There’s always a team no one expects to succeed in the NFL playoffs, and everyone always tries to figure out which one it’s going to be so they can brag about it later. It’s a noble endeavor. Two seasons ago, it was the Arizona Cardinals blasting through teams in the playoffs and finding their way into the Super Bowl, where they were about a minute away from beating the Pittsburgh Steelers. This postseason, I’m going to reach in my pants, find my balls (sorry about that visual) and use them to make a suggestion that very few people will write.
The Saints have a good chance of losing to the Seahawks.
Yeah, I said it. And because I don’t feel like writing a cohesive essay about it, I’m going to write why I think so in small, digestible sections.
New Orleans Injuries
The Saints are smashed up. There, it’s out there now. Look at this list of people who are iffy for the game:
At least nine players will be questionable for the Saints (11-5) heading into the short week leading up to Saturday’s wild-card game at Seattle (7-9), including three players that were knocked out of Sunday’s loss to the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers: safety Malcolm Jenkins (right knee), tailback Chris Ivory (left foot) and tight end Jimmy Graham (left ankle).
Six other players were held out of Sunday’s game with injuries: receiver Marques Colston (right knee), tailback Pierre Thomas (left ankle), tight end Jeremy Shockey (groin), tight end David Thomas (right knee), defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove (knee) and linebacker Anthony Waters (ankle).
If you keep reading the article, you see that Colston says he’ll play, but how effective can he be if his knee’s still hurting? Oh yeah, and Ivory was put on the IR. In case you can’t count, those are the best three tight ends in New Orleans, and none of them are fully healthy. That not only diminishes their blocking ability, but also gives fewer frequent passing options for Drew Brees, who is notorious for spreading the ball around. There are eight Saints players with 30 receptions or more; I’d count Pierre Thomas as the ninth, but he’s short by one with 29, and questionable for this game too.
Seattle in January is a place no one wants to be. I don’t even want to be in Seattle when it’s the summer. It’s cold and shitty; now imagine playing football there. The Saints, normally conditioned to warmer weather down in Louisiana (duh), could be a little uncomfortable in the Northwest at this time of year. On December 19, they lost at Baltimore 30-24, and two weeks earlier, at Cincinnati (December 9), they only won by four in a wild 34-30 game. They’re not their best in lower temperatures.
When you have Drew Brees, you utilize him. Unfortunately, you have to make sure that you can also run if you want him to be the most effective. If the other team knows you’re going to keep passing the whole time during your drive, you’ll be punting or turning the ball over a lot (you won’t get this analysis anywhere else, guys). This is exactly what happened this season; while Drew Brees threw for 4,620 yards and 33 touchdowns, he also had a career-high 22 interceptions. It’s all because their anemic running game, ranked 28th in the NFL, and partially because none of their backs can stay healthy as noted above. How desperate are the Saints? They signed DeShawn fucking Wynn!
Seattle Isn’t TOTALLY Terrible
While the Saints are 28th in rushing, the Seahawks manage to do worse by ranking a measly 31st in running the ball. If Matt Hasselbeck starts, he COULD have one of those scarce “I’m Matt Hasselbeck And I’m AWESOME” games that he has once a season (still hasn’t had one in 2010, so cross your fingers!). If Jesus Whitehurst starts, well, prepare to have your game very well managed and hope for Leon Washington to break some great returns.
I’m not joking about Washington; New Orleans has allowed 1592 yards on kickoffs (27th in the league) and 310 yards on punts (18th). Seattle has three kickoff returns for touchdowns and 1558 yards, almost all due to Washington, which is good for eighth best in the league. They’ve also got the fourth best punt return yards in the league with 468, averaging a solid 11.1 yards per return. While it seems like I’m overanalyzing these special teams stats, the Seahawks could very well get the momentum they need in a game with a Washington return for great field position or even a score.
I know that New Orleans could very well go out on Saturday and destroy the Seahawks, but I’m just saying that everyone is writing Seattle off primarily because of their sub-.500 record of 7-9. The line is Saints -12 right now, and I feel that is way too high for the average playoff game. A couple days ago, Bill Belichick said every team starts out 0-0 in the playoffs, and I tend to agree with him. The NFL playoffs are crazier than your mom after three Bud Light Limes. What, you don’t think I’ll ruin all this great informative analysis with juvenile humor? YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT I WILL.