In previewing this weekend's divisional round matchups, one prognosticator called it "as hopeless of a mismatch as you'll see in the NFL playoffs."
Apparently Sean Payton has about as much chance of being the winning coach on Saturday as Dennis Rodman has of being Secretary of State. 27-point losses to this team in this place about five weeks ago will invite such pessimism. But if you'd like some reasons for optimism, here they are:
Since 2005, 6-seeds are 6-2 against 1-seeds in the postseason.
When the Saints lost here on December 2nd, they had never won a road game in the postseason. Now, they have. When the Saints lost here on December 2nd, Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson had never lost at home. Now he has...once.
Since December 2nd, the Saints seem to have rediscovered a part of their offense that could be crucial in upsetting the Seahawks -- a commitment to and success in the running game. In the loss to the Seahawks, the Saints ran the ball 17 times. They have run it for at least 30 times in the last three games...36 times for 185 yards last week against the Eagles.
Of course staying close in the game is imperative if you are to sustain that commitment to the running game. But sustaining a commitment to the running game might be imperative to staying close to the Seahawks.
Here's what the Saints are up against in the Seattle defense: the number one defense in the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed, passing yards allowed, interceptions, takeaways, and turnover differential. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas are all going to the Pro Bowl. That's one cornerback and both safeties.
A successful running game might prevent the Seahawks from reminding everyone why three-quarters of their secondary is going to Hawaii. The Saints' running game has seldom been forecast as a key to the game for Sean Payton's crew.
It just might be on Saturday night.
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