LOCATION: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (New Orleans, LA)
BETTING LINE: SEA -3
SEAHAWKS PLAYER TO WATCH
Coming off surgery to his patellar tendon, Jimmy Graham returned to action for the Seahawks ahead of schedule and has made a difference in the passing game recently. Averaging nearly 15.1 yards per reception this year, his return to the SuperDome, although familiar, should be in the Seahawks’ favor. The Saints’ secondary will have to place a safety on Jimmy Graham and hope that they don’t get beat over the top, giving Russell Wilson plenty of things to be excited about. Look for Jimmy Graham to continue to grow in his role for the Seahawks and find comfort within their gameplan. With the Saints having one of the worst secondaries in the league, plus him returning home, this would be a great week for Jimmy Graham to prove he was worth that 2014 trade.
SAINTS PLAYER TO WATCH
Michael Thomas has proven in his rookie season that he is a lot better than critics initially thought and is a viable option for Drew Brees at the receiver position. In recent weeks he has made some big plays for the Saints’ offense and has established himself nicely in New Orleans’ receiving corps. Facing a tough Seattle secondary, Brees will have to use all the options in his arsenal on Sunday. Look for Brees to look for his third of fourth option regularly as Brandin Cooks will be blanketed by Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. This should prove to work in Michael Thomas’ favor as his pristine route running will allow him to be open out of breaks. The Saints do not have an easy task of producing offense in the SuperDome this week against a stout defense, but Thomas will prove to be a key part of New Orleans game plan.
SEAHAWKS POSITION GROUP PREVIEW
Last week Seattle had a hard time generating a rushing attack and their offense struggled because of it. Although the Saints’ defense is not even in the same conversation as the Cardinals, the Seahawks rank 27th in rushing yards, which is uncharacteristic for their offense. Seattle must establish a balanced offensive game plan to keep Drew Brees and his offense off of the field at home.
Seattle’s defensive line, featuring Cliff Avril at defensive end, has caused problems for quarterbacks all over the league. Drew Brees is an elite quarterback, playing at home, and is known for keeping New Orleans in the game, regardless of the scoreboard. Seattle must take advantage of a weak Saints’ offensive line and disrupt Brees’ passing lanes.
Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas have backed up their reputation time and time again. Seattle features one of the best secondaries in the league and will have the tough task of slowing down Brees’ speedy receivers. They are more than capable of manning the task but cannot fall asleep on the deep ball; thus allowing the Saints to stay in the game off of big plays.
GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS
After a brutal 6-6 tie on Monday Night of last week, Seattle travels to New Orleans to take on the struggling Saints. Although the Seahawks sit at 4-1-1, they have yet to produce the numbers of last year. As for the Saints, they sit at 2-4, but have lost three close games this season and have yet to put together a full four quarters, especially on defense.
Seattle takes the field after a short week with a favorable matchup on offense. Clearly the Saints’ defense has struggled to keep opponents out of the endzone and with the emergence of Jimmy Graham as a viable target in the receiving corps, there is no reason that Russell Wilson should not exploit a weak New Orleans’ secondary.
On defense, the Seahawks have to advantage in the secondary to quiet down Drew Brees but even that is no easy task. Seattle comes into the game as the number one ranked defense (in PPG) and must live up to their reputation. Head coach Pete Carroll hopes to see his defense repeat an outstanding showing against another Top 10 offense.
On the opposite sideline, Sean Payton and Drew Brees are still begging the football gods for even a competent defense. The Saints’ offense still remains one of the best in the league, largely in part to Drew Brees’ arm, but it has yet to generate into wins. The Saints are still young but their season is slowly slipping out of reach for a third straight year.
On defense, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is still awaiting to see what a healthy Saints’ defense could look like, as key players such as Sheldon Rankins and Delvin Breaux are still sidelined by injury; he may not have the opportunity to do so however, as the Saints’ defense still remains one of the worst in the league. Allen must find a way to stop opponents’ offenses, starting with Seattle, if he hopes to find himself as New Orleans defensive coordinator next year.
SAINTS POSITION GROUP PREVIEW
The Saints’ offensive line was shredded by Kansas City a week ago and will come across a comparable matchup this week against the Seahawks. Drew Brees has proven time and time again that he can hang with the best of defenses but must have the protection to do so. Brees, like any quarterback, excels when he has the opportunity to get into a groove, and with time in the pocket, Brees will be able to keep New Orleans in the game at home.
The Saints’ defensive line has hurt the team more than helped, especially last week against the Chiefs. They have failed to provide a steady pass rush this year and will be counted on to do so against one of the best quarterbacks in the league this Sunday. Cameron Jordan must take it upon himself to get the job done in the trenches against the Seahawks and help their struggling secondary out with some sacks.
New Orleans has struggled to finish drives in recent weeks and matching up against the Seahawks’ defense doesn’t exactly instill confidence either. The Saints’ special teams must generate points, whether it be field goals or a big return, to alleviate some of the burden off of Drew Brees’ shoulders. Although Sean Payton will have to roll the dice on big plays on offense, his rookie kicker Wil Lutz must be on his A game.