With a 7.5-point spread advantage at Bovada, the Seattle Seahawks eagerly await their playoff debut for the 2013-14 campaign. With Super Bowl XLVIII within sight after one of the most impressive years in franchise history, Pete Carroll and company know that three more victories will grant them a level of success unattainable for nearly 40 years.
In order to do so, however, the Seahawks will have to put their best foot forward against a New Orleans Saints team that nobody really knows quite what to make of. Can Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham team up to give Seattle their toughest defensive test of the season?
If any tandem is capable of beating the Seahawks’ vaunted defense, it may very well be the aerial combo that’s reinvigorated the New Orleans franchise.
After toiling in obscurity over the course of the past few years while dust from the infamous Bountygate scandal settled, this year’s Saints have been unencumbered by league sanctions and their results on the field reflect it.
Coming off of a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild card round, the Saints have enough momentum to sneak up on their Divisional Round opponent after Seattle’s relatively quiet December.
Despite the potential cobwebs the Seabirds may have accrued over the off week (and the final three weeks of the regular season against beatable opponents), they did make short work of New Orleans the last time the two squads faced off.
In Week 13, the Seahawks hosted Brees and company, and walked away with an emphatic 34-7 victory (covering the 6.5-point spread). Is there anything that the Saints have done since that might suggest a different outcome?
Sure, Seattle may have started to look vulnerable in losses against the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals, but the Saints, too, came up limping at times in the final stretch of the season.
The Saints’ biggest asset will be tried against the Seahawks’. New Orleans finished second in the NFL in total aerial offense, 307.4 passing yards per game. Seattle, in contrast, allowed just 172.0 passing yards per game suggesting that something’s gotta give.
In addition to that particular matchup, the Saints boast an effective secondary of their own. The only concern for Sean Payton and the rest of the New Orleans coaching staff, however, is that the Seahawks lean heavily toward the rushing side of the spectrum. Don’t expect New Orleans’ 25th-ranked run defense to hold up against Marshawn Lynch if that’s truly the option Carroll and the club opt to take.
Worth noting is that back in Week 13, the Seahawks chose to air out their game against the Saints, despite the obvious rushing advantage on paper. If Seattle can get another 300-plus-yard passing game from quarterback Russell Wilson, with three touchdowns and no interceptions, it’s going to be a long day for Saints fans.
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