The Seahawks are close to unbeatable at home. Since Russell Wilson took over at quarterback last year, Seattle is 13-0 at CenturyLink Field.
The Saints are close to unbeatable at home, too. Not counting the season coach Sean Payton was suspended, or a Week 17 loss in 2010 when New Orleans rested starters, the Saints have won 18 straight home games, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune. The last time the Saints had Payton and something to play for and lost at the Superdome was Oct. 24, 2010.
In the playoffs it will be even harder to beat those teams at home, if that's possible. It's hard to imagine either one getting clipped at home in January with a Super Bowl berth on the line. That's what makes Monday night's game enormous.
Monday night's game between the Saints and Seahawks in Seattle is last call for anyone to stop Seattle from grabbing home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks are 10-1, and with a win against the Saints they would have at least a two-game lead on every other NFC team with four games to play. They would also hold the tiebreaker over the Saints and Panthers, the only other teams in the NFC with three or fewer losses.
If there's a team that could stop the Seahawks from getting the No. 1 seed, it might be the Saints. New Orleans is 9-2, and has been one of the few dominant teams in the league. Saints quarterback Drew Brees is capable of beating any team in any venue, especially since the Seahawks are a bit thin at defensive back due to Walter Thurmond's suspension and an injury/upcoming suspension to Brandon Browner.
This is one of the greatest late-season matchups in the history of "Monday Night Football." Counting games from Week 10 forward, the Saints and Seahawks have the second-best combined winning percentage (.864) for two Monday night combatants. The only Monday night matchup that topped that was the 1990 meeting between the 49ers and Giants, who were both 10-1.
It's a great matchup and both teams probably realize that it will likely determine where the NFC championship game will be held.
(Here are the other NFL games this week, from best to worst (all times Eastern, all games Sunday unless noted otherwise):
2. Denver at Kansas City, 4:25 p.m.: It says something about Saints-Seahawks that a meeting between two 9-2 teams isn't the best game of the week. The Broncos beat the Chiefs 27-17 two weeks ago, but that was in Denver. Arrowhead Stadium will be revved up for a game that could very well determine the AFC West champions and the top seed in the conference.
3. Cincinnati at San Diego, 4:25 p.m.: This has huge playoff implications too. The 5-6 Chargers will be right in the mix for a wild-card spot with a win. The Bengals still have a good shot at a first-round bye, but can't afford many more losses.
4. Arizona at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.: A few weeks ago this game didn't look appealing, but both teams have been playing very well. The Eagles are tied for first place in the NFC East and the Cardinals are 7-4 and battling for a playoff spot. Can the Eagles' offense keep rolling against a very good Cardinals defense?
5. Pittsburgh at Baltimore, 8:30 p.m. (Thurs.): The third of three Thanksgiving games probably won't be a high-scoring affair, because this rivalry always produces hard-hitting grinders. Both teams are tied for the sixth spot in the AFC at 5-6, so it's an important game in the playoff picture.
6. Tennessee at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.: Tennessee is yet another 5-6 AFC team looking for a playoff spot. They had the Colts on the ropes a couple weeks ago, but let Indianapolis rally for a win. The Titans would be just one game back in the AFC South with a win over the reeling Colts.
7. Green Bay at Detroit, 12:30 p.m. (Thurs.): A classic Thanksgiving matchup. Only a half-game separates these teams in the NFC North. The Lions need this win to break a two-game losing streak and take back control of the division.
8. Miami at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.: In the never-ending parade of 5-6 AFC teams, here are two more. The loser is going to be in a lot of trouble in the playoff race.
9. St. Louis at San Francisco, 4:05 p.m.: Last year's meeting in San Francisco produced an odd tie. The 49ers can't afford a loss (or a tie) with so much competition for NFC wild-card spots.
10. Oakland at Dallas, 4:30 p.m. (Thurs.): The Raiders have gotten some good play from rookie quarterback Matt McGloin the past two weeks. The Cowboys secondary is bad, so McGloin has a chance to impress again.
11. Chicago at Minnesota, 1 p.m.: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson goes against the 32nd-ranked run defense in the NFL. That could get ugly.
12. Tampa Bay at Carolina, 1 p.m.: This could actually be a sneaky-good game. The Buccaneers are playing a lot better, and have won three straight after an 0-8 start. The Panthers need to win to stay in the hunt for the NFC South title.
13. New England at Houston, 1 p.m.: A few months ago we assumed this would be up there with Saints-Seahawks and Broncos-Chiefs. That's before Houston fell apart. The Texans have lost nine in a row.
14. N.Y. Giants at Washington, 8:30 p.m.: It's a great historic rivalry, but both of these teams are pretty bad.
15. Atlanta at Buffalo, 4:05 p.m.: The Bills are playing this one in Toronto. The poor folks up there deserve better than this snoozer.
16. Jacksonville at Cleveland, 1 p.m.: Who doesn't want to see a game between quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Chad Henne?
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