NFC Divisional Playoff Game 1 – New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks

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Running will have a large say in deciding which of these 2 teams progress to the NFC Championship game, the Saints have largely relied on their pass game to beat opponents this season but the Seahawks have the best pass defence in the NFL this season.  Conversely the Seahawks have the 4th best running attack in the league and have the third best average in the NFC recording 136.8 yards on the ground per game.  The Saints defence has been more effective at stopping passing attacks this season and they have the 2nd best pass defence in the league compared to the 19th best rushing defence in the league which has allowed an average of 111.6 yards per game.

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has only averaged just 78.6 yards per game, so the key for the Saints will be to contain Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson who averages 33.7 rush yards per game and stop the other 6 Seahawks players who may carry the ball in this game including Percy Harvin, who may feature after a nearly season long injury. 

The Saints also have multiple running options but their Quarterback averages just 3.3 yards per carry so their rushing offence will have a more traditional flavour to it, the Saints could be missing Pierre Thomas who received 147 handoffs during the regular season which was nearly double the number his understudy Mark Ingram received.  Ingram though rushed for 97 yards in the Wildcard game last week at an average of 5.4 yards per carry so he is capable of filling the role of starting running back.

The other vital figures on this game will be the coaches and not just the Head Coaches Sean Payton of the Saints and Pete Carroll his Seahawks counterparts, both are controversial figures and loved and despised by some in measure.  Payton is in his season back following a 1 year ban before wittingly or unwittingly being a part of a “bounty” scandal where players were offered money to injure opposing players.  Carroll has a near peerless record in College football, although his reign at USC was tarred with a scandal of its own where he was found to have been part of an administration that paid their supposedly amateur athletes to play for them.  The major difference between both coaches is their postseason record; Payton has 6 wins and just 3 losses while Carroll has just 2 wins to balance his 2 losses in playoff games.   Both Defensive coordinators are former Defensive linemen and they too will have a huge say in this clash, if the Saints Rob Ryan can balance his teams need to contain Seattle’s runners with his desire to blitz and apply pressure to Russell Wilson on passing downs then the Seahawks will struggle to score touchdowns.  The Seahawks however will need to make sure their league leading pass defence can be adapted to slow down Ingram and prevent any of the trick plays that Sean Payton isn’t afraid to use in high pressure situations.

The Seahawks are huge favourites after they ran all over the Saints the last time they met in the Pacific Northwest for a playoff game in 2010, Marshawn Lynch produced the first “seismic run” which produced a cheer so load it shook the earth and was measured as an earthquake on the Richter scale.  There are quite a few Saints players who are still scarred by that embarrassment and after they overcame the odds last week to beat a heavily favoured Eagles team I think that Sean Payton and Rob Ryan will have spent a lot of time pointing how they can improve on the performance of 7 days ago to produce another road win.

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