Preview: Saints at Seahawks
By Kyle Johansen
One of the three late afternoon Sunday games will be a fascinating one to watch, as Teddy Bridgewater leads the Saints into Seattle to face the Seahawks and their renowned home field advantage.
Drew Brees had surgery on his hand this week after injuring it in the first quarter of last week’s game at the Rams. He’ll be out for the next six weeks. While Teddy Bridgewater will be the starter in his place, head coach Sean Payton has said they’ll go with “a two QB approach” in this one, mixing in the multi-talented Taysom Hill.
The Seahawks are coming off a win against another team that lost its starting quarterback, as Ben Roethlisberger left last week’s game late in the second quarter. He will miss the rest of the season. Seattle went into halftime of that game losing 10-7 but they outscored the Steelers 21-16 in the second half to win 28-26 as 3-point underdogs.
It’s only been two weeks, but Football Outsiders and their advanced stat DVOA has this game as a mismatch. Through two weeks the Seahawks rank #7 in DVOA while the Saints rank #25. It’s way too early to be judging season long stats like DVOA, but it does give us at least a snapshot of what the advanced analytics think of the first two weeks.
But how good are the Seahawks really? They faced what could be a bottom three team in the NFL in the Cincinnati Bengals in week one as 9-point favorites and barely squeaked out a 1-point win. They then went to Pittsburgh and while putting up 28 points is commendable; they allowed a backup quarterback to stay in the game and almost win outright.
Seahawks Offense vs. Saints Defense
The Seahawks want to run the ball and play good defense. If they’re forced to put the game in Russell Wilson’s hands, Seattle is fine with that, but it’s not how they prefer to win in 2019. One issue Seattle has had over the first two weeks is a fumbling problem from their number one running back Chris Carson. He’s lost two fumbles in two weeks, and his 3.5 yards per carry isn’t impressing anyone.
It’s certainly not impressing head coach Pete Carroll, who said to Sirius radio that the Seahawks will be splitting carries this week with Carson and 2018 first round pick Rashaad Penny. At 5’11” and 220 pounds, Penny looks like the prototypical three-down NFL running back. He also ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.46 seconds at the combine, so it’s a little surprising that he wasn’t already garnering more work in the Seattle backfield.
Penny has averaged 5.0 yards per carry this year, running for 80 yards on 16 attempts. That falls right in line with what he did last year averaging 4.9 yards per carry. It would appear that the Seahawks have two very impressive running backs and should be looking to play ball control all night against the Saints. Per defensive DVOA, the Saints rank dead last in defending against the run. This could be a long night for New Orleans.
Saints Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
Teddy Bridgewater is a dink and dunker extraordinaire. But the wrinkle the Saints will be able to pull out in this game is Taysom Hill. Hill is best known for annoying Drew Brees’ fantasy owners by vulturing touchdowns and red zone touches. In Sunday’s game, Hill may be the X-factor for the Saints offense.
That may seem to be high praise for a third string QB, and it is, but with Sean Payton calling the shots, Hill may be invaluable in this type of situation. You can already see the bookmaker’s respecting both Payton, and the Saints QB room as this game was only adjusted 3.5-points with the Brees injury. Many believe that this line is short, myself included, but before placing a heavy bet on the Seahawks, the Taysom Hill and Sean Payton combination have to be factored in.
The hard part is no one knows exactly what this Saints offense will look like. We know that there should be less downfield throws. We also know that Teddy Checkdown will be looking to complete easy passes and trying to get the ball out of his hands before Jadeveon Clowney can get to him. Then there is Alvin Kamara to consider.
Kamara does much of his damage receiving the ball out of the backfield, and I’d expect to see a heavy dose of passes to Kamara in this game. He’s clearly the Saints best playmaker, especially now that Brees isn’t throwing the ball to Michael Thomas. If you’re playing DFS, Kamara looks to be a valuable play.
The look-ahead line on this game last week before the Brees injury was Seattle -1. That seemed about right, considering Seattle’s better-than-average home-field advantage. The line moved to Seattle -4.5 and has since been bought back by Saints supporters to Seahawks -4. It appears to be a short number, but considering Seattle only beat Cincinnati by one point at home in week one, you can start to make a little more sense of this spread.
It’s hard to say where this line will go. I would expect Seattle money to come in based on principle alone. If you give the Seahawks a 4-point home-field advantage as they enjoyed in their heyday, the line looks off without Brees at quarterback. But with that said, we really don’t know how good the Seahawks are. Currently 73% of the bets are on Seattle, but only 50% of the money is on the Seahawks, meaning the big bettors are backing the Saints.