TALE OF THE TAPE

Tale Of The Tape: New Orleans Saints At Seattle Seahawks

New Orleans Saints
Seattle Seahawks
(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)
(credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)
(credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Quarterback
Winner The Saints had a key breakthrough in winning a road playoff game against the Eagles, but accomplishing that feat against the Seahawks will require an even greater effort. They have the right triggerman in Drew Brees, who stayed calm and performed well against Philadelphia. If his offensive line gives him time, Brees is among the most accurate passers in the game.
Russell Wilson is a sensational leader who has keyed the Seahawks’ rise the past two seasons. Wilson is an excellent decision maker who had a 26-9 TD-interception ratio this season and completed 63.1 percent of his passes in 2013. However, he had just four TD passes -- and three interceptions -- in the last four games of the season.
Offense
Since Pierre Thomas was sidelined, the Saints turned to Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson against the Eagles and they combined for 142 rushing yards. The Saints will need a semblance of a ground game against the Seahawks. Tight end Jimmy Graham will catch nearly everything he can touch, while Marques Colston is a dependable route runner. Kenny Stills has big-play ability.
Winner The Seahawks depend on running back Marshawn Lynch to pick up a big chunk of yardage and take pressure off of Wilson. Lynch ran for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns, while averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are a dependable but unspectacular receiving duo. Carroll is hoping explosive Percy Harvin can make a contribution in this game.
Defense
The main reason the Saints were able to play consistently in 2013 was the consistent return they got from their defense under coordinator Rob Ryan. New Orleans ranked fourth in yards allowed, after ranking dead-last in that category a year ago. Cameron Jordan and Junior Gallette combined for 24.5 sacks, while middle linebacker Curtis Lofton led the Saints with 125 tackles.
Winner The Seahawks have one of the most intimidating defenses in the league. In addition to ranking first in fewest yards allowed, the Seahawks will punish running backs and receivers with their nasty tackling. Cornerback Richard Sherman is probably the best cover man in the game, while free safety Earl Thomas had five interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Special Teams
The Saints were able to get past the Eagles in the wild-card game because placekicker Shayne Graham made all four of his FG attempts, including the game-winner with no time on the clock. However, Graham was a late-season addition and may not be dependable.
Winner The Seahawks have been one of the best coverage teams in the league as they rarely give up any big plays on punt or kickoff returns. Placekicker Steven Hauschka made a remarkable 33-of-35 FG attempts this season, while Jon Ryan is an excellent directional punter.

The Winner Is

(credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Winner Seattle Seahawks
3 out of 4

The Saints dropped a 34-7 decision at Seattle in Week 13, but they have the tools to stay with the Seahawks if they don’t get overwhelmed by the crowd noise and the Seahawks' defense. Winning on the road in the wild-card game was a step up for the Saints, and they should be able to keep it close.
-Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor

MORE TALES OF THE TAPE

  1. (Photo Credit: Grant Halverson, Getty Images) (Photo Credit: Gene Sweeney Jr., Getty Images)
    Sweet 16: #1 Duke Vs. #5 Utah

    So much for the weak Pac-12 this year: The Utah Utes are one of three teams from the beleaguered conference to make the Sweet 16 this year, and they’ll face the best ACC team left in the tournament: Duke.

  2. (Photo Credit: Joe Robbins, Getty Images) (Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images)
    Sweet 16: #1 Kentucky Vs. #5 West Virginia

    With an undefeated record coming into March Madness, this is the team that people tried to pick upsets over to help win their brackets.

  3. (Photo Credit: Mike McGinnis, Getty Images) (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)
    Sweet 16: #1 Wisconsin Vs. #5 North Carolina

    Bo Ryan has led his Wisconsin Badgers to March Madness in all 14 season that he has coached the team.

See All Tales of the Tape