The Seattle Seahawks made history this year as the only team to make the playoffs with a losing record. As the 7-9 NFC West champions, Seattle get home field advantage over the 11-5 New Orleans Saints this week. New Orleans are looking to be the first team to defend their Super Bowl title since the 03/04 Patriots, but will have to quiet the 12th Man in Seattle first to do so. The game kicks off on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EST.
These two teams met in week 11 in New Orleans. The Saints won easily 34-16 with Brees shredding the Seahawks secondary for 382 yards and 4 TDs. Brees’ season’s been quite different to last years. He’s doubled his interceptions, throwing 22 in 2010 and only 11 in 2009, while throwing for over 300 more yards than last season. It’s hard to pinpoint the reason for the spike in turnovers, but Brees is currently riding a streak that’s seen him throw an interception in 12 straight games, the longest streak of his career. Perhaps the reason is the inconsistency of the Saints running game. They’ve used 6 different RBs this year (Thomas, Betts, Bush, Hamilton, Jones, Ivory), and ranked 28th in rushing offense during the regular season. Prior to this week’s playoff game, the Saints put Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas on season ending I.R, meaning they’ll most likely be starting Julius Jones against the Seahawks. Jones has only 60 carries on the year for 223 yards and 0 TDs. He also had a costly fumble on the goal line last week against the Bucs which led to a Tampa TD that all but sealed the loss for the Saints. Jones is a backup RB who’s not someone you should have confidence in in a playoff game, so the Saints will most likely stick with the pass this week, and they should be successful doing so against the Seahawks 27th ranked passing defense.
Seattle’s secondary was ripped apart by the Saints deep route running in week 11. Marques Colston went for two TDs over 20 yards while Robert Meachem added another for 32 yards. TE Jimmy Graham added a 27 yard reception, Lance Moore had a 29 yard reception and Ladell Betts had a 25 yard reception in the win. The Saints will most likely stick to the passing game this Saturday. However, Seattle had their chances in the passing game in week 11 also. Hasselbeck went 32/44 for 366 yards and 1 TD (0 INT). It was the most yards the Saints had given up through the air all year, and if it wasn’t for the Seahawks inability in the redzone, the result would have been different. Seattle had two fumbles and had four drives end with field goals. This week’s matchup will be played in the North West elements and it’ll be interesting to see how the Saints passing game adjusts to the weather, and the noise.
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Saints vs. Seahawks Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
New Orleans Saints -11
@ Seattle Seahawks +11
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Saints vs. Seahawks Prediction for NFC Wildcard Betting:
Spread Prediction (Top Play): This week’s spread is one of the most surprising playoff lines I’ve seen in a long time. Even if the Saints were as good as last year, I wouldn’t be able to justify making them double digit favorites in this situation. The Saints are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 January games, and the Seahawks have a history of playing their best football at home. Their strengths come from the atmosphere in the stadium and the weather during December and January football. The Saints play indoors 8 games a year, and this week will be without their two starting running backs. They won’t be able to pass the ball nearly as well as they did in week 11 with the temperature down to 37 F and a 30% chance of snow. Seattle have announced they’ll be starting veteran Matt Hasselbeck at QB. Hasselbeck has the playoff experience and the ability to keep this game close, and the Seahawks can find holes in the running game with Marshan Lynch. Saints are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 versus a team with a losing record, so I like the Seahawks +11 as my top play this week.
Game Total Prediction: When Seattle have lost games this year, they’ve lost big. Their smallest margin of defeat was against the Saints in week 11, but as I’m sure you’ve heard before, the playoffs is a whole new season. The weather will play a large factor this week, and don’t be surprised if the Saints put up a performance similar to their 2006 NFC Championship defeat to the Bears. New Orleans finished the year scoring an average of 15 points per game in their final two games, while Seattle averaged 15.5. I don’t see either team lighting up the scoreboard, and because of the weather conditions I like this game to be a hard fought defensive battle that stays under the number.