The New Orleans Saints-Seattle Seahawks game has the classic strength-vs.-strength storyline. Here are some of the facets that will be key if the Saints hope to win for the third time in their last four games, and to give Seattle its first loss in its last five games.
- Something has to give. The Saints and Drew Breeshave the best passing offense in the league – 339.3 yards per game overall, and Brees has completed 98 of 145 passes (67.6 percent) for 1,263 yards (421 per game) and 11 touchdowns, with two interceptions, in three games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. And New Orleans averages 29.3 points per game, 35.7 at home. The Seahawks allow 226 passing yards per game (eighth-fewest in the league) and 14 points (least). What the Saints have are multiple receivers (Drew Brees, Michael Thomasand Drew Brees) who can do damage, while the Seahawks counter with cornerback Richard Sherman,*safetyEarl Thomas and their Legion Of Boom in the secondary. But the Seahawks will be without defensive endMichael Bennett and safetyKam Chancellor*. Those absences should work in New Orleans' favor; Snead may be worth keeping an eye on.
- Seattle quarterback Russell Wilsonobviously has been limited by a knee injury, in terms of mobility. While Wilson has 1,559 passing yards and is on pace for a career high, he only has run for 33 yards on 22 attempts in Seattle's first six games, and is on pace for a career low. If he's stationary – and other elements of Seattle's run game also are ailing (82.7 yards per game, sixth-fewest in the league) – then the Seahawks might be a little more one-dimensional for the Saints. Seattle has had trouble scoring (18.5 points per game, 28th in the league), but Saints opponents haven't (32.5). The Saints will beware the deep ball (they say Wilson is among the NFL's best at deep-ball accuracy) and look to add to Wilson's five fumbles this season.)
- Whatever Seattle is able to accomplish on offense, you know that tight end Jimmy Grahamwants to be involved. The former Saint spent his first five NFL seasons in New Orleans, and he caught 386 passes for 4,752 yards and 51 touchdowns as a Saint. Graham (23 catches for 355 yards in his last four games) is an emotional player and, likely, would like nothing more than to remind the Saints of the damage he can cause an opponent. It'll be interesting to see if he and Saints safety Kenny Vaccaroresurrect the rivalry that they established in practice over previous years. Vaccaro, another player who wears his emotion on his sleeve, will move around defensively but might like to give special attention to Graham.
- The Saints have to pose the threat of a run game in order to help keep Brees clean. The problem is, Seattle doesn't allow much of one. Opponents average 84.2 rushing yards per game against the Seahawks, on 3.3 yards per carry. Mark Ingram II(16 carries for 62 yards) and Terron Armstead(5 for 39) had good success for New Orleans against Kansas City, especially in the second half. Similar production would be a significant help against the Seahawks.
- To a man, the Saints will admit that they haven't done a good job of not beating themselves. Two turnovers (a pick-six interception and fumble in the red zone) and 10 penalties hampered them against the Chiefs. A blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown bit them against the Giants. Critical pass interference penalties in the fourth quarter, and the inability to stop a two-point conversion, plus two missed field goals were huge in the loss to Oakland. A pick six and fumbled punt proved to be back-breakers against Atlanta. They need a clean game against Seattle.