Week 7 of the NFL season concludes with the 3-2 New Orleans Saints on the road to face the 2-4 Seattle Seahawks. New Orleans is looking to put together consecutive wins for the first time this year. Seattle hopes to snap a two-game losing streak.
Both teams come into the game with some significant injuries. Seattle will be without Pro Bowl QB Russell Wilson and leading rusher Chris Carson, both on injured reserve. Journeyman QB Geno Smith starts in place of Wilson for the team's 22nd ranked offensive attack.
The Saints, who were already without injured WR Michael Thomas and suspended DT David Onyemata, have also ruled out WR Deonte Harris, DE Payton Turner, and utility weapon Taysom Hill.
New Orleans is expected to have LT Terron Armstead and C Erik McCoy back against a 32nd ranked Seattle defense. Disruptive DE Marcus Davenport and athletic LB Kwon Alexander could also suit up for their 15th ranked defense.
Several intriguing battles on both sides of the ball will determine this game's outcome. Here are the biggest matchups to watch.
SAINTS EDGE RUSHERS VS. SEAHAWKS TACKLES
Seattle quarterbacks have been sacked 18 times and hit 38 times this season. Pass protection has been an ongoing problem dating back several years. Of those 18 sacks, 13.5 have come from opposing defensive ends or edge rushers.
Tackles Duane Brown (left) and Brandon Shell (right) have been manhandled along the outside. Geno Smith suffered five sacks and eight QB hits against the Steelers last week. All but one of those came from Pittsburgh edge rushers.
New Orleans was among the league leaders with 145 sacks over the previous three seasons. However, only the Chiefs have less than the Saints 8 sacks in 2021. Five of those, along with 20 QB hits, have come from their defensive ends.
Veteran Pro Bowl DE Cam Jordan has yet to register a sack, but leads the team with 12 pressures and 7 hits on the quarterback. He hasn't played as poorly as critics have suggested, but must finish plays.
DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, an offseason free-agent addition, leads the team with 2 sacks and has recorded 8 pressures. Third-year DE Carl Granderson hasn't had the breakout year some predicted, but has a sack along with 6 pressures and a blocked kick.
Rookie DE Payton Turner will miss this game with a calf injury, but the Saints could get Marcus Davenport back after activating him from injured reserve. Davenport had a terrific preseason and was a disruptive force against Green Bay in week one before being sidelined with a pectoral injury.
The Saints pass rush has been a disappointment so far this season. Lack of pressure allowed mediocre quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones the time to have great games against them. New Orleans must heavily pressure Geno Smith to stop him from getting into a rhythm.
The talented New Orleans defensive ends were considered a team strength coming into the season. They'll have to play up to that hype against leaky Seattle pass protection.
ALVIN KAMARA VS. SEAHAWKS LBS
Without the injured Michael Thomas, Kamara has had to carry the New Orleans offense. He’s their leading rusher, with 368 yards and a touchdown on 94 carries. Kamara also leads the team in receptions, pulling in 15 of 22 targets for 3 more touchdowns, but for only 113 yards.
New Orleans has struggled to get Kamara, the NFL's most versatile weapon, isolated in open space. He’s averaged only 3.9 yards per rush and 7.5 per catch. They finally used him more as a receiver during their last outing against Washington, with Kamara catching five passes for 51 yards.
A once formidable Seattle defense has been abysmal this season. The Seahawks rank 30th against the run and 28th against the pass. Two of the few bright spots on their defense have been MLB Bobby Wagner and WLB Jordyn Brooks.
Wagner, who leads the team with 72 tackles, is one of the league's most respected defenders. He has elite vision and still has the athleticism to chase plays down on the outside. Brooks, in his second season, is an old school downhill defender who is vulnerable in coverage, but is stellar against the run.
When these teams last met in week three of the 2019 season, Wagner led all tacklers with 19 stops in a 33-27 New Orleans win. The Seahawks weren't able to contain Kamara, who had 161 total yards, over 60% of the Saints offensive output. He had 16 rushes for 69 yards and added 9 receptions for 92 yards while scoring twice.
New Orleans will need that kind of output from their star back tonight. Weather in Seattle is supposed to be lousy and could result in sloppy field conditions.
Kamara has proven to be a productive runner between the tackles if blocking holds up. If he can get to the second level as a runner or receiver, his athletic ability gives him a huge advantage over the Seattle defense.
MARSHON LATTIMORE/PAULSON ADEBO VS. D.K. METCALF/TYLER LOCKETT
Smith has two terrific receivers to target. Metcalf is a matchup nightmare for defenses at 6’4 and 235-Lbs. with great speed and outstanding physicality. He leads the team with 31 receptions, 441 yards, and 5 touchdowns.
Lockett is one of the most consistent and underrated wideouts. He has 27 catches for 425 yards and 3 scores so far. Metcalf and Lockett, who combined for 183 catches, 2,357 yards, and 20 touchdowns in 2020, account for over 60% of the Seahawks passing production.
Rookie CB Adebo has helped take a New Orleans cornerback position thought to be a weakness and turned it into a team strength. Opposite Lattimore, he faces a ton of targets but only allows a 61% completion percentage and has come up with two big interceptions.
Marshon Lattimore is playing like a possible Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Usually locked onto the opponent's best receiver, he’s allowed less than 41% completion percentage and has broken up an incredible nine passes.
Bradley Roby gives the team quality depth at corner. Safeties Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Marcus Williams, and Malcolm Jenkins provide outstanding versatility and deep support. It’s the man-to-man abilities of Lattimore and Adebo that allow the entire defense to be more creative and aggressive.
Lockett had 11 receptions for 154 yards when these teams played in 2019, while Metcalf had two catches for 67 yards. The Lattimore vs. Metcalf matchup is a showdown worthy of pay-per-view, but the rest of the secondary must hold up and the pass rush needs to hurry Smith's decisions.
OUTLOOK AND PREDICTION
Inclement weather could influence both offenses, but the Saints should have an advantage with the expected return of LT Terron Armstead and C Erik McCoy to the offensive line. New Orleans will come at Seattle with a heavy dose of Kamara as both a runner and receiver.
Saints QB Jameis Winston is coming off his two most explosive games of the year and the passing attack has finally established a rhythm. Wind and rain may inhibit the deep pass, but Winston must show patience against a Seahawks defense that’s allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 68% of their throws.
Seattle played with the physical intensity of a desperate team in the second half of last week's loss to Pittsburgh. New Orleans must match that intensity, but have the team equipped to play in adverse field conditions in a hostile environment.
SAINTS 27 SEAHAWKS 10