by Steve Geller, firstname.lastname@example.org,posted Nov 30 2013 12:25PM
Well, the Monday night football schedule makers got it right with this one! The two best teams in the NFC meet when the 10-1 Seahawks host the 9-2 Saints. While we all know the huge Dome-field advantage New Orleans has when at home, Seattle’s current run is even more impressive.
The Seahawks are on a 13 home game winning streak and haven’t lost in CenturyLink Field since 2011. The Saints will need their best game yet to earn victory, and this one has major postseason implications. A victory would give the Black & Gold the tiebreaker over Seattle and the inside track for the #1 seed with home-field advantage.
Here are some players I think will be the difference makers in this one:
RB Pierre Thomas
The PT Bruiser has been proving over and over again that he can be trusted as the Saints main man in the backfield, while Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles are nice compliments.
In the last 3 contests Thomas has totaled 325 total yards and has proven to be a force to be reckoned with as he thrives in gaining yards after contact. That type of physical play will be vital to the Saints’ success on offense against the Seahawks. I’d like to see PT get at least 15 touches this game.
DT Akiem Hicks
One of the reasons the defense has been better against the run this season has been Hicks’ play up front. He helped spearhead the Saints containment of San Fran RB Frank Gore in week 11 and a similar shutdown of the Seahawks Marshawn Lynch is top priority.
While Russell Wilson is surging, unlike other sophomore QBs this season, forcing Seattle to pass more often should benefit the Fleur Di Lis D.
WR Kenny Stills
Production from this rookie has been hit or miss from week to week, but the team needs a big hit in this contest. Sure, Seattle will be down two of their DBs, but Marques Colston and Lance Moore aren’t the threats they used to be and just can’t be counted on to make a big impact.
Enter Kenny Stills. He has game breaking ability and has been lauded by coaches as well as Drew Brees for his maturity & football IQ. With “The Legion of Boom” Seahawks secondary only allowing 180 yards through the air per contest, a big homerun ball to Stills could be key to silencing the Seattle crowd.
DE Cliff Avril
Yes, Drew Brees is tough, but it doesn’t mean that I want to see him peeling himself off the ground each week after taking a big hit. Well, Avril will be looking to do just that to his fellow Boilermaker.
The six year vet is putting together a heck of a season with 6.5 sacks, 4 passes defended and 3 forced fumbles. The ability to keep the 6 ft. 3, 260 pounder at bay and give Brees time to throw will be a huge challenge.
S Earl Thomas
I don’t think Thomas gets enough credit throughout the league, but Seahawks fans sure love and appreciate this guy. He is fun to watch and has really emerged as the leader on this team. He’s easily one of the best free safeties in football right now and brings the BOOM to the Legion of Boom.
Thomas is known for dishing out punishing hits that strike fear into opposing WRs. That in turn causes them to drop balls. This is the guy Kenny Vaccaro molded himself after in Texas, and Saints fans are hoping they’ve got the same kind of player.
RB Marshawn Lynch
Last, but certainly not least, is this mammoth player. When Lynch ran back that 67 yard TD against the Saints in the 2011 NFC Wild Card game, Bobby Hebert and I looked at each other with eyes wide open and jaws dropped to the floor. That was a prime example of why they call him Beast Mode. Sorry Saints fans, but it is still the greatest run I’ve ever witnessed.
Fast forward to 2013, and Lynch is still dominating the league. He has 925 yards rushing with 9 TDs and averages 4.4 yards per carry. He’s also a threat in the passing attack. He’s caught 24 passes for 303 yards and 2 scores. Containing the Beast is my biggest key to victory besides not turning the ball over. Yeah I know, easier said than done.