports Thread tomorrow for previews and predictions of the three other NFL Wild Card matchups.
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