The 3-2 New Orleans Saints travel to face the 2-4 Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football to cap off week 7 of NFL action.
New Orleans is coming off a bye week after a week five victory at Washington. Seattle has lost two straight and have dropped four of their last five contests.
The Saints come into the week with the league's 15th ranked defense. They've given up an average of 354 yards per game, but the 18.2 points/game against them is the third best in the league. New Orleans has been especially impressive on third downs, ranking seventh, and red-zone defense, where they rank first in the NFL.
Seattle enters this week without their leading running back and one of the league's most dangerous quarterbacks. Veteran QB Russell Wilson and RB Chris Carson are both on injured reserve for an offense that ranks 22nd in total yards and passing production.
A short-handed Seahawks offense will need to have a balanced attack to support Wilson's replacement, QB Geno Smith. They’ll have to do it against one of the league's toughest run defenses over the last four years.
SAINTS RUN DEFENSE VS. SEAHAWKS RUSHING ATTACK
New Orleans Run Defense
New Orleans owns the league's second ranked rush defense, giving up only 79 yards per game and a league-low 3.3 per carry. The Saints have held 37 of their last 59 opponents under 100 yards on the ground, including four of five games this year.
A defensive line that has struggled to generate sacks has remained strong against the run for this defense. Defensive tackles Shy Tuttle, Malcolm Roach, Christian Ringo, and Montravius Adams have stood up interior blocking and plugged inside lanes.
Defensive ends Cam Jordan, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Carl Granderson, and rookie Payton Turner have crashed down on plays but maintained discipline, making it difficult for a runner to bounce off-tackle.
LB Demario Davis is having another All-Pro campaign. Davis leads the defense in tackles and has a team-high 4 of the team’s 22 tackles for loss. He has elite vision and anticipation, along with great speed to chase down a ball carrier and deliver a bone-jarring hit when he gets there.
Davis is complemented by rookie LB Pete Werner and a pair of solid run defenders in LB Zack Baun and LB Kaden Elliss. The Saints front seven will still be without suspended DT David Onyemata, but could welcome back two other major contributors for this game.
Athletic LB Kwon Alexander and disruptive DE Marcus Davenport were both activated from injured reserve and may see action against the Seahawks.
New Orleans possesses a secondary that is more active against the run than any other in the NFL. Corners Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby, and rookie Paulson Adebo are solid tacklers and aggressive in run support.
Veteran SS Malcolm Jenkins and versatile defensive backs Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and P.J. Williams are forces near the line of scrimmage. Jenkins is second on the team in tackles and tied with Davis for the team lead in solo stops.
Seattle Rushing Attack
Seattle's running game ranks 16th in the league with an average of 110 yards per game. Despite the absence of Carson, they had a season-high 144 yards on the ground last week against Pittsburgh and played extremely physical in the second half.
Fifth-year RB Alex Collins takes on the role of lead back without Carson and injured backup Rashaad Penny.
Collins is a physical back at 5'10" and 210-Lbs. who hits the hole hard. He’s averaged 4.7/carry and rushed for 225 yards this season, including 101 yards and a score against the Steelers.
Collins suffered a hip injury last week that has his status in question. Penny could see an increased role, if activated from injured reserve.
Kick returner Deejay Dallas and third-down specialist Travis Homer have both played important roles as complementary backs. Each player has an explosive open field burst and are solid receivers out of the backfield.
Seattle's offensive line continues to have issues in pass protection, but they are a physical group in the running game. The Seahawks average 4.6 yards per rush, ninth best in the NFL. Geno Smith isn't as mobile as Russell Wilson, but the Saints have given up several big rushes to quarterbacks over the last two seasons.
What to Watch
The Saints have given up 70 yards to an opposing rusher just once this season, in week two to Carolina's Christian McCaffrey. They’ll need to stifle the Seahawks running game early to put the onus on Geno Smith to beat them through the air.
Seattle is desperate for a win to stay in the NFC West race. They'll need to establish balance to protect Smith and allow him to be more effective. They put on an impressive physical performance in the second half against the Steelers and will try to set that same tone on Monday night.
If either Marcus Davenport or Kwon Alexander play, it would be a big boost to the defense. Without them, the Saints have proven that they have enough talent to shut down opposing rushing attacks.
In their two losses to the Panthers and Giants, the Saints were controlled at the line of scrimmage. New Orleans will be challenged to match the intensity of a desperate Seattle team from the start to avoid the Seahawks establishing a balanced attack to keep them on their heels.