So as we all know by now, the New Orleans Saints are in the postseason and have claimed the #1 seed in the NFC by winning the NFC South and finishing with a 13-3 record, getting the 1 over the Rams by virtue of beating them in the regular season.
With the bye week and dome field advantage secured for the playoffs I thought it a good idea to have a look at potential opponents for the Saints in the divisional round.
Here we will look at the #5 and #6 seeds with the #3 and #4 seeds following later in the week (as the #2 have a bye) in the NFC and give some opinions on whether they would be a good or a bad match-up for the Black and Gold in January.
#6 Seed – The Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have had a strange kind of season, finishing with a 9-7 record, the reigning Superbowl champs have done it the hard way by winning 5 of their last 6 including a 3 game win streak to end. Lead to glory by Quarterback Nick Foles last season, the Eagles went back to previously injured starter Carson Wentz for the 2018 season. They then proceeded to lose 6 of 10 games and leave the playoff aspirations hanging by a thread. Cue an injury to Wentz and a swap at Quarterback, 3 wins.
Nick Foles appears to be some kind of December and January hero (not on Brees levels though) throwing 1413 yards, 7 TDs and 4 Interceptions with a QBR of 96.0 in 3 games. A win against the Rams lead by 2 score running back Smallwood and a 160 yard game for Alshon Jeffery was a game which turned their season around. Nobody really gave the Eagles a hope in this one, especially heading into LA but the 30-23 win gave them the glimmer of hope that they needed with the Vikings the ones to give way, finally losing out and falling to the Bears in week 17 with the Eagles getting the W 24-0 over the Redskins in Washington which was pretty much an Eagles home game by the fans that showed up. Foles did leave this game injured but has since claimed he is fine, injury reports pending, he should be ready to go for their game in Chicago on Sunday.
The Saints had the Eagles to thank for the win in LA which all but gave them the #1 seed due to their tiebreaker and needing to win only one of their final 2 regular season games, which they did in week 16. The Saints also met the Eagles in Week 11, racking up a huge performance on all sides of the ball with a 48-7 win. Probably the Saints most complete performance of the season. After a couple of early scores, jumping out to a 17-0 lead, an Eagles score mid-way through the 2nd quarter, the Saints settled in and scored on all bar 2 drives until kneel downs. Drew Brees threw 4 TDs for 363 yards with a QBR of 153.2, there were 173 yards on the ground too with 2 more scores. The Defense also shutout the Eagles for the remainder of the game recording 3 sacks, 3 interceptions and holding the Eagles to just 196 yards of total offense.
This Eagles team is a changed one from that first meeting with players returning from injury, a different QB at the helm and some much needed momentum behind with those 3 straight wins. The Saints have also tailed off towards the end of the season, however this can’t be looked into with too much detail as they knew they were in January and some players were not playing to their full potential (we all hope).
The Eagles match-up in Chicago is an extremely tough one but should they get through it, I think this New Orleans team would have too much for them in the Superdome again. This would be a favorable match-up for the Saints in the divisional round and one which I believe would send them to the NFC championship game.
#5 – The Seattle Seahawks
A good 10-6 season in the end for the Seahawks built around a potent running attack with a solid defense without being outstanding. Close games won for them by their BIG FISHY (if you know, you know) kicker, at least 3, with last ditch field goals, with mainly 1 score victories or losses – 11 out of 16 games have been decided by 8 points or less either way.
A win at the Clinc over the chiefs (38-31) in week 16 being a massive plus point on the year. They are a team that relies on home field advantage a lot losing just the 2 (to the chargers and rams) they have already defeated WC weekend match-up Dallas in week 3 (24-13) but lots has changed since then. The majority of the Seahawks loses have been to fellow playoff teams (Rams twice, Bears and Chargers) but they have also had losses to San Francisco and the Broncos. They are another team that has had a good end to the season to propel themselves to the postseason.
Russell Wilson is a dangerous Quarterback with both the pass and the run at his disposal, 3rd down scrambles are a sight seen frequently for this offense. Wilson has had a very good season too, leading the offense very well with stats of 65.6% completion, 3448 yards for 35 TDs and 7 Interceptions, a QBR of 110.9 to back this up. He has added 376 yards off 67 carries to this on the ground too.
Chris Carson has had a stellar season too racking up 1,151 yards on the ground with 9 TDs plus 163 yards through the air, off 14 games too. Tyler Lockett has had a top 2nd half to the season and is a wideout who can hurt you. The defense certainly isn’t the legion of boom which won the Superbowl in 2013 but it is a good unit which allows a competent offense to go about its business without having huge scoreboard pressure placed on it. Bobby Wagner is a Probowler who can still cause some serious problems for opposing offenses.
Their match against the Cowboys will be an interesting one with two similarly matched up teams, mobile QBs, run heavy, solid Defense’s but I do have the Seahawks in this one, despite them being on the road. It’s a coin-flip game, one play could make it go either way but I trust Russell Wilson in the postseason with his experience and a highly experience coach with Pete Carroll. I think if someone can get a 2 score lead, they lead will keep ahead and time of possession will be key. I don’t see it being more than a 1 score final margin, maybe big “Seabass” will kick another winning field goal as time expires again.
In terms of playing the Saints I do, again, have the Saints coming out on top of this potential match-up (which is my pick for the divisional round). The Seahawks Defense is good but it isn’t on the same levels as the Bears or the Ravens so if Drew and crew are firing them I can’t see the Seahawks keeping pace with a much improved Saints Defense (week 17 aside) especially being the #1 ranked rush defense in the NFL. Not to say it will be a blowout but a solid home team victory, plus the Saints had the bye so may start slow but would take the W once in full flow.
Check back in a few days for a look at the #4 Cowboys and the #3 Bears.
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