Maybe this is wishful thinking, maybe it’s lunacy, maybe it’s both. I like the chances Seattle has in this one.
The loss of Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas is huge for the Saints. Do you really want Reggie Bush trying to take advantage of this run defense? Do you want to hitch your wagon to him as a number one running back? I would think not.
I understand that they do have Drew Brees, and a fantastic passing attack. However, also recognize that in the past few weeks, as they’ve gone 1-2, teams have really been able to get after and bother Drew Brees with a ton of pressure. Expect Seattle to do it too.
While I think Baltimore, Atlanta, and Tampa possess much more talent and speed on defense than Seattle does, a couple of factors could help balance this out. One, the injuries to the running backs obviously factor in, and it also matters in blitz protection and pick-up, and could force some more max protect packages. Two, the weather doesn’t promise to be very befitting a high octane down field passing attack. It’s expected to be about 40 degrees and raining. New Orleans should be glad it’s not the 8 pm game as the rain will become snow. Three, the crowd noise. There were some pre-snap issues in the game at the Dome for the Saints, and Quest Field can absolutely be loud enough to cause some in this one.
There is the other matter though of how the heck the Seahawks are supposed to score. The Saints defense is actually probably better than it was last year, just sans the turnovers. Seattle can be apt to turn the ball over though, and in poor weather conditions, we’ll see how it goes.
The Seahawks would be wise I think to use Justin Forsett more often. Marshawn Lynch really just doesn’t offer much of anything at the running back position. At least with Forsett, you have a chance for the big play. People were clamoring after the Baltimore game that the weakness in the Saints defense was exposed. Horsecrap. The Saints run defense is not a weakness, in fact, it’s been pretty good.
Another tidbit with that run defense, that should absolutely go into the play calling for the Seahawks is that the Saints only allow opponents to succeed on 40% of short yardage running situations, best in the league. Playoff football comes down to inches, to the little things, the Saints ability to stop people from running the ball for first downs in short yardage situations, especially in inclement weather, could be vital.
So, what I’m saying is given all the circumstances and conditions surrounding this game, I don’t expect a lot of points. I expect the scoring to be rather low, which in a playoff game like this, in this type of crowd environment in this type of weather, the key will be special teams.
And here is where the Seahawks may have the edge. While on paper, the Saints hold a rather distinct edge it would appear on both offense and defense (though less so with the injuries in the backfield), the Seahawks hold a very distinct edge in special teams. It could be argued the difference between the two special teams units is as gaping as the difference between each offense or defense.
The Saints special teams were borderline bad. The Seahawks were an elite unit.
Leon Washington has a chance to make a big difference in this game. Seattle’s kick return unit was the second best in the league this season, whereas New Orleans kickoff coverage unit ranked merely 16th. The difference is less so in the punting facet of the game, but the kick return unit for Seattle could prove important when it comes to answering any New Orleans scores. Nothing changes momentum like big special teams plays, or back breaking returns, and with this Seattle crowd, a big play early by the ‘Hawks return game could really give the team, and crowd, some major life.
The key might be hitting a big special teams play early, using some of that momentum and energy to hang around the game a bit. Because if it’s close towards the end, who knows what can happen? That’s what playoff football is about.
I’m going way, way, way out on the limb and taking Seattle. But alas, it’s probably more hoping for Seattle, as I’d much rather see them in Atlanta next Saturday.