In welcoming the Seahawks to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, the Saints welcome the fact that the visitors are not what they have been offensively, while they are justifiably wary of a Seattle defense that seems to be as punishing as ever.
In the absence of the retired Marshawn Lynch at running back, the Seahawk passing attack assumes greater importance. But playing behind an ineffectual offensive line, quarterback Russell Wilson hasn't been able to rely on the escapability that makes him so dangerous. Hampered by their play and his own injuries to both legs, he has been sacked more than Drew Brees, and has thrown but five touchdowns to Brees' 17.
But for Brees and this Saints offense, there remains one of the most physical defenses in the game to contend with. It's allowing an NFL-best 14 points per game. Nothing new for Seattle, which has led the league in scoring defense the last four consecutive seasons.
No matter who mans the left tackle position for the Saints, the Seahawks - who have 20 sacks to the Saints' nine - figure to test him. In Cliff Avril and Frank Clark, they have a pair of edge rushers at the right defensive end position who have 11 sacks combined.
Much will be made of the Saints scoring touchdowns on their first possession of the last four games. To make it five against Seattle, the Saints will have to solve a defense that not only hasn't allowed a first possession touchdown this season. It hasn't allowed a first quarter touchdown this season.
This has been a really tough match-up for the Saints in recent years. It promises to remain so on Sunday.
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