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Sunday, January 2, 2011
Quick Take: Saints at Seahawks

By Mike Sando

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.