Storylines Plentiful for Saturday’s Matchup between New Orleans and Seattle

With Seattle’s 16-6 victory last Sunday against St. Louis, the Seahawks clinched the right to play host to the defending Super Bowl champion; however, those cheering for the team from the Emerald City should know they have history on their side.

Since 2005 a defending Super Bowl Champion hasn’t won a single playoff game.

That little nugget, included with the following, are some of the biggest storylines for Seattle’s home playoff game Saturday against the New Orleans Saints.

The post-contract extension era begins
After leading the team in receiving this season following a two-year hiatus from professional football, Seattle’s Mike Williams signed a three-year contract extension last Sunday.

The 6-foot-5, 242-pound wide receiver is set to make at least $11.74 million over the next three seasons.

Prior to signing the extension, Williams had fallen on hard times, recording five receptions for 31 yards and a touchdown over the span of the season’s final two regular-season contests. Now that the 27-year-old has cashed in, will his big-play ability resurface and, if so, will it happen as early as Saturday?

The quarterback controversy
The starter who injured a hip two weeks ago on a one-yard touchdown run or the backup who, in his second-ever start as a professional last Sunday, clinched Seattle’s first division championship and spot in the playoffs since 2007…who do you start?

Both Matt Hasselbeck and backup Charlie Whitehurst received practice snaps this week, with the former being a full participant Wednesday.

Hasselbeck, a 12-year veteran, owns numerous Seattle franchise records at the quarterback position including all-time passing yards, completions and attempts. He’s also earned his way to three Pro Bowls, has taken the Seahawks to the playoffs five times and the Super Bowl once.

Whitehurst, the five-year veteran who hadn’t started a game in the National Football League prior to Week Nine of this season, posted career highs in passing yards, quarterback rating and rushing yards last Sunday against the visiting Rams under the watchful eyes of a national television audience.

Keeping within striking distance
When Seattle’s lost this year, it hasn’t been close.

In the team’s nine losses, the closest point margin has been 15. If the Seahawks want to end Saturday with a win, keeping a possible deficit to last year’s Super Bowl MVP, Drew Brees, manageable will be paramount.

All on Brees?
The past 48 hours have been rough for the New Orleans Saints’ offense.

In the past two days, the team’s placed its top two running backs on Injured Reserve. With both Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas now out for the remainder of the season, Reggie Bush is expected to take over the lead duties at the position. Backing him up will be Joique Bell, who joins the team after being a member of the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad, and recently resigned DeShawn Wynn.

Bush has had just three games of more than 13 carries over the past three seasons, meaning quarterback Drew Brees could receive that much more responsibility to move the ball down field and put points on the scoreboard.

That news could be just what the doctor ordered for the Seahawks. Despite owning the league’s 27th-best pass defense, Seattle is coming off a regular-season finale that saw the team hold heralded rookie Sam Bradford to less than 53 percent in terms of single-game pass completions and single-game quarterback rating. Couple the momentum from what the team did against Bradford with the possibility of having to face a one-dimensional Saints’ offense and a 7-9 Seahawks team playing at home where it is 5-3 this season could have a shot at being something more than a Wild Card weekend doormat.

Can’t get enough NFLGridironGab? Follow SeahawksGab Editor Devon Heinen on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DevonHeinen.


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