*Keys for the Seahawks:
1. Run, run, run.
2. Pressure Drew Brees
3. Protect the ball! Hasselbeck tied a career-high this season with 17 interceptions, even while missing two games due to injury. He missed last week's game against the Rams and may start the game off a bit rusty. He wont be throwing the ball any more than 30 times today, and will need to play mistake-free football to give Seattle a chance.
*Why you can't rule the Seahawks out of this one:
-New Orleans' top two running backs--Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory--are both inactive for today's game. In fact, they have both been placed on the injured reserve and will not be available at all this postseason. Not only does that affect the Saint hugely this week, but they will likely be one dimensional all postseason.
-In addition to the Thomas and Ivory injuries, the Saints have four other players who have been ruled out for the game today. Three of those four players are on the defensive side of the ball, including starting free safety Malcolm Jenkins. Veteran five-time Pro Bowler Darren Sharper is expected to start in his place though he has been limited to just eight games this season as he been battling numerous injuries. We'll see if head coach Pete Carroll decides to pick on the vulnerable Sharper in the passing game today.
-New Orleans' pass defense: 193.9 yards/game (4th), run defense: 112.3 yards/game (16th)...Seattle's run attack is 31st in the league, but don't be surprised if you see a heavy dose of Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett early on anyway. Seattle has had the game's top rusher only five times this season, but they put up a 5-0 record during those games, and scored 30-plus points in two of those games.
--No matter which way you look at it, Seattle's best chance at winning this game is to run the ball affectively and limit turnovers.
*History is on Seattle's side:
These two teams have met just 11 times, all in the regular season. So, yes, this is the first postseason meeting between New Orleans and Seattle. But, the Seahawks have won three out of the last four meetings (New Orleans holds series lead, 6-5, after defeating Seattle at home earlier this season), and have outscored the Saints 256-234 in the series.
Also, defending champions always have a hard time. In the past eight years, only one team (2004 Patriots) have made it out of the second round. And, only two teams (2004 Patriots and 2005 Patriots) even managed to come away with a playoff victory the following season.
Oh and did I mention the fact that the Saints have to go in to Qwest Field, a very tough place to play for opposing teams considering the noise level (leads to quite a few false start penalties) and the crappy Washington (state) weather?
Having said all this, I am still picking the Saints to pull away with a victory. But wouldn't this be quite a game if Seattle is able to keep up with Brees and his cannon of a right arm?
My pick: New Orleans 31-17
Whatifsports.com's pick: Seattle 29-24
Interesting to see the simulation pulling for the upset. We'll see how all of this plays out in approximately two hours. Check back later for updates, I may do a live blog of the game if I'm up for it. Enjoy.
(Note: This is my 100th blog post here on All-Out Blitz. I haven't exactly gotten many readers at all but I'm working on that.)
Drew Brees: Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL
Leon Washington: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren