As we head into the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, the New Orleans Saints proved to critics that their inability to win on the road was in fact not true. Granted, these road struggles came in hand to teams like the Panthers, Patriots, and Seahawks, who all earned first round byes. They head back to Seattle where they will try to redeem themselves after an utter blowout.
Vegas currently favors Seattle by 8 points, which comes to no surprise considering the dominance the Seahawks have shown at home (7-1 in the regular season).
Let’s break down this game and see who I expect to come out on top…
Saints Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
Much is to be said about how dominant Seattle’s defense has been over the past 2 years, and when you put them in front of their crazed fans in the loudest stadium in the league, playing offense isn’t very easy. The Saints struggled their last time at Seattle this year, putting up only 188 total yards and were held to 7 points. Considering their lack of success, they were only sacked once and only committed 1 turnover.
The Saints running game is not a strength to say the least, but if they can get Pierre Thomas back for this game it may help them be a little less one-dimensional.
This is the part of the game where I have the most trouble predicting. Its apparent that the Saints played too conservative their last time against this defense, so hopefully they realize they need to throw the ball downfield. They did this against the Eagles, and although they weren’t spectacular, they won the game and weren’t terrible. The only team to beat Seattle at home this year was the Arizona Cardinals, who threw 4 interceptions but was still somehow able to win. The Saints cannot be afraid to attack this defense or else it will be a long night.
The Seattle defense has no weaknesses, so its up to the game plan of the coaching staff to be ready for whatever is thrown at them. Unfortunately for them, Drew Brees is the kind of player that if he shows up, you can only hope to contain him. Jimmy Graham hasn’t looked 100% since his injury in the middle of the year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a force in the passing game. Seattle must focus on taking out Graham in hopes to maintain Drew Brees.
Seahawks Offense vs. Saints Defense
Don’t be fooled by the Saints of old, this defense went from worst to one of the leagues best. Watching what they did against a dynamic Eagles offense last week was impressive, as they were able to handle MVP candidate LeSean McCoy and shut down DeSean Jackson. Keenan Lewis was to thank for silencing Jackson, but when Lewis left the game with an injury Jackson started to look like himself. Fortunately for the Saints, Lewis is expected to be good to go on saturday.
The Seahawks are a rare breed of offense now-a-days in the NFL. Instead of spreading the field and throwing the ball, this team focuses on a ground and pound, running in between the tackle offense. Marshawn Lynch is a stud, and fits the scheme perfectly with his ability to break tackles and make linebackers look small and weak. While you may ponder why opposing teams don’t load up the box to stop the run, you realize who is leading the offense. Russell Wilson has emerged as a legitimate star in this league, and while he may not put up gaudy numbers in the box score, his talent is unquestioned. His ability to run the ball only adds to his diversity as a quarterback.
Percy Harvin, the star wide receiver who has practically missed the whole year to injury, may be active for this game. Lot is to be said about how Harvin can change the game, but I don’t expect for him to be a factor this season.
Nobody in their right mind would take the Saints in this one, right? Sure, they beat the Eagles on the road, but that’s only one game and this is the toughest place to win in the league. Seattle is the heavy favorite in this one, and for good reason. They have been impressive all year and their ability to control the clock and shut down the best of offenses makes them hard to bet against.
For all you betting enthusiasts, I’m telling you to take New Orleans +9. Forget the last meeting between these two teams. I don’t expect anyone to blow out this Saints team TWICE in the same year.
As for my prediction for who will move on to the NFC championship, I am taking the……Saints!
No, this isn’t me being irrationally bold, or me just trying to be different from the rest. I believe the Saints coaching staff will in their best efforts try to attack this Seattle defense downfield. Forget about turnovers. The Cardinals threw 4 interceptions and were still able to win. The Saints will use their weapons downfield and even though they will commit turnovers, they will also put up points.
As for the Saints defense, I expect for them to show up just like they did versus the Eagles and make it hard for the Seahawks to run the ball consistently. Yes, the style of running is completely different in Seattle compared to Philadelphia, but I don’t expect for this to be a problem after seeing no statistical proof that the Saints are better against finesse running styles rather than physical running styles.
This game will be close, and I feel that the veteran quarterback will hold on in Seattle and take the New Orleans Saints to the NFC Championship game.
Saints 23- Seahawks 20