NFL Nation: Saints-Seahawks Quick Take 2011

Quick Take: Saints at Seahawks

January, 2, 2011
1/02/11
11:45
PM ET
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.

Quick Take: Saints at Seahawks

January, 2, 2011
1/02/11
11:34
PM ET
Three things to know about next Saturday's New Orleans Saints-Seattle Seahawks wild-card game:

1. Is Seattle’s home-field advantage really a disadvantage for the Saints? Qwest Field can be very loud and the weather could be a factor. But this Saints team doesn't seem to know the difference between home and the road.

In the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Saints have lost only four games on the road. One of those losses was at Carolina at the end of the 2009 season when the Saints were resting their starters. The Saints played perhaps their worst game of the last two years at Arizona earlier this season. But the only other road losses came this year against quality teams, Atlanta and Baltimore.

The logistics of a short week and traveling to the Pacific Northwest are a challenge. But the Saints are experienced at handling inconvenient situations. They traveled to London in 2008 (and won) and have practiced on the road several times in recent years when hurricanes were approaching New Orleans. Playing a team that was only 7-9 in the regular season isn't the biggest challenge the Saints have faced.

2. Don’t look for a repeat of the regular-season matchup in which the New Orleans defense allowed 424 yards of offense to Seattle. The Saints won that game 34-19, but the Seahawks moved the ball with ease. Matt Hasselbeck passed for 366 yards in that game.

But the Saints have been better on defense recently. They always are aggressive on defense, but they may be even more aggressive than usual against Seattle. Hasselbeck has been banged up and Charlie Whitehurst doesn’t have a lot of experience. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is likely to throw a lot of blitzes at whoever is playing quarterback for the Seahawks.

3. The running game will be a key. Chris Ivory ran for 99 yards in the regular season meeting. Seattle’s run defense has been among the weakest in the league. The Saints need to exploit that weakness to keep the Seahawks from devoting too much attention to the passing game.

But Ivory and Pierre Thomas both have been banged up and Julius Jones hasn’t done much when given playing time. The Saints have brought Reggie Bush back slowly from his broken leg. But it might be time to give Bush a little added work.

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