NFC West: 2011 Quick Takes NFC

Quick Take: Seahawks at Bears

January, 9, 2011
Three things to know about Sunday's Seattle Seahawks-Chicago Bears divisional-round playoff game at Soldier Field:

1. Seattle heads to Chicago with confidence. The Seahawks claimed their most impressive victory of the regular season, 23-20, at Soldier Field in Week 6. The defense sacked Jay Cutler six times and held Chicago to zero third-down conversions in 12 chances. Seattle used extra defensive backs in its blitz packages to great effect. Defensive backs had 4.5 of the six sacks. Marshawn Lynch made his Seattle debut in this game and brought an edge to the running game. Mike Williams caught 10 passes for 123 yards in his first breakout game as a Seahawk. Rookie left tackle Russell Okung started and finished a game for the first time in his NFL career. This performance embodied coach Pete Carroll's vision for the team.

2. The Bears are a different team now. Chicago ran the ball only 14 times against Seattle, matching a season low. The Seahawks controlled the game -- Chicago scored on a punt return in the final two minutes to make it closer -- but the Bears never really tried to run. Chicago has made a more concerted effort to balance its offense as the season has progressed. The Bears averaged 29.8 carries per game over an eight-game period ending in Week 16. Matt Forte rushed for at least 91 yards in five of the Bears' final six games. Seattle lost its best run defender, Red Bryant, for the season two weeks after playing Chicago.

3. The Seahawks are 3-1 in rematches. Seattle won both its games against the Cardinals and has never been swept under Carroll. They beat the St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints in rematches after losing the first time. They won the tactical battles in both victories, including when they used play-action fakes to get tight end John Carlson open for two touchdowns against New Orleans' gambling defense in the wild-card round. The Seahawks' one defeat in a rematch this season: a 40-21 blowout at San Francisco featuring four Hasselbeck interceptions.

Quick Take: Saints at Seahawks

January, 2, 2011
Three things to know about next Saturday's New Orleans Saints-Seattle Seahawks wild-card game:

1. Seattle will need more offense. The Saints scored at least 30 points five times in the second half of the regular season. The Seahawks reached 30 points only three times all season. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's status will be key. The Seahawks made him the No. 2 quarterback Sunday night after Hasselbeck did not practice until Friday. Backup Charlie Whitehurst appeared mostly tentative in relief as the offense stalled repeatedly. Hasselbeck played one of his best games against New Orleans on Nov. 14. He completed 72.7 percent of his passes for 366 yards and a 104.9 passer rating in the Superdome. Hasselbeck has four touchdowns and 10 interceptions since that game.

2. Venue matters. The Seahawks would have virtually no chance to win a road game against New Orleans. The dynamics change at Qwest Field. The Saints remain the favorite, of course, but Drew Brees has struggled with turnovers this season. Turning over the ball on the road in the playoffs can swing a game. It's probably Seattle's best hope. The Saints went 1-1 in games played in the West this season, losing at Arizona and needing overtime to beat San Francisco.

3. Tackling must be a point of emphasis. Brees enjoyed a strong game against Seattle last time, but running back Chris Ivory set the tone for New Orleans early. His hard running seemed to catch the Seahawks' defense off-guard. The Saints will have Reggie Bush this time, presenting additional problems (Bush missed the previous matchup). No matter which running back is on the field for the Saints, Seattle must improve upon the fundamentals. The Seahawks did manage to contain Steven Jackson on Sunday night, and Michael Turner had a hard time gaining much traction on the ground at Seattle two weeks ago. But the Saints' offensive line will hold a significant advantage against Seattle's defensive front.