The Seattle Seahawks (7-9) and New Orleans Saints (11-5) meet in the Saturday afternoon game (4:30 p.m EST, NBC) to kick off the playoffs this year. Coach Pete Carroll and his under .500 Seahawks are heavy underdogs, and the Saints are looking to repeat last year's Super Bowl victory if they can squeak through the NFC playoffs to get there again. New Orleans couldn't have a better break-in game than this one.
The Saints already came away with the win (34-19) in week 11 against the Seahawks, which was one of three games in which the Saints scored 34 points this season. The other two teams they notched the same amount of points against were the Cincinatti Bengals and Carolina Panthers. The Seahawks will look to be the Cinderella story of the playoffs with home field advantage and rough winter weather expected for this game. It's the only edge Seattle seems to have since New Orleans is a dome team.
Drew Brees comes into this game with a whopping 22 interceptions and 25 sacks to go with his 4,620 yards and 33 TDs. If the Seahawks have a shot at breaking this game open it will be by way of a miraculous defensive and special teams performance. They will have to pressure Brees and force him to make mistakes. Matt Hasselbeck has 3001 yards on 266 completions with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Neither quarterback looks ready right now to take their team all the way to the Lombardi Trophy, but Brees wins the QB edge in this game hands down.
Seattle's running game is lacking compared to the veteran backfield of the Saints, making Hasselbeck's impact crucial. Leading Seahawk rushers Marshawn Lynch (573 yards, 6 TDs) and Justin Forsett (523 yards, 2 TDs) are clearly overshadowed by the powerhouse backs on the opposing team. The running lineup for the Saints is a versatile and well known group of seasoned professionals including Chris Ivory (716 yards, 5 TDs), Pierre Thomas (269 yards, 2 TDs), Julius Jones (193 yards), Ladell Betts (150 Yards, 2 TDs), and a late-starting Reggie Bush (150 yards, 208 yards receiving, 1 TD).
The Saints also have the edge in receiving with their top two pass catchers beating Seattle's top receiver in both receptions and yards. Mike Williams has 751 yards on 65 receptions for Seattle with 2 touchdowns to show for it. Marques Colston (84 receptions, 1,023 yards, 7 TDs) and Lance Moore (66 receptions, 763 yards, 8 TDs) lead the Saints in receiving.
When it comes to clock and overall game control, look no further than the Saints taking it to the Falcons by a field goal in week 16. The Falcons have the best record in the NFC going into the playoffs, and the Saints have so far shown they can keep it close even when that squad has been at its best. Brees and his receivers get every first down when it counts in these situations, and a potential third showdown of the year against the Falcons and Saints could go either way since these teams split the season series.
As for the Seahawks they will need luck and a miracle all hands on deck performance from every player on the team to pull this one off. The Saints should win handily by at least two scores. Seattle will be back next year and should be in a much better position to win in the playoffs if they can make it there again.