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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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New Orleans at Seattle, 4:30 PM EST Baltimore at Kansas City, 1I PM EST
New York Jets at Indianapolis, 8 PM EST Green Bay at Philadelphia, 4:30 PM EST

Prediction: NO 31, SEA 13

Update: Jimmy Graham is out this week with his ankle sprain. All other notable players should be active. Matt Hasselbeck has been named the starter for the Seahawks though there is no guarantee that Whitehurst does not also take some snaps.

This is the expected slam dunk game. The Saints - AKA reigning World Champs - hit the road to play against the only team in NFL history to actually win a division crown and yet have a losing record. The Seahawks winning the NFC West and hosting a playoff game is akin to a rental Ford Taurus winning a stock car race because every other car was incapacitated in a huge pile-up. The Saints are 6-2 in road games while the Seahawks are 5-3 at home and just damn happy to be playing in January. After the win over the Rams, I still picture Pete Carroll addressing the team afterwards by saying "okay guys, I was not aware of this until just now but apparently WE are the NFC West champions." The Saints are favored by 10.5 points because it is expected that they will eventually just get bored.

The Saints already beat the Seahawks 34-19 in New Orleans in week 11.

New Orleans Saints (12-4)
Homefield: Superdome
Sportexe Turf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 MIN W 14-9 10 Bye -
2 @SF W 25-22 11 SEA W 34-19
3 ATL L 24-27 12 @DAL W 30-27
4 CAR W 16-14 13 @CIN W 34-30
5 @ARI L 20-30 14 STL W 31-13
6 @TB W 31-6 15 @BAL L 24-30
7 CLE L 17-30 16 @ATL W 17-14
8 PIT W 20-10 17 TB L 13-23
9 @CAR W 34-3 - - -
Saints Report | Statistics | Roster
NEW ORLEANS Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees - - 310,3
RB Reggie Bush 20 40 -
RB Julius Jones 50,1 - -
TE Jimmy Graham - 20 -
TE Jeremy Shockey - 20 -
WR Marques Colston - 80,2 -
WR Lance Moore - 50,1 -
WR Devery Henderson - 40 -
WR Robert Meachem - 40 -
PK Garrett Hartley 1 FG 4XP -
Pregame Notes: The Saints missed out on a chance to host a home game or win the division but beating the Falcons in Atlanta was enough to say that the Saints are not about to go quietly into that good night. There are problems with the backfield that won't be an issue this week but the Saints could be poised to be the dark horse in the NFC yet again.

QUARTERBACK: Drew Brees passed for a score in every game this year and has 33 touchdowns on the season. He had two or more touchdowns in 11 different games and had 300+ yards seven times. He now faces one of the worst secondaries in the league that has allowed 31 passing scores against them. They make every opponent play like Brees. Six of the last nine opponents passed for three or more touchdowns on the Seahawks.

Brees passed for 384 yards and four touchdowns in the week 11 meeting with the Seahawks.

RUNNING BACKS: The Saints have placed both Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas on injured reserve which leaves Julius Jones and Reggie Bush as the last men standing. Bush has been little used as a runner this year and even his role as a receiver has been of little impact. Bush only has one touchdown and that was on a reception back in week two.

Jones has never scored as a Saint and has been little more than bottom man in the rotation. He's now to be thrust into a lead role and WHAT? He gets to play against the team that dumped him. Now that is a sign that Julius Jones has some good karma going on for him. At least this one week.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Marques Colston missed week 17 with a sore knee but he is back to full practices and is expected to play this week. Colston has been a major factor in every game since mid-season when he was healthy and scored seven times since week seven. Devery Henderson remains just a possession receiver who never scores or has much yardage. Lance Moore has scored eight times but has been held to 70 yards or less in almost every game. He is used more in the red zone. Robert Meachem is a feast or famine player with five scores and two 100+ yard games but six games of less than ten yards. Meachem either catches the bomb or he doesn't.

The Seahawks have one of the worst secondaries which means any of these wideouts could have a big game here. Moore and Colston are always the better risks. Colston caught eight passes for 113 yards and two scores in the last meeting. Meachem had two scores on his three catches for 50 yards in that game.

TIGHT ENDS: Jimmy Graham has been taking over for Jeremy Shockey and has scored four times in the last three games. But Graham missed practice because of a sprained ankle and is not yet sure to play this week. If he comes back, consider one of those scores credited to Colston to be more likely to go to Graham.

Gaining Fantasy Points NO 5 16 5 6 11 24
Preventing Fantasy Points SEA 28 27 30 17 21 18
Advantage(+) or Disadvantage(-)   +23 +11 +25 +11 +10 -6

Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
Homefield: Qwest Field
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 SF W 31-6 10 @ARI W 36-18
2 @DEN L 14-31 11 @NO L 19-34
3 SD W 27-20 12 KC L 24-42
4 @STL L 3-20 13 CAR W 31-14
5 Bye - 14 @SF L 21-40
6 @CHI W 23-20 15 ATL L 18-34
7 ARI W 22-10 16 @TB L 15-38
8 @OAK L 3-33 17 STL W 16-6
9 NYG L 7-41 - - -
Seahawks Report | Statistics | Roster
SEATTLE Rush Catch Pass
QB Charlie Whitehurst - - 210,1
QB Matt Hasselbeck - - 240,1
RB Justin Forsett 20 30 -
RB Marshawn Lynch 30 20 -
WR Mike Williams - 60,1 -
WR Golden Tate - 40 -
WR Ben Obamanu - 60 -
PK Olindo Mare 2 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: Sure, they may be the worst record team to ever win a division and yes, they lost five of their last seven games. But in a rebuilding year that has not done much to make progress with the offense, a playoff game is a nice way to stamp Pete Carroll's first season as a success. At least a relative one.

QUARTERBACK: Matt Hasselbeck injured his hip (somehow) in week 16 and allowed Charlie Whitehurst to take the start against the St. Louis Rams. Whitehurst won that game or at least was there when it happened and passed for 192 yards and one touchdown. Now both he and Hasselbeck are sharing first team reps in practice and Carroll is not naming a starter until game time as if it makes a difference.

I'll call it. Whitehurst. He may be the future and is a "Carroll" guy and just won last week to reach the playoffs. But both may end up playing.

The Saints have only allowed six touchdowns to quarterbacks in the eight road games so anything more than one score here would be a huge success. The Seahawks only have 14 passing touchdowns this year and that is playing in the NFC West. Hasselbeck passed for 366 yards and one score in New Orleans.

RUNNING BACKS: The Seahawks have a horrible rushing attack that ranks 30th among all running backs and the Saints already held them to 46 yards on 15 carries back in week 11. There is no reason to expect any better results this week. The Seahawks won't likely have time to run the ball this week and neither runner carries any fantasy value.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Back in week 11, Mike Williams ended with 109 yards on six catches in New Orleans while Ben Obomanu scored once on his five receptions for 87 yards. Even Brandon Stokley had 76 yards on six receptions in that game but suffered a concussion recently that kept him out last week. The yardage could be bigger here if Hasselbeck plays the full game but having both split first team reps in practice makes that hard to rely on. Plus Carroll would love to see Whitehurst take another step up.

The Saints have the #1 defense against wideouts and the Seahawks never use their tight ends. This does not bode well in a playoff game. It depends which quarterback plays and how much trash time that the Saints allows to happen.

TIGHT ENDS: No fantasy value

Gaining Fantasy Points SEA 27 30 19 28 20 13
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 1 19 1 13 16 20
Advantage(+) or Disadvantage(-)   -26 -11 -18 -15 -4 +7

New Orleans at Seattle, 4:30 PM EST Baltimore at Kansas City, 1I PM EST
New York Jets at Indianapolis, 8 PM EST Green Bay at Philadelphia, 4:30 PM EST
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