Seattle Seahawks fans have had this Monday night circled on the calendar for weeks.
The New Orleans Saints pay a visit to Seattle in a meeting of the best two teams in the NFC, if not the entire NFL. It will be the first game between the two teams since the memorable 2010 NFC Divisional Playoff game.
The winner of this game will have upper hand for home field advantage throughout the playoffs in the NFC. Anything could still happen with four games left, but the Seahawks could have a huge two game advantage over the rest of the conference with a win. If the Saints win, they will tie Seattle for the best record in the conference and earn the tiebreaker.
Based on the way both teams play at home, the implications are huge. The Seahawks haven’t lost at home with Russell Wilson as a starting quarterback, but New Orleans is also undefeated this year in the Superdome. Other teams have potential to make a run – nobody wants to play the Carolina Panthers right now – but Monday’s winner has to be considered the favorite.
The key for a Seahawks’ victory is going to be matching up against Drew Brees and the Saints’ prolific passing attack. That task just got harder, as the league announced starting cornerback Walter Thurmond will be suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Fellow cornerback Brandon Browner is also appealing a suspension, although he wasn’t going to play in this game anyway due to a groin injury.
The Seahawks have plenty of confidence in replacements Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell being up to the task. Maxwell in particular is more of a typical Seattle cornerback, as he is two inches taller and 17 pounds heavier than Thurmond. Brees has so many available targets that all of these players will likely find themselves in one-on-one coverage situations at some point. Every part of the Seahawks depth will be tested.
No Saints’ player comes close to the level of production of Jimmy Graham, who is approaching 1000 receiving yards on the season. The Seahawks have blazing speed at the safety and linebacker positions, and should be able to rally to the football fairly effectively in the open field. Shutting him down in the red zone is a different story, and has been impossible for most teams. The Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots have had success throwing several different looks at Graham, and the Seahawks have enough versatility to at least try to do so.
The Saints aren’t just about offense anymore, as the defense has been winning games too. New Orleans’ defensive line has been a force, tied for the league lead in sacks with 37.
Seattle will have to use its physical running game to win. In the Saints’ most recent loss on Nov. 3, the New York Jets wore down New Orleans with Chris Ivory, gaining nearly 200 rushing yards as a team. That can also put pressure on the front seven, opening up things down the field for Percy Harvin and Golden Tate.
This game will have its share of big plays and back-and-forth punches, and could come down to the wire. Don’t be surprised if Monday is just the first meeting between the Saints and Seahawks this year.
Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press
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