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Seattle Seahawks vs, New Orleans Saints: Can Qwest Field Level Playing Field?

Kyle Vassalo@VassaloBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2011

SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 26:  Fans of the Seattle Seahawks cheer during the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qwest Field on September 26, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Chargers 27-20. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

Sat., Jan. 8, 2010 4:30 p.m. ET

Line: New Orleans -11

Overview

The Seattle Seahawks are the first team in history to enter the playoffs with a 7-9 record. Even so, everyone’s record is 0-0 at this point, as the playoffs begin a new season.

What you have done to this point can be nullified by one loss, or one win if you are Seattle. They won the NFC West, so they will be hosting the Saints at Qwest field, which is one of the most difficult places to play in the entire league.

The New Orleans Saints are the defending champions. They come into this game at 11-5, having lost two of their last three games. While they are certainly the favorites in this game, a few key injuries to their backfield and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, along with playing on the road, just may even out the playing field.

Keys to the Game

  • Matt Hasselbeck is starting. Hasselbeck may have the better rapport when it comes to experience, but he has been miserable this season. He is minus-five in his touchdown-interception ratio. He is on the back end of his career. While he still is probably a better choice than backup Charlie Whitehurst for this week’s game, expect him to make mistakes. He faces a Saints defense who prides themselves on forcing mistakes. Look for them to be made early and often.
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  • The Saints can’t run the football, so expect to see an aerial assault. The Seahawks allow nearly 250 yards a game through the air, so there won;t be much resistance there. While their inability to run the football will probably cut their road to the Super Bowl short, it probably won’t be a factor in this one. Drew Brees has thrown a pick in every single one of his games since Week 4. He is not a liability though, as he makes up for it by complete nearly 70 percent of his passes and having a 90.5 QB rating.

Key Mathchup

Jabari Greer vs. Mike Williams

  • Malcolm Jenkins is hurt, which means Mike Williams will be covered by Jabari Greer. Greer gives up half a foot and 50 pounds to Williams. Williams might not be a dominant receiver in the NFL, but he is the only player on the Seahawks with the ability to take over this game. HE has posted three games this season with double-digit catches and three games with over 100 yards.
  • The Saints need to give Williams additional respect this Sunday. It is unlikely he will be a game breaker, but if they allow him to get loose he will produce. They have limited weapons, so unless they are able to get anything going on the ground, they are going to have to look Williams’ way. Rolling a safety out to help in coverage will not be a bad idea.

Wrap-Up

This could be a blowout, but it could also produce unexpected challenges for New Orleans. When the Cardinals made the Super Bowl, they were heavy underdogs in every single game they played in the postseason.

Don’t underestimate the fact that the Seahawks are playing in the comfort of their home stadium, but don’t overlook the overwhelming contrast in regular season production between these two teams.

Free NFL Pick: Seattle +11

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