I’ve already gone in depth in What to Watch about the role I feel the Seattle Seahawks Run Offense will play in the game, and how that would be an important part of a Seattle victory. There are other things that I would love to see go right and could go a long way to both a win on Sunday and making me feel a lot better about the next coming weeks:
1. Pressure Cooking
With Michael Bennett out for the game and perhaps longer, it will be interesting to see how the team manages to keep the pass rush going and which players step up in his absence. Cliff Avril and his one man quest to rebuild Haiti has been going well the last few weeks as he has tallied 6.5 Sacks on the season, including 4.5 Sacks in the last 2 games. Someone will need to step up though, with the two most likely players being Frank Clark (4.5 Sacks) and Cassius Marsh (2 Sacks). If either of these can combine with some well timed stunts and blitzes using Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright, that should generate the pass rush needed to help keep Drew Brees from picking apart the Defense.
2. Graham Goes Big
The New Orleans Saints are TERRIBLE at defending Tight Ends. Jimmy Graham is a really good pass catching Tight End. This is a mismatch. New Orleans is 31st in Defensive DVOA defending the Tight End, yielding an average of 47.7 yards on 6.5 targets per game. That effort is being tossed into the meat grinder that has been Jimmy Graham as he now has 27 receptions for 408 yards, and that is after being used very sparingly the first 2 weeks of the Season. Graham has games with 113, 100, and 89 yards receiving so far in 2016. I’d expect to see him hit 3 digits again this week, which would help create stability in the passing game with a banged up group of receivers on the outside.
3. Legion of Boom
The powerful Offense of the New Orleans Saints relies on the arm of Drew Brees and the playmaking of the Wide Receivers. Pass Rush can help limit Brees, but he is too good to just blow out of the game. The Legion of Boom will need to show up without Kam Chancellor and put together a very effective gameplan. The best chance New Orleans has of coming up with a win is if Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, and Coby Fleener can get loose and turn the game into a gun fight. Richard Sherman will hold his own on half the field, and Earl Thomas has been playing a great Deep Center the last several weeks. Look for Jeremy Lane to possibly move to the outside as his speed matches up better with Cooks and Thomas, while Shead has the size to body up on Snead. This will be a big test for Kelcie McCray, but if he can keep Fleener in check and help out against Wide Receivers that will likely go far in limiting the Saints’ Offense and allowing Seattle to leave with a victory.