Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to be prime suspects in supplying Walter Thurmond III with recreational substances. His absence from the clash on Monday Night Football changes the complexion of the match-up, greatly increasing their odds of coming out with a victory. Seattle has played without Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond before and have a darn good record when doing so. That have not, however, faced a passing offense like what the Saints feature. Quarterbacks like Brees and offensive coaches like Sean Payton know they can succeed in a variety of ways, and are experts at finding the path of least resistance. While everyone will be wondering what the Seahawks are going to do to stop Jimmy Graham, Payton and Brees have to be thinking about utilizing a less heralded weapon.
Lance Moore has been injured much of the 2013 season, and he's been only modestly effective when he has played. He has only 19 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown. Those are not numbers that will strike fear in the hearts of Seahawks fans, especially when compared to the 65 catches, nearly 1,000 yards and 11 TDs for Graham. Moore is a favorite target for Brees, and this could be the perfect game to bring him back into focus. He had over 100 targets last year, 1,000 yards and 6 TDs, and 8 TDs the year prior. He excels in the slot, the spot vacated by Thurmond, and the most vulnerable part of a very good Seahawks defense.
Graham has over 30 more targets than any other Saints receiver, so he's going to be a big part of the game plan no matter what. Seattle has done well against Vernon Davis and Tony Gonzalez this season. When they want to slow a tight end, guys like Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, and even Byron Maxwell offer some decent options. Too much focus there will give Brees plenty of opportunity to find Moore. Jeremy Lane would likely get that assignment. That is where I would test Seattle if I was facing them this week.
The other options to watch will be Darren Sproles and Kenny Stills. He was out last week with injury, but was the second on the team in targets. Graham and Moore can clear out the linebackers and leave a lot of room underneath for Sproles to create havoc. Bruce Irvin could find himself tracking Sproles a lot, and be asked to make some open-field tackles. Irvin has unique attributes in size, speed and versatility to make that an intriguing match-up.
Stills is a deep threat. He is largely an edge receiver, but they can line him up in the slot. He is less of a concern on the edge, but is the type of guy that has given Sherman some trouble at times when he guesses wrong on short routes and leaves the deep play open behind him.
Marques Colston has not been the threat he had been in past years, and is the guy who will struggle the most against the Seahawks edge corners. Colston can slide inside to the slot. That is his most dangerous alignment this week.
Even guys like Robert Meachem and Nick Toon can occasionally be difference-makers down the field. In other words, this is a team with a variety of weapons in the passing game, and a quarterback and coach who knows how to stress defenses with the most favorable match-ups. Graham is sure to be central to what the Saints do, but the game is more likely to be won or lost based on how Seattle defends Moore and Sproles.