The Saints will continue the defense of their Super Bowl title this coming Saturday afternoon, as they will travel to Qwest Field to take on the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs.
The Seahawks beat the St. Louis Rams 16-6 last week, while the Saints lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-13.
The Saints come into this game attempting to defend their Super Bowl title from last season. They have fallen on hard times a little bit, although you couldn’t tell by their record.
They didn’t win their division and won’t have a home game, so the defense of their title will be tough, but it can be done.
This isn’t the first time that these teams have met this season. These two teams played each other back in Week 11, and the Saints beat Seattle 34-19 in the Superdome.
Can the Saints make it to the second round of the playoffs? Are the Seahawks beatable? Can they win this game and advance in the playoffs?
Let’s find out in this extended preview of the Saints versus the Seahawks coming up this weekend at Qwest Field in Seattle.
When the Saints Have the Ball
New Orleans' offense has been hot and cold at certain points this season and hasn’t been as good as it was last year, when the Saints went to and won the Super Bowl. Quarterback Drew Brees has been more mistake-prone this season (having thrown 22 interceptions this season), and teams have taken advantage of this.
The Saints' passing attack is averaging 277 yards per game through the air and has performed well in some games. Seattle’s defense has allowed opponents to throw for an average of 249 yards per game, so the Seahawks defense should give the Saints an advantage there. As long as the offensive line can keep Brees protected and he can avoid making mistakes, then their passing game should be hard to stop.
The Saints' rushing attack is averaging 94 yards per game, while Seattle’s rushing defense is letting teams gain 118 yards per game, so the Saints might have some success running the football, but there are some complications. Chris Ivory is out for the remainder of the season, as is Pierre Thomas.
Reggie Bush isn’t the kind of running back to run the ball repetitively between the tackles, so the Saints may rely on Julius Jones for some help there.
New Orleans needs to hope that someone steps up there and runs the ball well, because while they may be able to beat Seattle with just their passing game, any other team that they meet could shut them down, and they could drop out of the playoffs.
When the Seahawks Have the Ball
Seattle has seen some change at the quarterback position as of late, and it’s not known right now who will start at the position (right now people are saying the regular starter Matt Hasselbeck will be the starter). No matter who it is, the Saints' pass defense will have to ensure that they don’t allow the Seahawks to control the ball through the air.
The Seahawks' passing offense has averaged 208 yards per game through the air, while the Saints' defense is allowing 193 yards per game through the air. Seattle quarterbacks have been sacked 35 times, while New Orleans' defense has 33 sacks during the season. They can put pressure on the quarterback and need to do that so the Seahawks don’t keep the ball moving through the air.
When it comes to running the football, Seattle is averaging 89 yards per game on the ground. The Saints' rushing defense is letting teams gain 117 yards per game, so Seattle may see some success there. Seattle’s rushing attack has had a mixed season, but the Saints can’t afford to let them have a resurgence in this game.
One thing the Saints cannot afford to let the Seahawks do is have a strong special teams game. The Seahawks have a great special teams unit (led by Leon Washington), and they can score on both kickoff and punt returns. If this game ends up close, the special teams unit that has the best day may end up winning it for their team.
The Saints come into this game with some injury concerns (including losing Ivory and having Malcolm Jenkins injured), and they will need to work through these injuries in order to have success in this game. They may have also lost some momentum by losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their final game of the season. But should that matter?
On paper the Saints look like a much better team. It would appear as if they could easily beat the Seahawks and cruise on to their next game, but there is always that “other” factor.
What is the other factor? There are several. For one, the Saints will be playing a game away from home in front of very hostile crowd. Qwest Field is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, and you can bet that Seahawks fans are going to be charged up for this game. The Saints, especially on offense, will need to be sure that they can communicate with all the crowd noise and not make any mistakes as a result.
Right now, the temperature in Seattle at game time is going to be around 40 degrees, and the weather is calling for rain or even snow. The Saints are not the ideal outdoor team and have struggled in similar conditions. Will they be able to overcome these conditions and win this game?
This game may be tough, but the Saints, even with all their injuries, the weather and the crowd, should be able to win this game. They will be the most talented team on the field and have what it takes to walk out of the game with a win.
The Saints need to get a big lead to start the game and take the crowd out of it. They need to take their first four series and score to put the Seahawks behind, take the crowd out of the game and walk away with a win.
On defense, New Orleans needs to concentrate on getting pressure on the Seattle quarterback no matter who it is, forcing him to make mistakes and give the ball back to the Saints. They need to work hard to keep from the Seahawks from running the table on them, make plays and put the game away early.
Almost everyone has picked the Saints to win this game, and there are very few reasons why they shouldn’t go to Seattle, take care of business and get ready for another playoff game the next week. As long as the crowd noise and weather don’t get to the Saints, they will win this game soundly.
New Orleans 28, Seattle 17