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At first glance tonight’s eye-catching encounter between the 9-2 New Orleans Saints and 10-1 Seattle Seahawks promises to
be of the high-scoring variety, but in reality one of these sides will likely have to grind out a victory in a game that should
go below the posted total of 47.5. Despite Head Coach Sean Payton’s vehement denials, his Saints unit have not been quite
as strong away from the friendly, familiar confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New Orleans have won all six of their
home games but are 3-2 on the road, where their offensive potency is much diminished, even versus struggling teams. QB Drew
Brees and company have failed to tally 30 points on the road all season, with their best output of 27 wasted in a defeat to
the New England Patriots. They also managed to put up 26 on a porous Chicago Bears defense, but have only scored 53 points
combined in their other three away trips to the Buccaneers, Jets and Falcons.
Though the Seahawks are a little bare in the secondary with Brandon Browner (groin) and Walter Thurmond (suspension) both set to miss out, the presence of ball-hawks Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas is enough to cause doubt in the mind and arm of any quarterback. The Seahawks defense already has 16 interceptions on the season and will look to force more turnovers in conditions that should certainly suit; rain or possibly even snow is expected to fall, whilst temperatures are likely to drop below zero. Climate aside, the incredible wall of noise created by the fans at CenturyLink Field is bound to have some impact on the communication and cohesion within the offense, so even with Brees at the helm it’s difficult to see New Orleans gaining the type of yardage in the air that we’re used to seeing them accumulate within the dome. With a three-pronged rushing attack in Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram at their disposal, the Saints will likely run the ball with regularity, or check down to the backs in the passing game for short chunks of yardage, consequently keeping the clock running.
The Seahawks have won an amazing 13 in a row at home, so whilst another victory is likely they certainly won’t have it all their own way. The Saints D has undergone a transformation from last season’s abysmal display, and they now rank third in the NFL in pass defense having allowed an average of less than 200 yards in the air per game. With Sidney Rice out for the season and Percy Harvin doubtful, Russell Wilson’s receiving options are limited to mercurial talents such as Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. Add in the wet, cold weather and another big game for running back Marshawn Lynch could be on the cards, whilst Wilson himself also poses a severe threat with his speed and mobility. Unfriendly conditions and a heavy reliance on the ground game should ensure tonight's game goes under.