You may have seen the quick write-up I did this morning of the plethora of changes from the first match-up between these two teams. Let's dig a little deeper to see which of those could have a significant impact on the way the game unfolds.
-- Chris Ivory out, Reggie Bush in --
Ivory was a major factor in the first game. He ran through tackles, concussed Marcus Trufant, and gave the Saints exactly the balance they were looking for. Reggie Bush was supposed to play in the game, but the Saints appeared to hold him out in part because they thought they could win without him, which turned out to be true. Bush can be a great weapon in the screen game, but is nothing like Ivory as a runner. Pierre Thomas is supposed to be the bruising inside runner, but he has been injured and is questionable for Saturday. When Thomas and Bush have played, they have been largely ineffective. Bush had a season-high in rushing yards in the season finale with 70, and receiving yards with 55. His previous highs had been 39 and 36. He has only one TD all year. Thomas has not averaged over 3.7 YPC in any game this season, and has been stuck at 3.3 since his return from injury. He has two TDs all year. Compare that to Ivory who had not gone under 4.2 YPC in seven weeks, and boasted a hefty 5.2 avg for the season, along with 5 TDs. If Thomas can't go due to injury, and Ivory is already out, the Saints will be forced to lean on Julius Jones for inside running. Jones had 4 rushes for 4 yards in the first matchup. Needless to say, Ivory being out could be the largest change since the first game, and his absence takes more away from the Saints than Bush's presence adds.
-- Colin Cole in --
Cole has proven his worth by making an immediate impact on opponents rushing, especially on the interior. In the weeks he was gone, four of five opponents averaged over 4 yards per rush. Since he's been back, three of four opponents have been under 3.5. Subtracting Ivory and adding Cole will make it very hard for the Saints to get anywhere near their 112 yards of rushing from the first game.
-- Seattle QB Situation --
Matt Hasselbeck entered the last game against the Saints with a ton of confidence and a new approach on offense that surprised New Orleans. There is little chance of either Whitehurst or Hasselbeck repeating Matt's 366 yards passing. The offense has shown no signs of that kind of productivity since the Saints game. Not only that, but aggression has largely resulted in turnovers, so either QB is unlikely to be given the chance to make those kind of game-changing plays. Even if Seattle can't throw the ball the way they did, they still have the same physical advantages against shorter Saints DBs. The team will need to find some success on the ground, where they only totaled 58 yards in the first match-up.
-- Qwest Field --
The Saints travel extremely well, and even with a short week and injuries, you can expect a solid game from them. Qwest effects the Seahawks more than the Saints. The defense will be energized, and big plays will be possible.
-- Saints TEs --
Jeremy Shockey did not play in the first game, but Jimmy Graham did, and torched the Seahawks for a season-high 70 yards receiving. He may be injured for this game. Shockey sat out last week, but will probably play this week. If both Graham and Shockey are available, it will pose a real threat. Graham has the look of a future Pro Bowl player, and if he doesn't play, it will be a bigger loss than Shockey's presence would gain.
-- Michael Robinson in --
Marshawn Lynch is at his best with a fullback clearing the path for him. Robinson has been a solid player at that position, and is worlds better than John Carlson, who played FB in the last match-up. Robinson helps the rushing attack, and provides some other wrinkles with his ability to play QB in the wildcat.
-- In-Game Injuries --
Marcus Trufant left the Saints game with a concussion. Mike Williams missed large chunks of the game with foot and hamstring injuries. Having both of those guys available is a net positive for Seattle.
-- Malcolm Jenkins In/Out --
Jenkins is credited with having a Pro Bowl-caliber season by his coaches and teammates. The one game he missed all year was against Seattle, and the Saints gave up more passing yards than they did against any other opponent. Jenkins is having an MRI, and could miss the game. If he is able to play, it will be a big plus for New Orleans.