Saints-Seahawks Preview

The Associated Press

The New Orleans Saints shook off the notion that they can't win on the road in their playoff opener, though pulling off a victory at raucous CenturyLink Field in Saturday's NFC divisional matchup with the Seattle Seahawks will be a more daunting task.

The Seahawks will try to win a sixth straight home playoff contest and secure their 16th victory in 17 games on their own field when they take on a New Orleans team looking to avenge last month's blowout loss in Seattle.

Though all the attention leading up to their wild-card contest centered around their inability to win away from home, the Saints (12-5) snapped a three-game road losing streak with a 26-24 victory over Philadelphia last Saturday.

Shayne Graham hit a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give New Orleans its first postseason road win in six tries, as well as a shot at redemption in Seattle.

The NFC-best Seahawks (13-3), which led the NFL in total defense (273.6 yards per game), held Drew Brees to 147 yards - his fewest since 2006 - in a 34-7 home win Dec. 2. The Saints matched their lowest scoring output since coach Sean Payton took over in 2006, and their 188 total yards were the fewest under him.

After the one-sided loss, Brees said that if the Saints wanted to reach the Super Bowl, they'd probably have to win in Seattle in the playoffs.

''If we want to accomplish what we set out to accomplish this year then we better find a way to go there and win, and just hoping that we'd have another opportunity," he said. "And here we are, having that opportunity."

The Seahawks have won five straight home playoff games dating to a 27-20 loss to St. Louis on Jan. 8, 2005. They also had a 14-game run at CenturyLink Field before falling 17-10 to Arizona in Week 16. Seattle bounced back with a 27-9 victory over the Rams in the season finale.

With the winner advancing to the NFC championship against Carolina or San Francisco, Payton is certainly doing everything he can to get the Saints ready for the rematch. He's even had Seahawks logos painted on their outdoor and indoor practice fields this week.

''I feel like coach Payton is putting us in the moment, you know, visualize this is where we're going, this is what we're going to do and this is how it's going to look,'' linebacker Curtis Lofton said.

Brees threw for 404 yards and two scores but 11-5 New Orleans was upset 41-36 by 7-9 Seattle in a wild-card round matchup Jan. 8, 2011.

The eight-time Pro Bowler has an 84.0 passer rating on the road this season compared to 126.3 at home. He'll try to take advantage of his second chance against the Seahawks, who finished the regular season with the league's best pass defense at 172.0 yards per game.

Seattle had 28 interceptions and an opponent passer rating of 63.4, one of just 15 teams since 2000 to hold opposing passers to 65.0 or less.

Cornerback Richard Sherman led the NFL with eight interceptions, including four over the final three games. Earl Thomas also was a first-team All-Pro pick, while fellow safety Kam Chancellor was a second-team choice.

MVP candidate Russell Wilson put together one of his best efforts of the season in the first meeting, completing 22 of 30 passes for 310 yards with three touchdowns while adding 47 rushing yards.

Although he struggled in the loss to the Cardinals, Wilson threw for seven touchdowns with only one interception over his last four home games.

''I think it's common knowledge and human nature that you would like to think it's going to be the same, but we know better than that,'' coach Pete Carroll said. ''We need to respect this opportunity for what it is. It's a great championship matchup for us, and they're going to come loaded up and give us a great football game.''

Marshawn Lynch figures to play a prominent role despite being held to 45 yards on 16 carries in last month's win. The workhorse back hasn't posted a 100-yard game since Nov. 10 at Atlanta, but he had 131 yards - including a memorable 67-yard touchdown run - in the last playoff meeting.

The Saints are coming off a solid effort against the run, holding NFL rushing leader LeSean McCoy to 77 yards on 21 carries.

New Orleans' defense could face a tougher test Saturday with the Seahawks getting back wide receiver Percy Harvin, who played in one game this season after undergoing surgery to repair the labrum in his hip in early August.

Tight end Luke Willson has also returned to practice after being taken off the field in the season finale with a high-ankle sprain.

The Saints, who ran for 185 yards last weekend, are hoping to get Pierre Thomas back from a chest injury. If he can't go, Mark Ingram will likely get another start after gaining 97 yards and scoring against the Eagles.

The Seahawks tied for seventh with 101.6 rushing yards allowed per game, giving up 25 or less in two of their last three.

Seattle has won four of five home meetings, including the postseason victory three years ago.

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