Saints offense will face greatest test to date

The Saints play the first of two straight games against NFC West opponents on Sunday as they host the division leading Seahawks. A team fans are well familiar with in recent seasons as being among the best in the NFL.

New Orleans enters the game 2-4 following a frustrating 27-21 loss in Kansas City. The Saints were down 21-7 at halftime before rallying and got to within three after a Brees to Coleman TD made it 24-21. The defense almost gave Brees a shot at a tie or win but an unnecessary roughness call set up Kansas City with a field goal to extend the lead with 28 seconds left.

Seattle is coming in 4-1-1 on the year following a 6-6-overtime tie at Arizona. The Cardinals put up 443 yards of offense but failed to get into the end zone against the number one scoring defense in the NFL. Arizona also held onto the ball for 46:21 seconds to Seattle’s 28:39. Arizona also picked up 23 first downs to Seattle’s 11.

The Saints and Seahawks have met 14 times with New Orleans being 6-6 in regular season contest and 0-2 in post-season games. Five of the 14 overall games in the series have been decided by eight points or less.

STORYLINES

The storyline this week is about both offenses. Seattle is entering the game scoring just 18.5 points per game in part to their inability to run the football. Marshawn Lynch is gone and with it the average yards per carry, as they now average just 3.1 yards. Seattle’s defense however has picked up the slack looking like the D of old as they are just allowing 14 points per game.

New Orleans has the second ranked overall offense in the league due to their passing attack and QB Drew Brees is completing 68.5 percent of his passes and thrown 17 touchdowns.

Will the Saints offense which is averaging 421.3 yards in the air be able to move it against a stingy defense, one that has proven the last two times these teams have met that it is up to the challenge.

THE ENEMY

Seattle enters having won four, lost one and tied one. The team has beaten the Dolphins, 49ers, Jets and the Falcons while the lone loss came at St. Louis and the tie at Arizona.

The team is banged up on offense in particular QB Russell Wilson who suffered a right pectoral injury in last week’s game. Russell is already battling with an ankle injury and a knee injury back in week 3 that had doctors saying he would miss up to four weeks. Wilson hasn’t missed a game however but it’s definitely impacted his running ability.

Sunday will be the first for former Saints TE Jimmy Graham was traded to Seattle for a draft pick and center Max Unger prior to last season Graham this season has 27 catches for 408 yards and one touchdown.

BY THE NUMBERS

The Saints offense comes into the game ranked 2nd overall in total offense averaging 421.7 yards a game. New Orleans is 1st in passing averaging 339.3 yards per game and 28th in rushing up from a week ago at 82.3 yards per game. Seattle is the 22nd ranked offense with 336.7 yards per game. The Seahawks are 14th in passing with 254.0 yards a game and 27th in rushing with 82.7 yards on the ground.

Defensively the Saints are 29th up from 31st of a week ago in total defense giving up 403.8 yards a game, 30th in pass defense giving up 287.0 and up three to 23rd in yards allowed on the ground at 116.8. Seattle is 6th in yards allowed giving up 310.2 yards per game. The Seahawks are 9th in passing defense giving up 226.0 and 5thth in rush defense allowing 84.2.

ESPN’s Week 7 power rankings have the Kansas City Chiefs as the 11th strongest team in the league. The write up cites that the Chiefs average just 6.6 yards a throw past the line of scrimmage this season. The Saints moved up five spots from a week ago to #20.

The Saints have been penalized 45 times for 439 yards. Seattle has been flagged 44 times for 424 yards.

The Saints last win over Seattle came in 2010 a 34-19 win on November 21. Under Sean Payton the Saints are 2-1 in the regular season, 0-2 in the playoffs.

Seattle as of Friday is a 2.5 point favorite.

HOW THE SOUTH IS WON

Atlanta            4-3      vs        Green Bay                  4-2      +3.0

Tampa Bay     3-3      vs        Oakland                      5-2      Even

New Orleans 2-4      vs        Seattle                         4-1-1  -2.5

Carolina          1-5      vs        Cardinals                    3-3-1  +3.0

PLAYER THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD GAME ON OFFENSE

WR Michael Thomas. The rookie is coming off of a 10-catch 130-yard performance a week ago in Kansas City against a good defense. One thing the Seahawks defense will try and do to receivers is bully them, be physical from the snap and through the route. Thomas is physical enough to handle it and likely sees it as a fun challenge. Thomas as I’ve said before can be an impact WR, should be a TD a game one, I think if he gets one this Sunday it’ll be a big one.

PLAYER THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD GAME ON DEFENSE

DE Cam Jordan. Wilson is nicked up nursing ankle, knee and now a pectoral injury. He himself says his mobility is suffering so if the Saints can’t pressure him now then when? Jordan last week had just one tackle. Now it was for a loss but that’s simply not enough for the highest paid defensive lineman on the team. I don’t want to hear about double teams, or quick releases. Make a play and make that several of them. That is all.

X FACTORS

RB Mark Ingram. Ingram himself said the rush attempts this week won’t be for many yards as the Seahawks stop the run effectively. That said if he can make the shorts yards attained mean big as in runs for first downs, well then that will be huge. The Saints will win through the air this week, but if they can get help on the ground it’ll be big. Ingram had 62 yards and Tim Hightower had 39 at Kansas City as the team rushed for 104 yards, the first time over the century mark this season.

DBs. I have to imagine coming off a game where there were no touchdowns, on the road in a loud environment and banged up Russell Wilson will be looking to make plays and more importantly get rid of the ball quickly. He doesn’t normally present opportunities for interceptions (Wilson has thrown only 1 pick this season), but just maybe they’ll be one or two off the mark throws that could be taken advantage of.

HOW I SEE IT

The Saints are better than a two win team yet they are a two win team for a reason. Last week was a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The Chiefs have a good defense and the Saints opened the game going right down the field. Later in the game they found a way to make it close.

Penalties however and poor tackling cost them and add a turnover that directly resulted in seven points well, the team lost by six so do the math.

Seattle is still a good football team with a solid defense. Brees and the Saints have shown in the past that they can score on anybody. This week it may not be as much but Brees, Ingram and tackle Zach Strief peached patience when facing this defense.

I think the trip of receivers Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, and Michael Thomas provide enough options that a good secondary will be tested. Atlanta recently put up 21 points in the 3rd quarter. QB Matt Ryan went 27 of 42 for 335 yards to go with 3 TDs and a pick. Now he was sacked four times. Point is Brees is as good if not better. Seattle is having trouble scoring double digits in quarters.

Saints win 24-17.