We will lead off with a discussion of strength of schedule. The Saints had the 3rd hardest strength of schedule; while the Seahawks had the 11th.
They beat CAR, SF(once), JAX, HOU, TEN, ARZ(once), STL(twice), TB, ATL, MIN, NO, and NYG. They lost to SF, ARZ, and IND. Except for the IND loss, they lost the second time they played a team. (And the Cardinals had 4 turnovers in the game they won in Seattle).
One could argue they were beaten by the best QB’s out of the teams they played except for NO and perhaps CAR. They can be beaten by a good QB if there is sufficient time to throw the ball. In fact, Matt Schaub almost beat them until he went all Schaublike at the end of the game. HOU lost the game more than SEA won it.
Additionally, the teams that had the most success had a top tier QB and a running game to mix in routes. Stack formations work best against them as the stacking of WR’s keeps at least one from being jammed at the line of scrimmage and allows them to come out on time and at the needed spot. Additionally, quick, short (3yard) routes were effective. The Saints may need to go small ball to keep them off the field and to continuously move the sticks using these routes and mixing in some runs. I know Payton and Brees will want to take their shots but pressure on the pocket could limit the effectiveness of this approach.
SEA uses a lot of misdirection to open up routes for Lynch as well as Wilson. They like to move the line one way and have Wilson come out the other way to throw the ball. This helps mitigate the pressure on a poor offensive line.
SEA moves the ball by splitting the duties between Lynch and Wilson. Lynch is a huge part of their game plan each week. They do not ask Wilson to stand in the pocket and deliver alone on his arm. When Wilson has time to throw, he likes soft a rainbow pass to his receivers but in short hurried passes even though his is less than accurate, he still can stick it in there. Wilson is more apt to throw a long ball than Brees.
Wilson’s money throw is short yardage right and long yardage left with intermediate middle yardage next. Brees’ money throw is middle of the field both on short and intermediate routes.
The SEA defense is dominant while the offense is middle of the pack. New Orleans passes the ball better and SEA runs the ball better. NO’s oline is better than SEA. There are opportunities to take advantage of there but the roll outs by Wilson and running routes of Lynch mitigate that advantage.
Defensively SEA is dominant in comparison to NO but as stated earlier there were not many elite pocket passers SEA faced in the regular season. An elite passer can take advantage of the unguarded spots in the secondary if there is enough time to throw. I noted there are numerous calls on Sherman for pass interference when a QB is carving them up. Given their strength of schedule, the legion of boom’s stats may be a bit inflated.
SEA can be run on. In numerous games, they gave up over a 100 rushing yards none more impressive than the TB game they won in overtime. TB gave them fits in the run and passing game. Glennon found lots of nice soft areas in the zone.
SEA has an impressive special teams returner in Golden Tate. His yardage set them up numerous times for excellent scoring opportunities.
As for Percy Harvin’s return, live action may disrupt the timing as we have seen when one of our players comes back. Traditionally, there is rust and limited action is seen. We shall see on this one.
Overall if you can limit Wilson and keep him in the pocket, he cannot win a game strictly on his arm at his present maturity level as a player. Lynch must be contained but I do not find him to be a dominant player such as Adrian Peterson (I did not watch all of the SEA games). The defense’s job will be to contain these two. The SEA receivers make some really great catches. Tate would come close to being their premier receiver but all have some great circus catches. It will not be as though we can put Keenan Lewis on Tate and limit their offense. Other players will have to step up.
If our OLine gives Brees enough time, there are throws to be made and if our run game gets started, there are yards to be made. This team will go as far as our OLine will take us. The factors out of our control are the crowd noise and the weather. Both could play a role even though the Saints have worked on mitigating both.
When I watched the Eagles game films, I could not understand why everyone favored them over the Saints. I truly questioned my judgment and ability to break down opponents. After having watched the Seattle game tape, I would say we could beat them in the Dome but can we beat them in Seattle? I say yes but I am not certain like I was regarding the Eagles game that we will beat them. This is a good team, and success against them is a quality win. If the Saints win this week, I would say they would be hard to beat in SF or in Carolina.