The Seahawks are in about as good as position to upset the Saints, short of Drew Brees coming down with avian flu or something and missing the game. But honestly, I’d rather Brees play. I know it sounds crazy, but I want the Seahawks to defeat an elite quarterback in a playoff game. That’ll feel damned good.
Now, on to the good stuff. I’ve been seeing a LOT of articles written recently about this upcoming matchup. And I’ve decided to make a list of factors that are in the Seahawks favor. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of them. So without further adieu:
Penalties. Saints average 7.0 penalties a game on the road, tied for 7th worst in the league. Combine that with the fact that three of the New Orleans Saints TEs are injured and may not play, replacements without much starting experience could be extra jumpy while engulfed in the deafening roar of the army of 12s. To you 12s that’ll be at Qwest on Saturday: you need to be as loud as possible. Seriously. Don’t disappoint me, now.
Interceptions. Drew Brees has thrown an interception in 12 consecutive games. Combine that with the Qwest roar and the likely hood of cold, rainy weather, and it’s highly likely the Seahawks defense could make it 13. The Seahawks are almost undefeated when they win the turnover battle. The Saints defense is also dead last in the league in total interceptions having only recorded nine on the season. That’s great news for Matt, who’s had a rough year taking care of the ball. Malcom Jenkins is also unlikely to play, so that’s one less play maker in the defensive secondary who could make plays on the ball.
Weather. Drew Brees hasn’t played well in inclement weather, and it’s likely going to be a nasty Saturday game. Current forecast looks to deliver mid to high 30s, with rain and a slim chance of snow. Without their two starting running backs, the Saints are unlikely to do much damage against the Seahawks defense, Brees will have to throw it a lot. John Morgan wrote a very detailed blog post yesterday about weather and how both quarterbacks have fared in inclement weather – definitely check it out.
Pass Protection. The Saints shut the Seahawks defense out of the sacks and hits category when they last played in week 11. But things could be quite different this time around. With both Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas on IR, the Saints will depends on Reggie Bush and Julius Jones, neither of which excel at pass protection. Also, all three of the Saints’ starting tight ends are injured, and one or more are unlikely to play at all. Players that stand in, and the hobbled tight ends that do play, could further weaken the Saints’ ability to pass protect.
Health in the secondary. Trufant missed the previous game against the Saints, and Drew Brees took advantage. Heavily. Yes, Trufant has had a rough year. He’s been downright bad in games (he gave up three touchdowns against the Buccaneers), but he’s also looked good in many games. At home, in a game like this, I expect Trufant to be on his game. Needless to say, Trufant/Jennings/Thurmond is a much better trio than Thurmond/Jennings/Lewis. Having a veteran cornerback like Trufant healthy is very important when playing elite quarterbacks like Drew Brees.
Special teams. We’ve heard this song and dance all year. More recently, the Seahawks “offensive” special teams units have cooled off. However, they’re still a threat. No doubt. The Saints rank 29th in DVOA defending kickoff returns and 21st in DVOA defending punt returns. Combine this with slick weather and the Saints special teams may have problems bringing Neon Leon down. Now the downside is the field turf within Qwest. Even when not wet, we’ve seen quite a few slips. Hell, blame the field turf for Deon Branch’s devastating knee injury. If Leon can avoid slippage, he could have a huge day.
Matt Hasselbeck. You think I’m crazy, don’t you? Gregg Williams, Saints defensive coordinator, likes to blitz. And blitz a lot. Well, ESPN Stats & Information posted some very interesting stats: when pressured by 6 or more pass rushers this season, Matt completes 66.7% of his passes at 10.4 yards per attempt, has two touchdowns, zero interceptions with a passer rating of 123.1. Oddly, Hasselbeck had his best game of the season against the Saints. If they continue to blitz, Hasselbeck could have another great day, especially with Malcon Jenkins officially out.
Mike Williams & Matt Hasselbeck. To quote a blog post from earlier this week:
In the three games in which Charlie Whitehurst played significant time under center (vs. Giants, Buccaneers, and Rams), Mike Williams recorded a total of 7 receptions for 56 yards. Compare that to 58 receptions for 695 yards in ten games with Matt under center. And when the Seahawks played the Saints during the regular season, Williams caught 6 catches for 109 yards playing on the foot he injured in the first quarter. I can only imagine what he would have done sans injury.
Saints Injuries. I’ve mentioned some in a few of the elements above, but this can’t be understated: the Saints are hurting, and hurting bad. The run game will suffer without the two best backs on the roster. The blocking game will suffer with so many injuries at the tight end position. The defense will suffer without Malcolm Jenkins, Anthony Hargrove and Danny Clark.
That’s a mighty long list of positive factors that could affect the outcome of tomorrow’s game. If the Seahawks play tough, disciplined football for four solid quarters, I have a feeling the Seahawks’ season will endure another week. GO SEAHAWKS!