Final Word: Saints-Seahawks

January, 7, 2011
1/07/11
4:00
PM ET
Wild-card Final Word: NY Jets-Indy | Baltimore-K.C. | N.O.-Seattle | G.B.-Philadelphia

Three nuggets of knowledge about Saturday’s Saints-Seahawks wild-card game:

A game made for Brees. A lot is being made of the fact the Saints will be without injured running backs Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas. That’s a legitimate concern, and Reggie Bush and Julius Jones will have to pick up the slack in the running game. The Saints are going to need some balance in their offense if they advance in the playoffs. But this is one game where, despite the possibility of less-than-ideal weather, I think they’ll put everything on the shoulders of quarterback Drew Brees. By himself, Brees is good enough to beat a team like the Seahawks.

[+] EnlargeNew Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma
AP Photo/Gail BurtonLinebacker Jonathan Vilma (51) and the Saints defense have been solid all year, but could do a better job forcing turnovers.
Don't forget the defense. The story about the Saints that has sort of been underplayed this year is the defense. It’s not producing the turnovers and big plays it did in last year’s Super Bowl season. But overall, this defense has been much better and much more consistent. Rather quietly, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma has had another outstanding season, and he is the Brees of the defense. This unit might not be spectacular, but you don’t see a lot of defensive mistakes by the Saints.

Prediction time. Those who have read this blog for a long time know I generally don’t make predictions. That’s because I think they’re meaningless. My opinion on that hasn’t changed, but I’m going to break tradition because I’ve got a strong feeling on this one. I’m saying the Saints win 31-14, despite all their injuries. Yeah, the Atlanta Falcons got the bye. But the Saints got the next-best thing. They drew a 7-9 team.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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