In the first round of the playoffs, the New Orleans Saints finally proved that they could get a win on the road in the postseason. Now, they’ll look to get a victory in the toughest stadium for visiting teams, outside of their own, when they face the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.
On wild-card weekend, the Saints went into Philadelphia and left with 26-24 victory. It was the first road playoff win in the history of the franchise. During the 2013 regular season, the Saints went 8-0 at home, but just 3-5 away from New Orleans.
The Seahawks suffered just one home loss in 2013, and the Saints know firsthand how difficult it can be to play in Seattle. The two teams met on "Monday Night Football" in Week 13. In a contest between the teams with the top two records in the NFC, Seattle dominated the visitors, 34-7. Drew Brees, whose season-low had been 236 passing yards, managed to throw for just 147 yards on 38 attempts. The Saints running game, which usually isn’t very effective, was worse than usual. Four different running backs combined to pick up just 45 yards on 16 carries.
The Saints have the No.2 passing attack in the NFL. Seattle, though, matches up well with the No.6 seed in the conference. The Seahawks boast the league’s top pass defense, allowing just 172 yards through the air per game. They’ve held the likes of Brees, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Eli Manning and Carson Palmer all to less than 180 yards passing. Cornerback Richard Sherman led the league with eight interceptions, while free safety Earl Thomas added five in the regular season. Both Sherman and Thomas were selected to the Pro Bowl, along with strong safety Kam Chancellor.
Offensively, the Seahawks also match up well with their opponent. Russell Wilson’s 101.2 passer rating is one of the best in football, but he isn’t asked to carry the offense with his arm, throwing for just 3,357 yards. His 539 rushing yards, as well as Marshawn Lynch’s 1,257 yards, give the club the No.4 rushing offense in the league. The Saints were second against the pass in the regular season, but 19th against the run, which could prove to hurt them on Saturday.
The Saints’ defensive performance on wild-card weekend, however, gives the team reason to believe that they can contain Seattle. The Eagles entered their playoff game with the Saints as the best rushing team in the NFL. LeSean McCoy was held to just 77 yards on 21 rushes.
In the regular season, the Saints were favored in almost all of their games. In the divisional round, they’ll be underdogs for the second straight week. The betting line has them getting eight points at most Las Vegas casinos, by far the most points they’ve gotten this season. No team in 2013 had a better record against the spread than Seattle, who went 11-5. Before their win in Philadelphia, New Orleans covered the point spread just once on the road.
"They're a great football team. We're going to need our best effort to beat these guys," Brees said. "But if there's a team that can do it, I believe that's us."
Betting Odds: Seattle -8, 46.5
Prediction: Seattle 27, New Orleans 17