Monday Night Football is Awesome and You Know It – Saints/Seahawks Edition
So, a couple weeks ago I wrote about why Thursday Night Football sucks. I’m not going to bother going into detail why Monday Night Football is awesome because it’s been a fixture in the NFL for so long that you already know why you love it.
Here we are, folks. Monday. A full slate of NFL games this weekend but the biggest of them all won’t kick off until tonight. The Saints square off with the Seahawks up in the Great Northwest with two of the best records in the league. The implications of the number one seed in the NFC is the obvious story line fueling this game, but for the Saints and Sean Payton shaking the tag of a “Bad road team that can’t win outdoors,” is probably just as big – if not bigger. The jibber jabber of the flapping faces on the teevee shows leading up to the Bears game was Payton/Brees being winless at Soldier Field and how the “finesse” Saints don’t play the style of football that is conducive to winning outdoor/cold weather road games. Well, we know how that one turned out, although it was seldom mentioned after the win.
Now, it’s Seattle, and the memories of Marshawn Lynch’s beast mode run from the 2010 playoffs that seem to be fueling the same kind of storyline. In a few short hours (this is going to be the longest workday ever), the talking stops and the football starts. Enough of the back and forth between fans about who’s got the better matchup against who. The winner will be decided on the field, and in this Saints fan’s completely biased opinion, the Saints are going to take care of business and have shown throughout the Payton era that when they’re clicking and ripping off wins, there isn’t much left to chance when it comes to primetime football.
We’ve already been inundated with mentions of the Saints record in primetime matchups and the level they take it to for those games since the Dolphins and Cowboys (Atlanta, too, but Thursday Night Football is garbage) games earlier this season, and they’ve yet to prove that talk to be anything but true. There’s also the stat of Drew Brees being 4-8 in games where it was less than 40° at kickoff that local sportscasters are pumping up at every turn now. Yes, he’s played in San Diego (warm weather) and New Orleans (the Superdome) for the entirety of career, so one would expect that he isn’t as comfortable playing in freezing temperatures. Well, fortunately, the Saints took advantage of the craptacular weather we had in New Orleans all last week by practicing outdoors in the rain/mist at 45°. At least it looks like it’s just going to be cold tyonight. No blizzards, ice, hail or typhoons hitting the Seattle area tonight. Just some rain and possible snow flurries early in the day, but cold and clear at kickoff. (I trust weather forecasters about as much as I trust the Falcons in the playoffs with the #1 seed, so we’ll see how this forecast actually turns out.)
Seattle fans are a confident bunch heading into this game, and rightfully so. They have a great team, especially at home, where they have the same kind of home-field advantage as the Saints do in the dome, making things more than just a little difficult for opposing offenses to get things going. The only way to nip that in the bud is to get off to a fast start. Put touchdowns on the board instead of field goals, and suck the air out of the stadium before it fills up. That’s been the Saints formula to winning since 2006. Here’s to hoping they can pull that off against the depleted Seattle defense. They’ll be expecting us to air it out – testing their reserve corners forced into starting action – but I see it happening more on the ground and in the screen game (with the aforementioned corners getting mauled by pulling guards as Pierre Thomas bounces off defenders on his way to a big day).
As for the Saints defense… “Stop Lynch and force Wilson to beat you with his arm,” is what I’ve heard most over the past week, and agree with it to an extent. The part that’s being left out is containing Wilson. Keeping him pressured when rolling out and not allowing him to escape when a play breaks down will be of the highest import to getting off the field. Wilson is a good quarterback – especially good for a second year pro – but is a much better quarterback when improvising after a play breaks down and the coverage in the defensive secondary doesn’t hold up long enough to prevent a big play. Corey White has his work cut out for him starting in Greer’s place on the outside, but I predict there will be many times that the Saints have 4 safeties on the field. Jenkins, Harper, Vaccaro, Bush. Two of them with the ability to cover wide receivers in the slot consistently and the other two better than most at manning up with a tight end running intermediate routes and/or handling run support. Jordan and Hicks are going to do their thing with Galette consistently making the left tackle wish he was somewhere else. Hawthorne has been playing lights out next to Lofton and may have a little something extra for the team that let him go. (Who knows if he has any relevant insight to the Hawks defense that let him go two years ago…) Before this season started, Saints fans (including myself) were saying things like, “Just give us a defense ranked somewhere around 20, and we’ll be fine with Drew Brees on the other side of the ball.” Well. We’ve gotten much more than we asked for and that is what gives me the confidence that I have heading into this game. Take a couple minutes out of your day to go compare the two defenses side-by-side without looking at which team is which, and tell me how much better Seattle’s D is than New Orleans’.
Someone in Seattle is probably writing this same post about their team. The fact of the matter is that this game can go either way. Whoever plays the cleaner game (and if Ed Hochuli can manage not to insert himself and his undersized shirts into the game where they’re not needed) will be the team that comes away with the win.
I still stand by my earlier prediction that this will be a close game heading into the 4th quarter at which point Ryan’s D makes a big play that turns the tide and the Saints end up taking control and never relinquishing it.
Who Dat, y’all!
Saints 31-24 Seahawks