Potential NFC Championship Game Preview As Seahawks Host Saints

Russell WilsonThe Seattle Seahawks have never lost a home game under second-year quarterback Russell Wilson. The New Orleans Saints haven’t lost a home game in which coach Sean Payton was on the team’s sideline since the end of the 2010 season.

So, you can see why Monday’s game between the Saints (9-2) and Seahawks (10-1) is so important, as the winner will have the inside track to home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and will be that conference’s Super Bowl favorite. Seattle is a five-point favorite at Bovada for this game with live betting available.

Since Wilson arrived, the Seahawks are 13-0 at CenturyLink Field. Their closest call points-wise was a Week 6 24-23 victory over New England last year. Just one of Seattle’s five home wins this season was ever in doubt, a 27-24 come-from-behind overtime win over Tampa Bay on Nov. 3. Wilson is playing at a Pro Bowl level, completing 64 percent of his passes for 19 scores and six interceptions. His rating of 105.1 is sixth in the NFL. Wilson also has one of the NFL’s best running games as Seattle ranks third at 147.9 yards per game. Marshawn Lynch is fourth in the NFL with 925 yards rushing entering Week 13.

In their last game, a 41-20 win over Minnesota on Nov. 17, the Seahawks saw the debut of their big offseason addition, receiver Percy Harvin. He had been out since summer hip surgery. Harvin had a 17-card catch and a 58-yard kickoff return against Minnesota, his former team, but that hip is bothering him again and Harvin may sit Monday.

Seattle has likely the best secondary in the NFL. However, two of those defensive backs, Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond III, are facing suspensions for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Thurmond, a key reserve, will be out four games, while Browner is appealing his one-year ban but won’t play Monday.

That excellent Seattle defense, which is No. 2 against the pass and tied for the league lead with 16 interceptions, will be tested in a big way by the Saints’ Drew Brees, who would be the NFL MVP favorite if not for Peyton Manning. Brees is No. 2 to Manning with 3,647 yards and 28 touchdown passes. Brees has thrown for at least 300 yards in all but three games and two scores in all but two. His over/under this week is 290.5 yards and 2.5 TD passes.

Brees’ numbers are considerably better in the New Orleans Superdome than on the road. Both Saints losses have come away from home, including the memorable Week 6 game at Foxboro. That was the only game in which New Orleans has allowed more than 26 points in 2013. The Saints defense is vastly improved under coordinator Rob Ryan, ranking No. 3 in pass defense and No. 5 in scoring (17.8).

The winner here would hold a crucial head-to-head tiebreaker for a potential playoff matchup. The Seahawks are all but assured no worse than a No. 2 seed as they are in command of the NFC West. New Orleans still has to hold off a charging Panthers team in the NFC South. The Seahawks are the new Bovada Super Bowl favorites at 3-1, with New Orleans No. 3 at 13-2.

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