As the Saints begin defense of their Super Bowl title tomorrow afternoon in Seattle, I'm compelled to share a few thoughts that are hopefully somewhat unique to the people who get paid to analyze the National Football League for the likes of ESPN and Sports Illustrated.
First, I think the loudmouth pundits have failed to give the Saints enough credit for their 11-5 regular season run. There was much discussion about them suffering a "Super Bowl hangover" leading up to the season and though the 2010 campaign lacked the sparkle of 2009, the Saints took the best shots from every team on their schedule and are still alive. The same cannot be said for other pre-season faves like the Vikings and the Cowboys, play-off qualfiers from a year ago who couldn't match the hype surrounding them when it mattered most on Sunday afternoon.
Most of the experts are predicting an easy victory for New Orleans in Round One. I disagree. For starters, it's tough to beat the same team twice in one year. Despite Seattle's listless 7-9 record, the homefield, the crappy weather and the raucous crowd will play decidedly to their advantage tomorrow afternoon. Factor those circumstances in with injuries to the Saints two best running backs, Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas, and their up-and-comming tight end, Jimmy Graham (he caught the game-winning TD reception versus the Falcons on 12/27) and I anticipate this game will play out more like the Saints nailbiting 34-30 win over Cincinnati on Dec. 5th than their relatively easy 34-19 win against the Seahawks in the Superdome on Nov. 21st.
Thankfully, Drew Brees wears black and gold. His magic in the 4th quarter was the difference in several big Saints wins this year and I have a feeling #9 will put them over the top again tomorrow in the Pacific Northwest. Saints 21, Seahawks 16.