If the playoffs began today, the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints would each earn a first-round bye in the NFC and own the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively. With just three combined losses, their Monday Night Football matchup is easily the game of the week.
Meet the Seahawks
After turning the ball over 12 times in the first seven games of the season and three times in Week 9, the Seahawks have been turnover-free in three of their last four games and have come around offensively. The Saints now have the impossible task of winning in Seattle, something that no team has been able to do since Russell Wilson took over at quarterback.
In 13 career starts at CenturyLink Field, Wilson is a perfect 13-0 and has completed more than 70 percent of his passes in the last three home starts.
Meet the Saints
New Orleans, as always, is led by the contributions of quarterback Drew Brees, who is having yet another great season. With 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions, the Saints are certainly a pass-first team, but have received solid contributions from running backs Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram.
On defense, the Saints are worlds better than the 2012 defensive unit that finished last in the NFL in yardage allowed. Top five in both points and yards allowed, New Orleans has been particularly good at stopping the pass, as only two teams have allowed less passing yardage.
Local Takes: Seahawks
Saving the best for last, we come to Jimmy Graham - the Saints' most dangerous weapon. I think many Seahawks fans would point to the Kamtrak as a likely man cover, and the numbers would bear that out. Seattle currently ranks 3rd in DVOA against tight ends. Despite this ranking, Seattle has allowed some tight ends to have proficient games. Generally, these proficient tight end games come when the opponent has a quarterback that can effectively use their tight end - like Brees. In all, I think there's a very high likelihood that Graham will have over 100 yards and a couple of TD's. That guy is a beast.
Local Takes: Saints
Ryan Edwards from Canal Street Chronicles says the Saints need to take advantage of a suddenly poor Seattle rush defense:
While the Seahawks may be 16th against the run this season, it is good to know that Seattle has allowed 601 rushing yards (which is 48.3% of rushing yards allowed FOR THE SEASON) in the past 4 games, which includes a combined 405 rushing yards allowed to the Rams and the Bucs. This is a defense that has recently allowed Mike James to gain 158 yards on the ground, while rookie Zac Stacy rushed for 134 yards of his own. This is hardly a sign of a dominant rush defense. Considering the fact that the Saints have outrushed their opponents in the past 3 weeks, it's pretty safe to assume that the Saints will accept the challenge from a run defense that seems to be struggling for the past month.
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To be fair, the Seahawks do have a player named J.R. Sweezy, arguably the coolest name in the league.— Canal St. Chronicles (@SaintsCSC) November 27, 2013
Pete Carrolls "next man up" is on full display today. Suspensions? Screw it. NEXT???— Dave Softy Mahler (@Softykjr) November 27, 2013
Can Jordan on his fine: "I get it. Quarterbacks have halos around them. ... It's not the 90s when everything was legal."— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) November 29, 2013
Five of the six also expect Seattle to come out on top when the 10-1 Seahawks host the 9-2 Saints on Monday night. The winner of that game will have the inside track to home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Seattle is playing at home, but will be without two of its top three cornerbacks, with Walter Thurmond suspended and Brandon Browner injured and facing a suspension.
The line opened with the Seahawks as 5-point home favorites and mostly held steady through the week, as the Seahawks are 6-point favorites in most sportsbooks, according to Odds Shark.
The Seahawks will begin a two-game road trip when they travel to face the San Francisco 49ers in an extremely important NFC West battle, while the Saints will travel back home to play the Carolina Panthers in a critical NFC South game.