The Battle In Seattle
When we last left you the Saints were facing the Atlanta Falcons and I crawled out onto the statistical ledge with yardage. Thank goodness because my scoring prediction was terrible! Not too bad for a little voodoo…
Saints: 36 – 300 passing, 115 rushing
Actual: 17 – 278 passing, 103 rushing
Falcons: 32 – 251 passing, 94 rushing
Actual: 14 – 292 passing, 91 rushing
Predicting an NFL game is a bit like preparing a spell. So many ingredients in so many proportions. Get one wrong and the next thing you know you’re facing He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken. Still, I persist. And here we are on monday night. The Saints lead the Seahawks in the regular season series 6-5 and are 3-3 in the Seahawks’ sandbox. Sean Payton is 2-0 against Seattle. Add in one playoff game and those stats drop to 6-6, 3-4 and 2-1. Advantage: One drop of tern’s blood on the Seahawks’ side.
But then, it’s not just monday night but Monday Night Football where the Seahawks are 19-8 as (.708 – 1st) opposed to the Saints at 16-17 (.485 – 18th). That’s overall. Under Carroll the Seahawks are undefeated on MNF at 3-0. The Saints under Payton are 11-2. Advantage: Put the blood back in the fridge and consult the entrails.
The Seahawks are coming off their bye-week and anyone will tell you teams do better after a bye because they’ve been able to rest up and heal injuries. But according to an ESPN article from October, 2013, the record for teams playing after a bye is 85-72-3. That data goes back five years to 2008 and comes to a 53.125% win percentage. Advantage: Put an ounce of newt eyes on the Seahawks side.
Pete Carroll is 1-2 after the bye with Seattle, all road games. As a head coach (including the 94 Jets and 97-99 Patriots), Carroll is 2-5 after the bye including a 1998 win against the Saints in the Dome. Carroll seems to be bucking that 53.125% statistic. Advantage: Put the newt eyes back in the jar.
But if that’s bucking, Seattle as a team is blatantly giving the statistics the finger. Since 1990, when the NFL introduced the bye-week, the Seahawks are 7-17 after a week off and 2-7 at home. Which is why anyone else will tell you that the bye-week is a harbinger of doom. Advantage: Half an ear of bat for the Saints.
Under Sean Payton, the Saints are 5-4 against teams coming off a bye, 2-3 when playing on opposing turf. Slightly better numbers than Seattle, but not inspiring. However the Saints are coming off a mini-bye having last played nine days ago. The Saints are 16-8 after a bye and 9-2 on the road. If one stretched the definition of “bye-week” to include the gap between a Thursday and Monday game, it begins to look better for the Saints. Advantage: Make that a full bat ear for the Saints.
And then there’s the Twelfth Man. Far be it from this Terrible Towel-waving fanatic to discount any magic, real or imagined, inherent in superstitious nonsense! Boil it down to an essence though and you have one very loud, frenetic, hostile environment. The Superdome is comparable but with one caveat: Saints fans know how to handle their eight-dollar beers and they know when to back off. For most games it’s a calm wave pattern of raucous decibellery tempered by soothing rounds of hops and barley. (For Falcons games it’s never.)
I don’t believe the 2013 Seahawks fanbase knows how to tone it down and they have good reason not to. Second-year QB Russell Wilson is now 13-0 at home. (23-0 at home if you count NC State games dating all the way back to October of 2010.) Wilson, oft compared to Drew Brees is doing for Seattle what Brees did for New Orleans in 2009. Not just winning, but instilling pride. That’s a damn hard thing to overcome. Advantage: Put the Saints bat ear back on the shelf.
Sure, A lot of this is speculative, but what the hell. I don’t get paid for this gig. The statistics are fact, the inferences are pure gossamer. Of course, if past statistics were 100% reliable for predicting NFL games then the New Orleans Saints would have a league record 0 wins, 690 losses, and 956 63-yard field goals. Thank god for gossamer.
Still, I carry on adding, averaging, drinking, analyzing, drinking… where was I? Oh, right Saints vs Seahawks. Every relative statistic from yards to scoring to turnovers favors the Seahawks in this game. Eighty percent of the media has already given them the win and the oddsmakers have settled on a 4.5 point spread in Seattle’s favor. But that’s where Sean Payton’s Saints rule the day… being overlooked and counted out. Being told it’s already over, don’t bother showing up. Advantage: Put a pound of spite on the Saints side and call me when the dust clears.
The Machine whirred, creaked and dricked for days before finally serving up the following numbers:
Saints 21.63 – 371 yards: 266 passing, 105 rushing
Seahawks 21.55 – 353 yards: 223 passing, 130 rushing
In recent memory, it has never given a closer score that wasn’t a tie. It’s going to be brutal, but it’s going to be a Saints win. I’ll actually give the Saints a 24-22 win in overtime. Yeah, overtime. This is the first playoff game of the 2013 season and it’s a playoff game in which the loser gets a second chance. And I’m banking on Seattle coming to see us at our house for the hoidays. Now let me go light this candle for St Expedite…
Department of Trivia:
Since 1967 This is only the second time the Saints have been 9-2; the first time we’ve gotten there by winning a game! In 1991 Jim Mora got us there from 9-1.
The Statistical Frippery:
Garrett Hartley extended his franchise record for PATs without a miss to 138.
Jimmy Graham (283-8th) is 2 receptions away from passing Tony Galbreath (284) on the franchise reception list. Graham (36-7th) is now just one TD pass away from a fifth place tie with Lance Moore and Danny Abramowicz (37 each).
Kenny Stills (470-75th) slipped past Jack Holmes (453) on the franchise receiving yards list. He needs 20 yards to move into 71st place past Wesley Carroll (476), Eric Guliford (486), Craig Heyward (488) and Az-Zahir Hakim (489).
Pierre Thomas (3460-4th) powered past Chuck Muncie (3393) and Reuben Mayes (3408) on the franchise rushing yards list. He is now 704 yards behind Dalton Hilliard (4164). Thomas (261-11th) needs 7 receptions to pass Hoby Brenner (267). Thomas (2133-20th) also needs just 38 receiving yards to pass Reggie Bush (2142).
Mark Ingram (1329-19th) swapped spots with Chris Ivory (1307) on the franchise rushing yards list.
Khiry Robinson (150-69th-t) tied Ladell Betts and Terrelle Smith on the franchise rushing yards list.
Keyunta Dawson became the 142nd Saint to sack an opposing quarterback. (Well, half-sack…)
The Sack Race:
Cameron Jordan (17.5-18th) had 2.5 sacks against the Falcons and surged past Junior Galette (15.5) and Roman Harper (17). Jordan now leads Galette 9.5 to 6 on the season and sits 1 sack behind Keith Mitchell (18.5).
Drew Brees (49,566-5th) passed Warren Moon (49,325) on the NFL’s career passing yards list! Brees is just 434 yards away from 50,000 career yards passing! Tom Brady (353-4th) leads Brees (352-5th) on the NFL career TD list. For now…