Andrew Juge, over at The Saints Nation offered to do some Q & A about our respective teams before the big Monday Night showdown. Andrew fired off his questions first. Here are his questions and my answers.
HB: Sorry, I don't do score predictions. I will say that I felt much more confident in the outcome before all the news broke about suspensions and Harvin than I do now, but I still expect Seattle to win.
TSN: Percy Harvin is listed as doubtful due to hip soreness from the first game. How huge would his absence be?HB: When a team goes 10-1 with a total of 20 snaps from Percy Harvin, it would not make sense to call his absence huge. He is a unique talent, however, and his skill set would have been quite useful versus the Saints and their propensity for blitzing. Harvin is a guy who can do a lot of damage if you pass him the ball a few yards down-field or swing it wide. Seattle has Golden Tate that can do many of the same things, but is not quite as explosive as Harvin. The Seahawks receiving corps has vastly underrated, and is a big part of the team's success this season. Saints fans may be surprised by just how dangerous Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are, and how difficult they are to defend.
TSN: Much has been said about the two CB suspensions. That's a lot of positive PED tests in the last few years. 7 or 8 I believe since 2009. Is there an issue in Seattle? Or are you guys just much worse than everyone else at beating the tests?HB: Glad you asked. The number of positive tests for substances not allowed in the league is frustrating and somewhat alarming at first glance. These players are hurting their careers, the team, and the franchise. Accuracy is important, though, when evaluating the situation. These last two violations were of the NFL substance abuse policy, believed to be marijuana use. Those are not PED violations. People like to say, "What's the difference? Drugs are drugs." The NFL sees a very significant difference. Enough so, that they have two separate policy to police two different lists of substances, with far different severity of consequence for each. Dig a little deeper, and you find that Bruce Irvin was suspended for using Adderall. That is on the PED list, but he took it during the off-season. Adderall is on the list because it can enhance in-game performance. It has no performance-enhancing qualities when not playing. John Moffitt was suspended for Adderall as well, but has a prescription that was not registered with the league. His mistake was a clerical one, not a malicious one. In any event, of the four players that violated the PED policy for Seattle before this season, three of them are no longer on the team. In a league where players are firing illegal firearms at party goers, braking bottles over teammates heads while drunk, and murdering people, I think the Seahawks issues merit concern, but not over-reaction.
TSN: So you're super thin at corner, yet you still have Richard Sherman. I guess if you're the Saints you throw to anyone not covered by him, right?HB: Interesting to hear you believe the team is super thin at corner. The Seahawks deepest position is cornerback. That depth is clearly being tested, but consider that the Seahawks cut a player in Will Blackmon who has been a starter all season for another team. Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane played significant snaps at the end of last year when the team did not have Brandon Browner or Walter Thurmond, and the team destroyed each opponent they faced. Drew Brees is the best quarterback they will have faced, but I'm not sure anyone is assuming the sky is going to fall.
TSN: I know the Seahawks are about as complete of an NFL team as there is, but how do you beat them? What's the gameplan against them?HB: The teams that give Seattle the biggest problems are the ones that find a way to run the ball effectively, avoid 3rd and long situations, and protect the football. The Saints have terrific interior line play, and two hard-nosed inside runners. They would be wise to lean on that. Teams that try to just pass through the Seahawks, even teams that have players like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, have found that can be a painful path. On the flip side, the defense needs to be able to stop the Seahawks running game. Russell Wilson becomes close to unbeatable when the running game is working to setup play-action.
TSN: Marshawn Lynch's performance in that playoff game ranks up there as one of the most painful in our history. Has he slowed down at all? The stats don't suggest it. Any thoughts on that game in Jan 2011?HB: He has only gained steam since then. I am not a big believer in one running back being that much different than another, but Lynch has won me over. Nobody runs like him in the NFL. That's not to say he is the best, but he is otherworldly. My only thoughts on the Jan 2011 game are: "More please."
TSN: You have to be thrilled with Russell Wilson overall. Do you think the non stop Brees comparisons are warranted though?HB: I decided prior to the beginning of last season that Brees is not the best comparison for Wilson. Brees does not scramble the way Wilson does, or the big arm. Wilson does not have the pocket splendor that Brees does, or the elite ability to read defenses and go through his progressions at warp speed. The better comparison for Wilson is Steve Young. Highly efficient, hyper-prepared, and can just as easily frustrate an opponent with a safe and timely scramble as he can with a big throw.
TSN: Score prediction?