It may not be the playoffs, but it's perhaps the closest thing to a playoff game without it actually being the postseason. That's the vibe around the Emerald City as the Saints and Seahawks get set to clash on Monday Night football tonight.
Here are three things I'll be keying on for a Saints win.
1. Pierre Thomas & Darren Sproles, Adjusted Run Stat
Even with some suspensions in the secondary, the Seahawks can match up well with the Saints receiving corps. But the beauty of the Saints offense is their depth and diversity, and as we've seen all year a huge weapon has been has been the running backs ability in the passing game. It should be a huge factor in this game, particularly if conditions are bad and if communication is difficult with the crowd noise.
Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles can be assets as both playmakers and safety valves for Brees to move the sticks in screens and check downs. Sproles speed in space combined with Thomas' ability to break tackles can be one of the few true advantages tonight.
If the adjusted run stat (RB runs + catches within three yards of the line of scrimmage) is high for the Saints, they will be successful.
2. Special Teams
This could be a grind it out, move-the-sticks type of game for the Saints. If that is indeed the case, special teams will have to be on-point. Thomas Morstead has been exceptional in this regard for changing field position.
The wild card has been Garrett Hartley. Hartley hasn't missed since the Saints brought in kickers for workouts three weeks back. He will need to stay that way in Seattle where the Saints have to take advantage of every scoring opportunity available.
3. Taming the Beast
It's been a story all week. Vivid memories of Marshawn Lynch's 'beast quake' run has been the talk of the town here in Seattle. So to avoid another game-changing catastrophe, the Saints know, much like with Frank Gore in San Francisco, they have to shut down Lynch first before anything else on defense.