Greetings from Seattle, after a seemingly long, anticipated wait the playoffs begin today for the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have enjoyed a very nice season to this point. They've proven to be a good squad...but they're not special yet.
In 2009, the Saints earned everything they got, yet at the same time everything fell into place. That doesn't seem to be the case entering Saturday's 3:30 pm central contest against the Seattle Seahawks. For one, the Saints didn't earn a bye for the first time during head coach Sean Payton's three playoff appearances. Second, here they are on the road...about 2,200 miles away from home at a team that was 6-9 a week ago at this time.
Then there's the injuries. They continue to pour in for the Saints like the annoying, light rain that falls from the Seattle sky. You know by now the Saints will be without runningbacks Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory. Not only for today...but the remainder of the season. My gut seriously doubts a "Two Dat" without the services of these two. Thomas was the unsung hero of last year's Super Bowl Championship...scoring hard-nosed touchdowns on the ground and on well-designed screen passes. Considering No. 23 has seemingly been at odds with the Saints since last off-season began concerning a long-term contract he never got...Thomas may be history after this year. Ivory is a name that no one thought would be important before the season began. Turns out he led the team in rushing and supplied the type of raw power that could certainly be used in the offseason.
There will be no tight end Jimmy Graham and likewise no safety Malcolm Jenkins against the Seahawks either. Graham was quickly budding as Drew Brees' go-to-guy in the clutch, while Jenkins had arguably the best season of any Saint defender. It will be time for aging stars Jeremy Shockey and Darren Sharper to prove their worth.
Speaking of stars...it's time for Reggie Bush to prove he can truly be one. Bush will get that opportunity in the postseason. Don't be surprsied if he catches 10 passes against the Seahawks. Brees can really utilize him in the passing game. A few long runs on draw plays wouldn't hurt either. Bush had a strong effort against Tampa last week...he'll need to build on it.
And here's calling on Colston. Marques Colston has beat himself up plenty this season. Indeed, he's dropped far too many passes for a player of his caliber. But after sitting out the regular season finale and seeing him walk around the team hotel...I see the focus in the eyes to be the true No. 12 again.
The elements and Qwest Field crowd could really be bothersome. However, I would lean towards the fan noise being more of a factor than the weather. If the rain is anything like it's been the last couple of days, I don't believe it will hamper Brees and the passing game that much. It's simply midst, not heavy downpours. Even if there's a little snow, I don't think it's that big of a deal. The crowd noise, however, is all that and a bag of Zapp's. Qwest Field has a well-earned reputation for causing the opposing team to have false starts and communication problems. The Saints need a quick lead to shut them up.
I believe the Saints defense will shut down hampered quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and the Seattle offense. Defensive coordinator Greg Williams is likley coaching his final postseason with the Saints. Demand for Williams as a head coach is quickly building like grunge music in the early 90s. Sorry, I'm in Seattle.
And finally...Mr Brees. After reading Sean Payton's "Home Team" and sports writer Jeff Duncan's "From Bags to Riches," I've just started on Brees' book "Coming Back Stronger." I knocked out 75 pages of it on the plane and it's a great read so far.
I know Brees is ready to write another championship chapter. I just question if he's got enough help to do so.
However, Brees and the Saints will do enough to get by Saturday.