New Orleans Saints (12-5) at Seattle Seahawks (13-3)
(Saturday, FOX, 4:35 PM ET)
The Seattle Seahawks host the New Orleans Saints to kick off the NFL divisional playoffs round. Seattle, which won the NFC West with a 13-3 record, is the No. 1 seed in the NFC and has won 15 of its past 16 home games.
"We all believe in what we can do," says Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. "We've got to stay focused on the main goal and that's to win."
Over the last 24 games, Wilson has taken command of Seattle's offense leading the Seahawks to a 20‐4 record, and 29 of their last 40 dating back to the final half of the 2011 season. Their 6‐2 road record this season is the best in team history; their team‐record 14‐game home winning streak was snapped by the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16.
Wilson has compiled a 107.1 passer rating since Week 9 of the NFL 2012 season, becoming just one of six players in that category. He has 17 career 100‐plus passer rating games in 32 starts with the last coming against the Saint Louis Rams (12/29) with a 102.1 rating and one touchdown.
On defense, Seattle led the NFL in points allowed (14.4 points per game), total defense (273.6 yards per game), passing yards allowed (172.0), takeaways (39), interceptions (28) and turnover differential (+20).
Last week, the New Orleans Saints went on the road in the Wild Card round and earned a 26-24 win at Philadelphia.
Shayne Graham kicked four field goals, including the game-winner from 32 yards out as time expired. The Saints rushed for 185 yards, the second-most in a playoff game in team history, led by Mark Ingram (97 yards) and Khiry Robinson (45).
"We're all about the here and now and being in the moment," says quarterback Drew Brees, whose 102.1 career postseason passer rating ranks fourth all-time. "We've got a great team. I hope that we're peaking at the right time. We're going to need our best effort to beat Seattle, but if there's a team that can do it, I believe that it is us."
The Saints look to advance to the NFC conference championship for the third time in eight seasons, but for the first time as a Wild Card team.
The teams met in Week 13 of the regular season (12/2/2013), when the Seahawks defeated the Saints 34-7 in Seattle. The Seattle Seahawks held the New Orleans Saints to 188 total yards, their lowest total since the 2001 season, and the Seahawks offense gained 429 yards.
Seattle jumped to an early lead on its first drive as Steven Hauschka connected on a 26-yard field goal. The Seahawks defense scored on the Saints ensuing possession as Cliff Avril sacked Drew Brees and forced a fumble which Michael Bennett caught out of the air and ran back 22 yards for a touchdown, giving Seattle the 10-0 lead.
After the defense forced a third Saints three-and-out on as many possessions, Seattle’s offense drove 73 yards as Russell Wilson hit Zach Miller on a 60-yard pass to the two-yard line and then the two connected on a two-yard TD pass for the 17-0 lead. The Saints responded by driving 80 yards on 13 plays and scoring on a two-yard pass from Brees to Jimmy Graham, bringing the score to 17-7.
Seattle added a Hauschka field goal and the defense forced another Saints three-and-out, giving the Seahawks the ball back with 2:05 in the half. Wilson drove Seattle 88 yards on 12 plays and connected with Doug Baldwin on a four-yard TD to give Seattle the 27-7 halftime lead.
Seattle added a second half touchdown when Wilson’s pass to Kellen Davis caromed off his hands and Derrick Coleman caught it on the sideline and lunged into the end zone for the 8-yard score, giving the Seahawks the 34-7 lead which would hold. Seattle’s defense never allowed Brees and the Saints offense to get going, holding Brees to 147 yards on 38 attempts. Wilson completed 22 of 30 passes for 310 yards (2nd most in his career) and 3 TDs for a 139.6 passer rating (2nd highest in his career).
Russell Wilson completed 22 of 30 passes for 310 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 139.6 passer rating in Seattle's win over New Orleans. Seattle's defense limited New Orleans to 188 total net yards of offense. The last playoff meeting between these two teams was the 2010 Wild Card matchup in Seattle (January 8, 2011). Lynch ran for 131 yards and a touchdown as the Seahawks knocked off the Saints 41-36.
The Saints and the Seahawks have played 12 times in the regular season with Seattle leading the series 7-5. The two clubs has also met once in the postseason, a Wild Card Playoff game in the northwest on January 8, 2011 that was a 41-36 victory for Seattle.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense have been more effective the past few weeks. After a couple early turnovers against the Eagles, Brews was able to complete 20-of-30 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown.
The ground game was particularly important for the Saints' offense which accounted for 434 total net yards against the Eagles. The Saints defense held Philadelphia to 256 net yards and stiffened when it had to, holding the Eagles to only seven first half points and allowing them to convert only three-of-12 third down attempts.
If the Saints cannot establish the running game as they did last week, and if their defense can contain Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense, then the Saints have a chance. That combination ought to put the Saints in position to win the game with Brees leading the way. However, if the Saints cannot establish their running game or fall behind early by multiple scores, the Seahawks can look forward to an easy win, just like their Week 13 matchup back in December
Expect the game to be close in what should be a defensive struggle. The difference will be home-field advantage in this case.
Seattle Seahawks 24, New Orleans Saints 17
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