Aaron Brooks had little respect for a Seahawks defense that forced three fumbles (two by Mr. Brooks himself), picked off one of his passes, sacked Brooks twice and nearly decapitated Donte Stallworth on a crossing route, so one has to imagine that this year’s secondary will have Brooks’ quote up on the bulletin board heading into the first game of the regular season.
The arrogance displayed by Brooks after such a poor performance is perhaps why he has never been able to elevate his game to next level, despite his obvious physical skills. Even with the support of one of the best running backs in the NFC in Deuce McAllister and a WR corps that includes two top-tier wideouts in Joe Horn and Donte Stallworth.
On the ground, Deuce has rapidly become one the NFL’s elite running backs, but has, thus far, unable to carry the Saints into the Playoffs like many of his contemporaries. Still, he ripped last year’s Seahawks D for 4.5 yards per carry, so the front seven have their work cut out for them. On the other hand, neither Ahman Green nor LaDainian Tomlinson were able to accomplish much of anything against the first string Seattle defense this preseason (although Tomlinson didn't see much time on the field), and that was without Grant Wistrom and Marcus Tubbs for a majority of the snaps.
The matchup I’m most looking forward to, though, is the New Orleans WR corps vs. the Seahawks secondary. Last year the secondary surrendered 270 yards but just one score, and this year’s model appears to be much improved, with FA Pro Bowler Bobby Taylor unable to crack the starting rotation. From the Saints side of the ball Joe Horn and Donte Stallworth are good, solid receivers, although Horn isn’t as good as he thinks he is. As proof I offer an ESPN interview from Preseason 2003 where Joe referred to himself in the third person for the entirety of the interview while bragging about his skills. I can’t help but think that’s where Budweiser got the concept for the “Leon” character in last year’s ads (Interviewer: “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’, Leon.” Leon: “Yeah, well, ain’t no ‘we’ neither.”).
And, of course, there’s “The Hit”. One has to imagine that Dante Stallworth will remember having to go fetch his helmet after having his clock cleaned by Ken Hamlin in last year’s opener while lining up for any crossing routes this Sunday. (Just look at the top of the page and tell me YOU wouldn’t be hesitant to cross through Mr. Hamlin’s Neighborhood again).
On defense, New Orleans is very stout on the defensive line with a good crop of young talented players (Charles Grant, Will Smith, and Jonathan Sullivan) and talented veterans (Bryan Young, Darren Howard, Willie Whitehead). There is no question that the Seattle offensive line, anchored by Pro Bowlers Steve Hutchinson and recently re-signed Walter Jones, has their work cut out for them. Beyond the front four however, the Saints’ defense has many question marks. Their linebacker corps is suspect, and the entire right side of their starting secondary is, ironically, composed of older veterans who used to play for the Seahawks (Fred Thomas and Jay Bellamy).
If Hasselbeck is given enough time to throw, I expect him to have a huge game this Sunday. In fact, I look for all of Seattle receivers to do well as neither starting corner for New Orleans matches up well against Jackson and Robinson on the outside, and if the safeties cheat over to help, the middle will be wide open for Bobby Engram and/or the dual attacks from Itula Mili and Jerramy Stevens.
And, as always, any team that allows Shaun Alexander to get out of the blocks quickly is in for a very long day, as Alexander’s skill seems to magically increase as his confidence rises. The New Orleans defensive line should be able to keep Alexander in check, at least at the beginning, but once of offensive ball gets rolling, I foresee Shaun breaking 100 yards on the ground.
All in all, this homer looks for history to repeat itself: Brooks will once again own the Seattle secondary with his eyes, but, just like last year, the game will belong to Seattle.
Final Score: Seattle
– 31, New Orleans 13.
Now, in the spirit of the BCS, I'm proud to present "The Computer Speaks". In the interest of fair play, I had a highly advanced computer simulation (aka as "Madden 2005") play the upcoming Seattle-New Orleans game 5 times and took the average of key stats to see how well the virtual world matches up to the real thing. Here's how the (silicon) chips fell:
In each of the five games simulated in a CPU vs. CPU battle with the rosters as per the NFL on Friday night, the Seahawks came out on top. Interestingly enough in two of the games, Matt Hasselbeck was knocked out of the game for a quarter. Each time, Trent Dilfer drove the 'Hawks to a FG.
The Seahawks averaged 23 points per game while the Saints scraped together a mere 5.
Hasselbeck was precise during his time on the field completing 67% of his passes for an average of 203 yards and 2 TDs.
Alexander was serviceable despite the 5-minute quarters, managing to grind out 4.6 yards per carry, while his counterpart for the Saints, Deuce McAllister was only able to cobble together 36 yards total in five games.
The Seattle defense managed to stifle the Saints at every turn sacking Brooks 2 times per game, with Chike Okeafor ringing up at least one sack in each simulation.
But the true star of these games was Koren Robinson who averaged 146 yards and 2 touchdowns per game, topped off by a 178 yard 3 touchdown performance in the second game.
Both kickers were able to hit everything inside the 45 although Josh Brown was 3-5 from 50+ including a 55-yard monster the cleared the crossbar with room to spare.
The only area of concern in the virtual world was during kick returns where Seattle gave up an average of 28 yards per return, although, thankfully, no TDs (thanks to an ankle tackle by Josh Brown in game 4).
All in all, a satisfying few hours watching the Saints get smacked around. The only thing missing was the post-game press conference where Aaron Brooks could once again claim "ownership" of the Seattle defense ...with his eyes.
Dylan Johnson writes for Seahawks.NET. He’s also well-known as “NJSeahawksFan” on our Fan Forums. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.