Seahawks to host Saints in NFL divisional playoffs

Seahawks to host Saints in NFL divisional playoffs
Seattle Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor (31) celebrates a hit on St. Louis Rams' Stedman Bailey in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
SEATTLE - After nearly a week of anticipation, the Seahawks now know the first hurdle they'll have to clear on the way to the Super Bowl.

The New Orleans Saints won their first road playoff game in franchise history Saturday night, knocking off the Eagles in Philadelphia 26-24. They did it in semi-dramatic fashion as journeyman kicker Shayne Graham knocked a 32-yard field goal through the uprights for the win as time expired.

The reward for New Orleans: go on the road again to Seattle and try to get their second road playoff win in franchise history. Number two will be even harder to pull off.

The Saints have been to Seattle already this season, and lost miserably 34-7 on Monday Night Football on December 2nd. Brees was asked about making a return trip to CenturyLink Field shortly after disposing of the Eagles Saturday night.

"It's loud, it's crazy. Obviously they have a good thing going there, they only lost one game there in the past two years. But, having been there less than a month ago, I think that served us well just knowing what to expect, how to prepare for it. We're going to need our best game that's for sure."

The Saints scored only seven points against the Seahawks back on December 2nd. It matched their lowest point total since Sean Payton became head coach in 2006.

That Monday night loss did more than embarrass the Saints, it sent them into a tailspin. They lost three of their final five games, and a team that once was looked at as a number two seed in the NFC found themselves playing to win and make it into the playoffs on the final weekend of the regular season.

Now the Saints get to come back to their own little shop of horrors. That Monday Night loss for the Saints was bad to begin with. When they tried to leave Seattle following the game, their plane broke down and they couldn't fly out until Tuesday morning.

On top of that, the Emerald City isn't exactly overflowing with Saints playoff mojo following the Beast Quake that occurred in the Wild Card round in January of 2011.

That was a sickening loss for Drew Brees and the Saints, they were the defending Super Bowl Champs at the time, and they came to Seattle only to lose to a Seahawks team that went 7-9 in the regular season. They were regarded, at the time, as the worst team in the playoffs.

Times have changed.

This week the 13-3 Seahawks spent their bye week as the number 1 seed resting up and getting ready for the Divisional round.

Pete Carroll said Friday he feels the team has managed the week off beautifully, "The work days have been great on the field, but it's really all of the things that happened during this week. We've had good rest to get to these two days, the guys will get a couple of days off here in the weekend, we'll come back on Monday and go back at it when we know what we're doing. So we've rested guys, we've had good work, we've been able to expand installation as we look ahead and try to fix some things. So all of those things were taken at hand and I think that we've made progress in all areas. So very, very good week for us."

The Saints win Saturday also gives the Seattle coaching staff a jump on preparing for the Divisional game. If the Saints had lost, the Eagles would have advanced to face the Panthers while the Seahawks coaches would have been forced to sit around, and wait until late Sunday afternoon for the outcome of the 49ers-Packers in Green Bay to see who their opponent would be.

Instead, the coaches can dive in right away Sunday morning and start preparations for the Saints, gaining a full work day. Again, another benefit of a bye week and a number one seed.

At this point in the season, most teams are exposed and teams know what to expect for the most part. The Seahawks defense won't change.

As Richard Sherman told ESPN's Lisa Salters before the Saints game December 2nd, "We play disciplined, we man up, we stand up, if they can beat us straight up then they deserve to win."

But the offense may have a few new wrinkles. Again, a bye week luxury, time to add in plays that have never been seen before. When you add the possible addition of Percy Harvin into the offensive mix too, the Saints may not have a clue what's coming their way on certain plays.

The Saints know coming to CenturyLink Field and pulling off another road win won't be easy, especially immersed in the added intensity of the playoffs. The worst game for the Saints this season occurred in the cold on national TV in Seattle where they couldn't hear a thing.

Regardless, Drew Brees wants a shot at redemption in the cold - on national TV - where he won't be able to hear a thing.

"Having another crack at them, obviously I look forward to this week of preparation, the plan we're going to put together," Brees said. "They're a great football team, we're going to need our best effort to beat these guys, but if there's a team that can do it, I believe it's us."

It is, after all, the NFL playoffs, where Saturday's games showed us anything is possible. Even a playoff road win for the Saints.