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.
Photo by Chris Bennett