NFC Wild Card Playoffs
New Orleans Saints (5) at Seattle Seahawks (4), Qwest Field, Seattle, WA
Saturday, January 8, 2011, 4:30 pm EST, TV: NBC
Opening Line: Saints -10
Current Line: Saints -10.5
Opening Total: 45
Current Total: 44.5
Money Line: Saints -600 / Seahawks +450
The Seattle Seahawks (7-9) may be the only playoff team in NFL history with a losing record, but they have new life and will be hosting a team that surprisingly may be in worse shape than them in the New Orleans Saints (11-5) on Saturday. The defending Super Bowl champion Saints (-10.5) are dealing with a few key injuries that could make it tougher to win this game than even the oddsmakers might think, especially considering how one-dimensional their offense has become.
New Orleans was without wide receiver Marques Colston (knee), tight end Jeremy Shockey (groin) and running back Pierre Thomas (ankle) last week in a 23-13 home loss to Tampa Bay. The team then lost the services of cornerback Malcolm Jenkins (knee), tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle) and running back Chris Ivory (foot) last week. Jenkins and Graham traveled with the team but are not expected to play while Ivory and Thomas were placed on injured reserve this week, ending their seasons.
With the running game in question and top receivers Colston, Shockey and Graham all in doubt, there will be even more pressure on Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees to carry the Saints on his shoulders. Brees topped the 4,000-yard mark in passing for the fifth year in a row and threw 32 touchdown passes, but he also tossed a career-high 22 interceptions. In fact, he has thrown at least one pick in 12 straight games, a sure sign that he has been forcing the ball too much.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks may not yet know who will be under center for them since Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst have both been splitting reps in practice. Whitehurst started last week’s 16-6 NFC West clincher against St. Louis over Hasselbeck, who has been dealing with a hip injury. But Hasselbeck obviously has more experience and is head coach Pete Carroll’s top choice.
Whitehurst showed some confidence against the Rams, completing 22 of 36 passes for 192 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions and running eight times for 30 yards. All were career-best numbers for the former San Diego reserve, who Carroll traded a second-round pick for before the season as insurance. Hasselbeck is expected to start though and completed a season-high 32 passes for a season-high 366 yards with no interceptions and one touchdown in the first meeting with New Orleans back in Week 11, which resulted in a 34-19 road loss.
Last week’s low-scoring win ended a string of eight straight OVERs cashing in Seahawks games. It also snapped Seattle’s three-game skid both straight-up and against the spread. The team has won four straight home playoff games dating back to 2004. The Saints have never won a road playoff game, going 0-3 with all the losses decided by at least 10 points.
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