By Jim Moore
The last time the Saints and Seahawks played, I not only took New Orleans and the five points but predicted that Sean Payton's team would win the game.
I could've sworn the Saints were 9-2 coming into that Monday night matchup, suggesting that they were equipped to at least make it a competitive game. But the Seahawks were 10-1 and unbeaten at home. I am here to tell you, again, that I was completely wrong with that pick. I have no excuses. I wasn't drinking. I just screwed up.
Despite his forgettable night back in Week 13, Drew Brees still gives the Saints the edge at quarterback. (AP)
I've been encouraged (mocked?) to pick the Saints again by listeners who think I'm wrong all the time. They're thinking it's a good sign for the Seahawks if I pick against them.
They would have been right two weeks ago, too, because I took the Rams and 10 in a game the Seahawks won 27-9, easily covering the spread.
This time around, the Seahawks are favored by eight over the Saints. Oddsmakers no doubt adjusted the line after seeing Seattle throttle the Saints 34-7.
The Saints have only one clear-cut advantage at tight end with Jimmy Graham, who had 16 touchdown receptions this year. But keep in mind that Graham had only three catches for 42 yards in the first game against Seattle.
Then again, linebacker K.J. Wright blanketed Graham in that game, and Wright is injured and won't play this time around. Nonetheless, you'd think that Malcolm Smith should have some success against Graham – the Seahawks' linebacker had two interceptions in the last two games.
|• Pick'em | 'Pete Carroll Show' | John Clayton||• O'Neil: Hawks mantra: They deal with us||• O'Neil: QBs Wilson, Brees play different roles||• O'Neil: TE Jimmy Graham is the mismatch||• O'Neil: FS Earl Thomas is the equalizer||• O'Neil: WR Percy Harvin is the wild card||• Moore: Harvin should be turned loose||• Huard: Seahawks should be able to run||• Henderson: Wilson hopes for pressure||• Henderson: Carroll stressing right mindset|
You'd also have to give the Saints an edge at quarterback, Drew Brees over Russell Wilson. Yet I say that begrudgingly for two reasons – in my mind, Wilson's the best quarterback in Seahawks history and Brees had a miserable night against the Seahawks last month. But he's still Drew Brees.
The Seahawks have an edge at every other position group aside from the offensive line, which needs to protect Wilson from Cameron Jordan, who had 12.5 sacks this year. Wilson was sacked 14 times in the last four games, an area of continued concern.
Will the Saints blitz like they did in the first game? Probably not. You know how that turned out – Wilson burned them time and again, taking advantage of man-to-man coverage downfield.
What about the Saints? Will they run more frequently? Mark Ingram rushed for nearly 100 yards against Philadelphia last Saturday.
You could say, well, the Eagles' rush defense isn't as stout as the Seahawks', but Philadelphia played well against the run down the stretch. And the Saints also ran for 125 yards at Carolina a few weeks ago in a narrow 17-13 loss. No one questions the Panthers' defense.
If you're leaning toward taking the Saints and the eight points, you like to think they will be the looser team now that they've shaken that road playoff jinx. What do they have to lose in Seattle? Everyone expects them to lose. That can have a galvanizing effect on a team. If the Saints win, can't you see Brees talking to Erin Andrews and telling everyone: "No one gave us a chance, but we all believed we could win."
But if you're thinking about taking the Seahawks and giving the eight, you point to them being the vastly superior team. You like that they're playing at home in front of the 12th Man, where they're 15-1 over the past two seasons.
You know their defense is the best in the league. You also like that receiver Percy Harvin promises to spark a sputtering offense.
The Seahawks can score on offense and with Harvin and Golden Tate, they can score on kickoff and punt returns, too.
Added up and put together, it's good news and bad news – the Seahawks will win to move on to the NFC Championship Game but won't cover the spread.
Prediction: Seahawks 23, Saints 20
Season record against the spread: 9-7