The Saints have been eliminated from the playoffs following a 23-15 loss at the hands of the top seeded Seahawks in the NFC Divisional round.
New Orleans’ defense played well for the most part but the offense was stifled. QB Drew Brees was limited to 24 completions on 43 attempts for 309 yards passing and 1 touchdown. Tight end Jimmy Graham was a non-factor with 1 catch for 8 yards on 6 targets while running back Mark Ingram had a costly fumble to start the 2nd quarter that resulted in a Seahawks TD. Kicker Shayne Graham had a rough day as well going 0-2 in field goal attempts.
A bright spot was the play of undrafted rookie free agent RB Khiry Robinson. K-Rob rushed for 57 yards and a score on 13 attempts.
You can’t blame the Gatorade or the Popeyes chicken or any other gimmick coach Sean Payton came up with. Seattle just proved to be the better team again after dominating the Saints back in week 13 of the regular season 34-7.
All the talk of how the Saints could not win on the road in the playoffs has now been put to bed, as the Black & Gold dispatched the Eagles in Philadelphia 26-24 in the Wild Card round. Now they get to head up to Seattle to face the top seeded Seahawks, who dismantled the Saints 34- 7 back in week 13.
While victory may be a tall task for the Saints, it’s not impossible! Over the past few years the #6 seed is 5-2 against the #1 seed in the postseason. Could that trend continue Saturday?
I just don’t see it happening. Seattle’s stout defense at home is just too much to overcome in my mind. I predict Seahawks 27, Saints 20.
Here are some key players I’ll be keeping an eye on in this one:
QB Drew Brees: For all the amazing things Brees does, there just is no denying he is a drastically different QB on the road. To be honest, the Saints defense has bailed out the offense on numerous occasions this season; otherwise the Black & Gold would have 2 or 3 more losses this year. With rainy and windy conditions expected Saturday, ball security will be even more difficult. Brees has thrown 14 interceptions this year… 11 of which have come outside of the Superdome.
RB Mark Ingram: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch O-line dominated the Eagles last week. With Pierre Thomas on the shelf with a chest injury, Ingram has been able to get into a rhythm thanks to double digit carries against Philly & Tampa. I want to see if he will have continued success against the Seattle defens,e which is the top ranked unit in the NFL, but does give up on average 102 yards rushing per game.
TE Jimmy Graham: Drew Brees’ most lethal offensive weapon was held in check the last time these two teams played. Graham had just 3 catches on 9 targets for 42 yards, but did manage to score the Saints only TD. Seattle’s KJ Wright was a big reason Graham was contained, but the linebacker has a broken foot and will miss this matchup. The big question now is; how will the Seahawks defend him now?
QB Russell Wilson: Wilson picked apart the Saints in week 13, racking up 310 yards passing with 3 TDs to go along with 47 yards rushing. To make matters worse for fleur-di-lis D, Wilson and the Seattle offense get a dangerous weapon back for this contest in WR Percy Harvin. If the Saints defense is unable to manufacture a pass rush, we could very well see a repeat performance from Wilson.
RB Marshawn Lynch: Beast Mode was held to just 45 yards and no TDs in the regular season meeting, gaining just 2.9 yards per carry. The Saints were so focused on Lynch though, that they allowed the previously mentioned Wilson to go off. Expect the Seahawks to rely on their workhors,e though in this one due to less-than-perfect weather conditions. 20+ carries is not out of the question.
DE Cliff Avril: DANGER! This guy is fast, powerful and has a knack for stripping the ball away from the opposition. Avril victimized Drew Brees last game with a sack in the 1st quarter and caused a fumble which Michael Bennett scooped and scored for Seattle. Avril totaled 8 sacks this season with 5 forced fumbles and will coming hard once again for #9 who will find it hard to find open WRs against the Legion of Boom secondary.
The Who Dat Dream of hoisting another Lombardi Trophy is still alive since the 11-5 Saints earned a spot in the postseason as the #6 seed, and travel to Philadelphia this week to face a 10-6 Eagles team that won the NFC East and are the #3 seed.
It will be chilly in Philly on Saturday, and the Saints look to exorcise their postseason road demons by earning their first playoff win outside the Superdome in franchise history. You have to like the Black & Gold’s chances in this one, as the Eagles defense is ranked dead last in the NFL against the pass, and we all know that is the Saints' strongest attribute.
PREDICTION: Saints 27 Eagles 23
Now here are some players I’ll be keeping an eye on in this Wild Card match-up
TE Jimmy Graham
I am expecting a huge day from the “Hulk in Cleats,” because the Eagles hvae nobody, and I mean nobody that can match up with him. Look for Graham to chew up and spit out would-be Philly defenders and rack up over 100 yards on the day while catching 2 scores. JIMMY EAT EAGLE!
DE Cam Jordan
The Saints finally hit a homerun with a first round draft pick when they drafted this guy back in 2011. In year 3 in the NFL, Jordan earned 12.5 sacks, a Pro Bowl nod, and will look to feast on second year QB Nick Foles. While the Eagles signal caller does not throw interceptions, it is only because he holds onto the ball, and will take the sack rather than chuck up a pass. It will be vital to the Saints for Jordan to rattle the youngster.
S Roman Harper
I hate to do this, because I really like Harper, but he is God-awful in pass converge and everyone knows it. Philly has an array of weapons at their disposal at receiver, and could make it a long day for Harper if Foles is given time to throw. Having rookie Kenny Vaccaro out for the remainder of the season really hurts the Saints D.
RB Lesean McCoy
Goal numero uno for the Fleur Di Lis D is to slow down the NFL’s leading rusher. McCoy got the nickname "Shady" from his mother as a baby, due to his constantly changing mood. Now, it stands for his elusiveness on the field. He is also a threat in the Eagles passing attack and totaled 11 TDs with a league best 2,146 yards from scrimmage.
CB Brandon Boykin
Drew Brees has been known to throw a pick or 2 on the road, and Boykin will be lurking, ready, and waiting to snatch one on #9’s passes. On the year Boykin has 6 interceptions and the 23-year-old has played in only half of the team’s defensive snaps as the nickel corner. I expect he will be on the field a lot against the Saints.
LB Trent Cole
The 9-year vet leads the Eagles in sacks, and will try and exploit Saints' rookie left tackle Terron Armstead. Along with his 8 sacks on the year, Cole has 15 quarterback pressures and 10 tackles for loss. Armstead rebounded nicely against the Bucs last week after a shaky start against the Cats, but Cole is an upgrade to what Tampa Bay threw at him.