2011 NFL Playoffs: Seattle Seahawks Have All the Makings for a Giant Upset

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2011 NFL Playoffs: Seattle Seahawks Have All the Makings for a Giant Upset
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Drew Brees has never won a road playoff game.

In their second full season of existence, the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars entered Mile High Stadium one week after ending the Buffalo Bills season in the 1996 AFC Wild Card.

The Jaguars, who squeaked into the playoffs winning their last five games and thanks in part to a Morten Anderson missed field goal on the last play of the season, weren't expected to compete much with the heavily favored and No. 1 seeded Denver Broncos, who shared the NFL’s best record with the eventual Super Bowl Champion, Green Bay Packers.

The Jaguars not only competed, but came back from a 12-0 1st quarter deficit and outscored the Broncos 30-15 over the next three quarters to pull off one of the biggest upsets in playoff history, 30-27.

Fourteen years later, the Seattle Seahawks find themselves in a similar situation: Despite winning the NFC West and having home field for the Wild Card Playoff game, the Seahawks became the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record (7-9) and unlike the 1996 Jaguars, who won five straight to make the playoffs, the 2010 Seahawks actually lost five of their last seven games to win the NFC West.

And yet, despite what looks like a complete white wash on paper, the Seahawks have all the making of a giant upset over the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.

Here are three reasons why Seattle has the potential for a major upset that could shakeup the playoffs for good.

Will the Saints be able to run effectively without Pierre Thomas and Christopher Ivry?

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1. Injuries

The Saints will enter Saturday’s Wild Card Playoff game without both of their starting Running Backs, Christopher Ivory, who lead the team in rushing and Pierre Thomas, who although injured most of the season, was instrumental in the Saints late season run, including the monster road win at Atlanta two weeks ago.

The Saints will instead go with a duo backfield that features former Seattle running back Julius Jones and Reggie Bush.

Of the Saints' five losses this season, two of them came against teams with losing records, which Seattle has.

2. The Crowd

The Saints had the good fortune last year of having home field advantage and not having to worry about the problems with the crowd on offense, but come Saturday, the Saints and Drew Brees hit the road for their first road playoff game since the 2006 NFC Championship game against the Chicago Bears.

Qwest Field also happens to be one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, with their cantilever roofs running along each sideline, which recycle the crowd noise back onto the field. Qwest Stadium’s crowd noise is responsible for the most false start penalties in the league since 2005, with an NFL high average of 2.83 false start penalties per game.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Mark Brunell lead the Jaguars to one of the biggest upsets in Playoff history, a 30-27 upset over the #1 seeded Denver Broncos in 1996.

Since 2005, Qwest Field crowd noise has been measured at a decibel level of 112. Decibel Level in case you were wondering, measures sound level. A Boeing 747 measures in at 130 dBs.

If New Orleans cannot establish a running game early, you could see the Saints getting into long passing situations against a crowd they have never faced before, let alone in game with this much meaning.

3. History

Typically, when the fifth seeded playoff team knocks off the fourth seeded playoff team, it’s not much of an upset, let alone anything that compares to the 1996 Jaguars win over the Denver Broncos, but this is not your typical playoff game or match up.

This Seahawks team is the first NFL team to ever make the playoffs with a losing record, and matching up against the defending Super Bowl Champs, who are the 10.5 point favorites, could be just as equal an upset as Jacksonville’s was 14 years ago.

Seattle is 4-1 all time at home in the Playoffs, losing to the Rams 27-20 back in 2005, while New Orleans is 0-3 all time on the road.

If history tells us anything, it is that in every playoff season, there is one upset which completely throws off the balance of the playoffs.

The 2009 Wild Card New York Jets got into the playoffs after the Cincinnati Bengals laid a goose egg in favor of resting their starters for a rematch one week later, went on to upset the heavily favored San Diego Chargers, which in turn allowed a the Indianapolis Colts to play an inexperienced playoff Jets squad rather than the Chargers, who have owned Peyton Manning.

The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers entered the playoffs as the sixth ranked playoff team in the AFC, then beat the No. 3 Bengals, No. 1 Colts and No. 2 Broncos, all on the road.

How many people remember that the 1995 Colts lead by Jim Harbaugh (yes, that Harbaugh, who is being courted by the NFL), defeated the No. 1 ranked 13-3 Steve Bono lead Kansas City Chiefs?

How about the 1987 Minnesota Vikings who, at 8-7 during the strike shortened season, beat the 13-2 San Francisco 49ers who had the No. 1 ranked offense and defense in the league?

The Seahawks made history once already this season in being the only team in NFL History to make the playoffs with a losing record, now the question is: Can they be the first team with a losing record to win a playoff game, and more importantly, can they do what no NFL team could last season, knock off the New Orleans Saints?

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