Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
This coming Monday night at CenturyLink Field in Seattle the 10-1 Seahawks square off against the 9-2 New Orleans Saints in what is unquestionably the biggest game to this point in the season for both teams. If the Seahawks want to go to the Super Bowl they need to ensure that the playoff road to get there goes through Seattle. Ditto the Saints. They want that road to the Super Bowl to route through the Super Dome in New Orleans. Whichever team wins this game will have the inside track to that home field advantage. Should the Saints be victorious, though their record would be identical to Seattle’s at 10-2, they would have the advantage based on the tie breaker of head to head competition. If Seattle wins they would go to 11-1, two games up on the Saints in the loss column and, barring a late season collapse, would be virtually assured of a first round bye and home field advantage through the NFC playoffs. To win the Super Bowl you first have to get to the Super Bowl, and the biggest guarantee of that for the Hawks is to have their playoff games at home before that seismic and rabid crowd at “The Clink”, where they have not lost in 13 games. Winning this game, therefore, is vital for both the Seahawks and the Saints. Based on their records they are the two best teams in the NFC, so you can see that something has got to give on Monday night. And, as you probably know, it being a Monday night game, coming to town for it are John Gruden, Mike Tirico and the whole ESPN crew who will be broadcasting to the entire nation.
The two best teams in the NFC playing for home field advantage in the playoffs in a late season ESPN Monday night game at The Clink?
Good God Hawks Fans! Can it get any better than this?
If we go to and win the Super Bowl….then yes! Otherwise I think not.
If you are a football fan you already have some idea of the team the Seahawks will be facing on Monday night. The Saints have the number 3 offense in the NFL averaging something like 415 yards per game. Fueling that offense is quarterback Drew Brees who has thrown for 3500 yards (3rd in the league) with 28 touchdowns and only 8 picks. He has already taken the Saints to one Super Bowl victory and is hungry for another. Brees has a number of weapons in his arsenal, including running back Darren Sproles (48 catches), wide receiver Marques Colston (43 catches) and tight end Jimmy Graham (65 catches). They are all great players but Graham is approaching the super star category. His 65 catches have gone for nearly 1,000 yards and a staggering 11 touchdowns thus far. He is big and powerful and has excellent hands. Preventing Graham from having a big game is key for the Hawks. Thus far this season they have held down other top tight ends such as the 49er’s Vernon Davis and the Falcon’s Tony Gonzalez. They have also virtually shut out top receivers like Anquan Bolden (49ers) and Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals). It will be fascinating to see what the Hawks come up with to stop Graham and Brees from connecting.
But the Saints are not just about offense. They have the NFL’s 5th ranked defense giving up 306 yards per game compared to Seattle’s 2nd ranked defense at 293 yards. There is little to choose there. In pass defense the Hawks are ranked number 2 and the Saints are right behind at number 3; and the two teams are also nearly even at defending the run. Also, they both are nearly identical in points scored and surrendered.
On paper the Saints have a better offense and what is behind that is Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and the rest. To deal with this expect Seattle to use their big, fast defensive backs like Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in man to man against Graham and the Saints receivers and to use primarily a four man pass rush. Brees is probably the best quarterback in the league at identifying and exploiting the blitz and I just don’t think Seattle will do that much against him. That means that Hawks defensive linemen like Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Chris Clemons will need to have big games and at least pressure Brees when they can’t sack him.
With the teams so evenly matched you may be wondering what will swing this game in Seattle’s favor. No doubt this will be a tough game for the Hawks, but Seattle’s home field advantage is HUGE and I expect that to be a big factor in this game. All you Hawks fans out there attending this game in person need to drink some of that “throat coat” tea before you leave for the “Clink”, for your role is to drown out Drew Brees as he calls the signals, and that role is a big one. That is why you are called “the 12th man” and you need to wear that hat in earnest.
The other factor that will swing this game for Seattle is Russell Wilson. If there ever was a game tailored for all of his unique skills it is this game against the Saints. Expect New Orleans to stack the box to stop Marshawn Lynch from going into “Beast Mode” as he did 3 years ago in the playoffs against the Saints. They will try and force Russell Wilson to beat them and that will be a mistake, for he will. He will use Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Zach Miller and Percy Harvin to throw the ball to as he scrambles from the Saints pass rush. I look for Wilson to have one of the great games of his career against the Saints as he continues his drive to becoming one of the elite quarterbacks in the league.
There you have it Hawks fans. The game will be dramatic and exciting but will result in a Seahawks 4 to 7 point victory.
Now its time for the Seahawks, the Saints and the “Battle in Seattle.”
Monday night here we come!
Copyright © 2013
By Mark Arnold
All Rights reserved