The Seahawks face the challenge of avoiding overconfidence in light of their 34-7 demolition of New Orleans in Seattle five weeks ago.
"The first thing I addressed with the team when we came back together was, 'What happened in the past doesn't tell the story of what's going to happen in the future,'¿" Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said. "So you have to have the discipline to do that."
Something that won't change: CenturyLink Field will be loud. Seahawks fans — nicknamed the 12th Man — set a Guinness Book World Record for crowd noise earlier this season, lost the title to Kansas City around midseason, and reclaimed it during with the victory over the Saints.
In a playoff stunner three years ago, the Seahawks beat the defending Super Bowl-champion Saints in a first-round game in Seattle, and the home crowd cheered so loudly on a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run that it caused a small earthquake.
The NFC playoffs are a mini-tournament of the league's best defenses. The best scoring defenses in the league for points allowed this season were, in order, Seattle's, Carolina's, San Francisco's and New Orleans'. So the No. 1 Seahawks play host to the No. 4 Saints, and the No. 2 Panthers play host to the No. 3 49ers.
Mixing it up
The Saints needed to do something to shake up their routine for road games, seeing as they came into the playoffs having gone 1-5 away from the Superdome since Oct. 13. So last week, they got new sweatsuits and changed flavors of Gatorade. They went on to win a wild-card game at Philadelphia, and a superstition was born.
This week, the Saints organization painted a Seahawks logo on the practice field, in hopes of ramping up the focus of their players and reminding them they have to execute in hostile territory.
Thinking back to the abysmal showing in Seattle during the regular season, Saints quarterback Drew Brees said this week: "Man, that was not us… We've got to give a lot of credit to them because they forced us to be that way. But then again, there are a lot of things we can correct and get better at, and I feel like we have."
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which is are for the season (league rank in parentheses):
Category | NO | SEA
Points scored: 25.9 (10) | 26.1 (8)
Points allowed: 19.0 (4) | 14.4 (1)
Pass offense: 307.4 (2) | 202.2 (26)
Rush offense: 92.1 (25) | 136.8 (4)
Pass defense: 194.1 (2) | 172.0 (1)
Rush defense: 111.6 (19) | 101.6 (7)
Sacks: 49 (4) | 44 (8)
Penalty yards: 51.0 (16) | 73.9 (32)
Turnovers: 0 (15) | +20 (1)
The game will be closer than last time, but Seattle still holds commanding edge, especially against with a team that struggles on the road. The Seahawks will play ball-control with Lynch, and occasionally stretch the field with Percy Harvin. Key for their defense will be containing New Orleans running back Darren Sproles and tight end Jimmy Graham as well as they did in their last meeting. SEAHAWKS 37, SAINTS 24Copyright © 2015, RedEye