Up next: New Orleans Saints

Posted Jan 6, 2014

Rematches are the norm, rather than the exception, in this weekend’s divisional round of the NFL playoffs. And it starts with Saturday’s rematch between the Seahawks and Saints at CenturyLink Field.

A look at the Seahawks’ opponent in their divisional-round playoff game, the New Orleans Saints:

When: Saturday, 1:35 p.m., CenturyLink Field

Record: 11-5 in the regular season, good for the NFC’s second wild-card berth and No. 6 seed

Postseason: Beat the Eagles 26-24 in Philadelphia in a wild-card game on Saturday night

Playoff implications: The winner of Saturday’s game advances to the NFC Championship game. 

Where they ranked: No. 4 on offense during the regular season (25th rushing, 2nd passing); No. 4 on defense (19th rushing, 2nd passing)

TV: FOX (Q13), with Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch and Erin Andrews

Series: Regular season series is tied at six games apiece, including a 34-7 Seahawks victory in the last meeting on Dec. 2 at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks also won the only postseason meeting, 41-36 in a 2010 wild-card game in Seattle.

Star power: Drew Brees. The Saints’ eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback passed for 5,162 yards during the regular season by completing 446 of 650 passes and also had 39 TD passes for a 104.7 passer rating. It was the third consecutive season with 5,000-plus passing yards for Brees; and sixth time in the past seven seasons that he has thrown 600-plus passes and had 400-plus completions; and sixth consecutive season he has thrown 30-plus TD passes; and third time in the past five seasons his passer rating has been at least 100. It’s enough to make your right arm tired just typing all that. But like this team, Brees has been two different QBs this season. There’s the one who played at the Superdome, where the Saints were 8-0 and Brees had a 126.2 passing rating because he completed 73.6 percent of his passes and had 27 TD passes compared to three interceptions. Then there’s the one who played away from the Superdome, where the Saints were 3-5 and Brees had an 84.8 passer rating because he completed 64 percent of his passes and had 12 TD passes compared to nine interceptions.

Unsung hero: Terron Armstead. The 6-foot-5, 304-pound rookie left tackle from Arkansas-Pine Bluff will make his fourth NFL start on the biggest stage so far in Saturday’s divisional playoff game against the Seahawks. Armstead stepped in for the final two regular season games after coach Sean Payton benched Charles Brown because he was out-played by the Rams’ Robert Quinn in Week 15. Armstead, a third-round draft choice, had a bulls-eye drawn on his No. 72 jersey last week by Eagles’ linebacker Trent Cole. “He’s very athletic, but he’s got some weak spots,” Cole said. “That’s the thing, man; going into a game you take advantage of them.” Cole had a sack among his five tackles on Saturday night, but it was Armstead and his team that prevailed as the Saints ran for 185 yards and Brees completed 20 of 30 passes for 250 yards.

On the spot: Whoever fills in for Keenan Lewis, if the Saints’ cornerback can’t play because of the concussion he got against the Eagles. Philly’s DeSean Jackson, he of the 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine TD catches during the regular season, was a nonfactor when Lewis was on him. But after Lewis went out, the Eagles went right at rookie replacement Rod Sweeting and Jackson finished with three catches for 53 yards, including a 40-yarder. The Saints’ secondary already is playing without CB Jabari Greer, out for the season since November with a knee injury; and S Kenny Vaccaro, out for the season since early December with an ankle injury. They’ll need Lewis on Saturday.  

Burning question: What’s gotten into the Saints’ defense? Two words; or one name: Rob Ryan. Last season, the Saints allowed an NFL-record 7,042 yards, or an average of 440.1. This season, it was 4,891 yards, or an average of 305.7 to rank No. 4 in the league. Take a least two bows Rob Ryan, who was brought in as the new coordinator and put some needed coordination into the Saints’ defensive efforts. “I feel like we have one of the better defenses in the league, and that we have all season,” DE Cameron Jordan told reporters after Saturday night’s game.

Numbers to know: 1, road playoff victories for the Saints in franchise history. … 16, TD catches by TE Jimmy Graham to lead the NFL. … .439, the Saints’ conversion percentage on third downs (97 of 221). … .474, the Saints’ conversion percentage on fourth downs (9 of 19). … 155, points scored by the Saints in the second quarter. … 156, points scored by the Saints in the first and third quarters combined. … 92.1, average rushing yards for the Saints during the regular season. … 185, rushing yards by the Saints against the Eagles on Saturday night. … 19, turnovers by the Saints during the regular season, tied for third-fewest in the NFL. … 19, turnovers forced by the Saints, fourth-fewest in the NFL. … 274, first downs allowed by the Saints, fewest in the NFL. … 359, first downs by the Saints, fourth-most in the NFL.

Familiar faces: ILB and third-leading tackler David Hawthorne was the Seahawks’ leading tackler from 2009-11. Backup ILB Will Herring played for the Seahawks from 2007-10. Backup LB Kyle Knox was with the Seahawks in training camp in 2013. K Shayne Graham was with the Seahawks in training camp in 2001. FB Jed Collins played at Washington State. Assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt coached for the Seahawks from 1982-91. General manager Mickey Loomis worked in the Seahawks’ front office from 1983-98. Director of college scouting Rick Reiprish worked in the Seahawks’ scouting department from 1984-94. Area scout Mike Baugh worked for the Seahawks in various capacities from 1992-99. Area scout Terry Wooden played linebacker for the Seahawks from 1990-96. Director of operations James Nagaoka worked for the Seahawks from 1977-1999.

The last word: “It’s a one-game season right now. Everybody is amped up and we’re definitely fortunate to have a second chance to get at these guys. So everybody is looking forward to it.” – Saints NT Broderick Bunkley