The Seahawks have no business winning this game. Let me walk you through a few reasons why they might shock the league, and regain some of the credibility that was lost in the Giants game.
New Orleans, like any team, would like to establish the running game. However, unlike most teams, the Saints are not committed to getting yardage on the ground. They love short, quick passes. On the surface that could be a big problem for a Seahawks team that has shown little ability to defend those types of plays. The hidden gem, though, is the ability for Seattle to make heavy use of its bandit package on defense.
The bandit package included seven defensive backs, including all three safeties. Seattle uses it largely in obvious passing situations. It can be susceptible to runs up the gut, but puts the best playmakers the Seahawks have to offer on the field at the same time. Most of the teams great sacks and turnovers have come with this group on the field. Teams like the Giants that can use a power running game to jam it down your throat make it hard to get this unit on the field, especially while Colin Cole is out. The Saints have some great interior lineman, but not necessarily great interior runners. If the Seahawks can get away with putting this group out there for extended periods of time, it significantly increases the chances of a Seattle win.
As good of a coordinator as Gregg Williams is, Hasselbeck is 2-for-2 against him in the playoffs. He almost single-handedly beat Williams in 2005 when Shaun Alexander left early with a concussion. Williams may also think he knows Matt, but the offense looks nothing like the one Williams defended years ago. Many of his defensive principles will be the same regardless, but advantage Hasselbeck in terms of being able to anticipate what the opposition will do.
None of the Saints corner backs are taller than 5’11”. Mike Williams should be able to post-up his man all day long. Rolling a safety over the top is great, but that can only help so much. A safety helping gives the CB some help on a deep ball, and allows him to cover more aggressively underneath. It doesn’t help a CB grow six inches or climb around Williams’ big body. These corners should be an easier assignment for Williams than the Cardinals. Proving he will catch the ball in traffic again this week will be huge.
As good as the Saints defense has been overall, it really is vulnerable to the run. They are 17th in rushing yards against and yards-per-carry. With Russell Okung back this week, this might be the time where Seattle gets the last monkey off its back. We have not seen a dominant rushing performance. Marshawn Lynch is due for a breakout game, and Forsett looks as good as ever. With New Orleans geared up to stop the passing game they same on display last week, the running lanes could be wider than ever. If Lynch can have his first 100-yard game as a Seahawk, watch out.
This is one of those games that any cursory glance will lead a person to expect a huge Saints victory. Even a second-level investigation yields the same result. If you have been watching the Seahawks closely this year, though, there are some credible signs that point to the potential for a major upset. It would be foolish to say a Seahawks win was likely, but let’s just say I’m looking forward to the game.