Seahawks vs. Saints

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Qwest Field

What: NFC wild-card playoff game

What it means: The Seahawks are the No. 4 seed in the conference. If they win, they will play the top-seeded Falcons in Atlanta next week, if the Eagles beat the Packers in Philadelphia on Sunday; or, the No. 2-seed Bears in Chicago, if the Packers beat the Eagles. The Saints are the No. 5 seed. If they win, they will play the Falcons in Atlanta if the Eagles beat the Packers; or, the Bears in Chicago if the Packers beat the Eagles.

Records: Seahawks were 7-9 and won the NFC West; Saints were 11-5 and finished second in the NFC South

TV: KING/5, with Tom Hammond, Mike Mayock and Alex Flanagan

Radio: 97.3 FM and 710 ESPN, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller; and Westwood One, with Larry Kahn, Dan Fouts and Mark Malone

Matchup microscope

Seahawks defense vs. Saints QB Drew Brees: The Saints’ Pro Bowl QB and MVP from last season’s Super Bowl was on his game in the Week 11 game between these teams in New Orleans. Brees completed 67 percent of his passes (29 of 43) for 382 yards and four touchdowns. He was even more impressive on third downs, completing 9 of 11 for 108 yards as the Saints converted 11 of their 15 third-down situations – including third-and-14, third-and-13 and third-and-10 (twice). “Drew Bees had a phenomenal game against us,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week. “He really had his way throwing the ball down the field.” To prevent a repeat performance, the Seahawks will need to generate more pressure on Brees than they did in New Orleans and also do a better of masking and mixing their coverages.

One to watch

Saints coverage units vs. Seahawks KOR-PR Leon Washington: If there is a dent in the Saints’ statistical armor, it’s their coverage units. They are allowing averages of 24.1 yards on kickoff returns and 11.9 on punt returns – which rank 24th and 28th in the league. Washington has been one of the Seahawks’ best, and most consistent, playmakers all season. He has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns – 101, 99 and 92 yards – and is averaging 25.6 yards. He is averaging 11.3 yards on punt returns, with a long of 84 yards.

Fun to watch

Saints OTs Jerome Bushrod and Jon Stinchcomb vs. Seahawks DEs Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock: The Saints’ tandem had the edge in Week 11. But Saturday, the game will be played at Qwest Field, where the din generated by the 12th Man crowd allows Clemons and Brock to get off the ball quicker against blockers who are dealing with a silent snap count. Clemons (11) and Brock (nine) combined for 20 sacks, making them the third most-productive duo in the league and forcing coordinator Gus Bradley to alter his approach. Brock used to spell Clemons at the “Leo” spot, but in recent games Bradley has been using them together more often. For Brock, 7½ of his sacks came at Qwest. But Clemons had 6½ on the road and 4½ at home.

One tough task

Seahawks vs. the red zone: In the Week 11 game in New Orleans, each team scored five times. But while the Saints got five touchdowns, the Seahawks got one TD and four field goals – despite reaching the Saints’ 2-yard line twice and 25-yard line on the other two occasions. You can’t beat anyone matching touchdowns with field goals, especially not the defending Super Bowl championships. Losing leading receiver Mike Williams to a foot injury in that game hurt the red-zone offense. “Mike Williams was really the main focal point of our red-zone game plan, and he got hurt,” QB Matt Hasselbeck said this week. “It just kind of threw us off a little bit. So I think we’re more balanced now.”


The Saints are 0-3 in previous road playoff games, while the Seahawks have won their past four home games in the postseason and are 6-2 overall in Seattle; at Qwest Field (4-1) and the Kingdome (2-1). … The Seahawks have not beaten a team with a winning record since their Week 6 upset of the Bears in Chicago. … The Saints have not lost to the team with a losing record since they were upset in Week 7 by the Browns in New Orleans. … Brees has thrown a career-high 22 interceptions, including at least one in the final 12 games of the regular season. He has thrown more than one six times and the Saints are 3-3 in those games. … Hasselbeck’s season-high 366 passing yards in the Week 11 game where the most allowed by the Saints this season. … The Saints averaged 27.1 points in their final eight games after averaging 20.9 in the first eight. … The Seahawks have scored more than 27 points only three times all season, and more than 20 eight times. … MLB Jonathan Vilma leads the Saints in tackles (128), while OLB David Hawthorne leads the Seahawks (105).

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