The last time they met…

Week 11 of this season: Saints 34, Seahawks 19 in New Orleans

  • Drew Brees throws for 382 yards and tosses four touchdown passes. But he’s also picked off twice.
  • Matt Hasselbeck has his best game of the season, completing 32 of 44 passes for 366 yards.
  • Marshawn Lynch fumbles twice but the Seahawks don’t throw any interceptions.
  • The difference: Seattle struggles in and around the red zone, settling for four Olindo Mare field goals.

Injuries to watch:

  • Running backs Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas are out for New Orleans, meaning the unreliable and inconsistent Reggie Bush will be the Saints’ clear-cut No. 1 back. Tight end Jimmy Graham (four touchdowns in his last three games) and safety Malcolm Jenkins (should have been a Pro Bowler) are both hurt and missing practice time, too.
  • Hasselbeck (hip, glute) missed the season finale against the Rams but is splitting reps this week with Charlie Whitehurst.

It just doesn’t add up: The Saints are travelling across the country (2,600 miles) on a short week to take on a team that it only beat by 15 in their last meeting. Yeah, I know, only 15. But I still can’t see why the most banged-up team in the playoffs is still a double-digit favourite in a hostile environment on the road.

Other factors that have me leaning toward Seattle:

1. In addition to dealing with a multitude of crucial injuries on short rest, the Saints have to prepare for two quarterbacks. It doesn’t appear as though Pete Carroll will announce who’s starting under centre until game time, which is a very smart strategy. Gregg Williams will be more leery of unleashing the hounds against a veteran like Hasselbeck, who burned his defence in a losing effort earlier this year.

2. The 12th man was a factor Sunday night. It wasn’t on many other occasions throughout the season, but it was when it mattered. You can expect that crowd to play a large role in the biggest game of the year Saturday. Consider, too, that the Saints had the luxury of playing at home throughout the 2009 playoffs. This New Orleans team has proven that it can rise to the occasion and win big games, but it hasn’t proven it can do that on the road and in the elements. In cold-weather road games this year, the Saints barely beat the lowly Bengals and lost to the Ravens. Seattle was 5-3 at home.

3. The Saints don’t match up particularly well with Seattle. The Seahawks have proven that they can get to the quarterback in unique ways and the New Orleans offensive line hasn’t been very impressive as of late. Drew Brees was scrambling for his life all night in Week 16 against Atlanta. Brees had an uncharacteristic 22 interceptions as the Saints’ turnover differential dropped from plus-11 in 2009 to minus-6 in 2010.

4. Injuries. While Hasselbeck and Russell Okung get healthy, the Saints are a mess. They’ll have trouble keeping the Seahawks honest with no one but Bush in the backfield.

So, it’s become obvious that I’m picking the Seahawks to cover the spread. But am I crazy enough to take the first-ever 7-9 division winner to beat the defending Super Bowl champions? Maybe this is just me being scared of what is supposed to be a sure thing, because in the NFL the sure things always seem to screw us over, but every time I close my eyes I see Leon Washington dancing in the end zone after a game-changing return. And yes, I’m crazy. Seahawks 27, Saints 24