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NFL Playoff Preview: New Orleans Saints Will Take the Seattle Seahawks To School

So the NFL playoffs are upon us and I’m in prediction mode. 

This week, I’ll be giving you previews and my prediction for each of the first-round matchups. There will be upsets, blowouts, even opinions that could get me hunted down by crazy fans! 

That said, let’s start with the first game on my agenda: the New Orleans Saints vs. the Seattle Seahawks.

 

Record

Let’s be honest. The Seahawks are the worst team in the past few years to make the playoffs, with a 7-9 record. 

Their offense was inconsistent all season, their defense gave up 97 more points than the offense scored and they didn’t clinch the division until last night.

On top of that, when they did win, their wins weren’t very impressive, save for their upset of the Chicago Bears in Week 6. 

Of the team’s seven wins, six came against teams that didn’t make the playoffs. When they lost, they lost badly. In fact, their closest loss came against the Saints in Week 11, which New Orleans won 34-19. 

Long story short, the Seattle Seahawks are not a playoff team, but just happen to be in the postseason because their division is just plain awful.

The Saints, on the other hand, did quite well in their first season after winning the Super Bowl. 

They posted an 11-5 record, which was good enough for a wild-card berth since the Atlanta Falcons ran away with the division. Overall, the team looked great despite injuries to running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas.

They had a few bad losses, but that didn’t deter them from silencing their critics and returning to the postseason with their eyes on another championship. So while the Seahawks are a group of underachievers, the Saints are most definitely the NFL’s overachievers.

Edge: Saints

 

Quarterback

This is probably one of the most one-sided comparisons ever, so I’ll keep it short.

On the Seattle side, we have Matt Hasselbeck.  He’s 35-years-old, has missed games each of the past three seasons due to a variety of injuries and just hasn’t been the same since the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run of the 2005-2006 postseason.

On top of that, he really isn’t that good of a quarterback. 

His career passer rating is an average 82.2, but his statistics are still underwhelming. He fumbles the ball too often, throws a lot of interceptions and gets sacked easily. Pretty much, the Matt Hasselbeck era in Seattle has gone on much longer than it should have.

Drew Brees, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. Ever since coming to New Orleans from San Diego in 2006, he has seemingly improved every season. 

When fantasy draft time came around this year, some people backed away from him because of the “Madden Curse,” a superstition that leads people to believe the player on the cover of the Madden NFL video game will not have a good season. 

Brees put that superstition to bed, throwing 33 touchdown passes to go with a 90.9 passer rating. The only statistic that was out of the ordinary was his interception count, a career-high 22.

Still, Brees continues to be a leader on a Saints team that goes out every game and gives 110 percent, regardless of circumstance or potential disadvantage. I can’t say the same about Hasselbeck.

Edge: Saints

 

Running Game

Again, we have a slightly one-sided comparison. The Saints have Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and rookie Chris Ivory, who has surprised everyone.

The Seahawks have underachiever Marshawn Lynch, whom they acquired from Buffalo early in the season, as well as Justin Forsett, who has potential but needs work.

On names alone, the Saints appear to have the edge. However, I don’t think we can just write off the Seahawks in this department.

Stats-wise, these teams are very even on the rushing offense scorecard. The Saints finished the season with the 28th-ranked running game, while the Seahawks finished second-to last with the 31st. Seattle had more rushing touchdowns, with 13 compared to the nine of New Orleans.

Still, we can’t look past the fact that the Saints backfield was beset by injuries most of this season. Instead of the tandem of Bush and Thomas, we had Chris Ivory and Julius Jones. Had the two regulars been healthy, I think that the team’s rushing offense would have finished higher than 28th in the league.

Edge: Saints

 

Passing Offense

On paper, the Saints have the edge. What can I say about the Saints receiving corps that hasn’t been said already? 

Regular deep threat Marques Colston will probably miss the game with a knee injury, but the Saints still have an amazingly deep squad at this position. Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson know how to get to the ball, and Lance Moore is one of the better possession receivers in the NFL. 

At tight end, you have Jeremy Shockey, who is just as brutal catching the ball as he is blocking defenders. On top of him, you have rookie standout Jimmy Graham, who surprised many this season, filling in for an injured Shockey for three games.

Still, I can’t write off the Seahawks receivers so easily. Mike Williams came back to the NFL after a three-year absence and put up numbers that while underwhelming (65 receptions, 751 yards, two touchdowns), showed that he still has the potential to be a threat on offense.

Aside from Williams, Ben Obomanu established himself as a respectable possession receiver and deep threat. He only had 30 receptions, but he had 494 yards to go with them (plus four touchdowns). That’s an average of 16.5 yards a catch. Pretty amazing.

And then there’s John Carlson at tight end. He knows how to get open, can block well and is a good leader on offense. With determination on their side, the Seahawks receiving game should show up with a vengeance on Saturday.

Edge: Even

 

Defense

For this game, it’s a matchup of an elite defense against a bottom-dweller. During the regular season, the Saints had the fourth-best defense in the NFL, compared to the Seattle defense that finished 27th.

In a sense, it all comes down to determination. The New Orleans Saints have a young defensive squad led by defensive end Alex Brown, who, paired with Will Smith, has created a threatening defensive line. 

At linebacker, you have Pro Bowler Jonathan Vilma, who despite being relatively small for his position (6’1”, 230 pounds), is a punishing defender who refuses to let anyone or anything stand in his way.

The secondary is led by safety Roman Harper, who lands devastating hits on receivers with the power of a linebacker.

This punishing style of defense, put together by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, helped the team finish second in the NFL with 28 forced fumbles. I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty impressive statistic, considering the lack of A-list names on the defense.

The Seahawks defense, on the other hand, is fairly mediocre. 

Aside from veterans Marcus Trufant, Lawyer Milloy and Lofa Tatupu, the Seattle defense is mostly a squad of underachievers. It’s a very young group that has potential, but just looks slow and uncoordinated on the field despite a few good games. When it comes time to face the high-octane New Orleans offense, I’m anticipating that they’ll be overwhelmed.

Edge: Saints

So, now that I’ve rambled on and on about each team’s strengths and weaknesses, let’s have the score prediction, shall we?

Score prediction: Saints 34, Seahawks 14

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