Playoff Prognosis: Saints at Seahawks

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Playoff Prognosis: Saints at Seahawks

Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011
10:36 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Seattle Seahawks made dubious NFL history of a sort by becoming that largest home underdog in playoff history when the New Orleans Saints were installed as 10-12-point favorites despite their playoff game being staged in one of the most difficult venues of all for a visiting team.

But when you get in the playoffs, you get one of those hats, and your records not on there, it says Division Champion, said Herm Edwards, ESPN analyst and former NFL player and coach. No one really cares about the below .500 record. We care, but it happened, so now they have to go play.

Good thing for them is that theyre playing at home. Theyre the team that everyone has frowned onThey are a team that has to use their advantage at home. Theyve got to use that crowd.

The reasons for this game shaping up as a Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson situation are pretty simple: Seattle not only is 7-9 but its nine losses have all been by 15 points or more. Seattle did, however, upend two teams with winning records: Chicago and San Diego.

The problem there is that the Seahawks were on their way to a 4-2 start when they put up those victories. When Seattle went to New Orleans in late November, the Seahawks were crushed 34-19 by a Saints team that did not have Reggie Bush, Jeremy Shockey and Pierre Thomas yet still saw Drew Brees throw for 382 yards.

Matt Hasselbeck (hip injury) will start for Seattle, he does have Super Bowl and playoff experience, and he did ring up more than 300 passing yards when the two teams played this season.. But he threw 12 touchdown passes vs. 17 interceptions.

Hasselbeck, 35, could be playing in his final game as a Seahawk. The organization made massive changes starting right from the outset of the offseason, beginning with new head coach Pete Carroll, and the process of coming together has been difficult.

I think the guys weve brought in have really helped us, talented, pros, guys you can count on, Hasselbeck said. Its been kind of fun in a way

New Orleans has taken hits in the running game with injuries to Thomas and Chris Ivory, who combined for 7 rushing touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards. And perhaps most notably, the Saints are one of only three teams in the playoffs with a minus-turnover ratio (minus-6).

Seattle, however, is one of the other two at minus-9. (Indianapolis is the third).

The Seahawks leading rusher, Marshawn Lynch, managed all of 573 yards on the season, the obvious reason why Seattle ranks 31st in rushing yards for 2010. We need to get our running game going, Carroll said. We need to crank it up and he can be a big factor in that as well as the guys up front.

If Brees slips up and commits a turnover or two that hands the Seahawks a short field, the Saints could be in trouble. That may be enough for Seattle to threaten but the firepower even with a New Orleans team speckled with injuries is too much.
New Orleans 27 Seattle 20

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Alexandre Fortin signs three-year deal with Blackhawks

Alexandre Fortin signs three-year deal with Blackhawks

Alexandre Fortin was hoping to get a good enough look to earn a contract with the Blackhawks. On Sunday, he got it.

The Blackhawks agreed with Fortin on a three-year contract. The 19-year-old, who garnered attention at the team’s prospect camp in July, recorded 43 points in 54 games with Rouyn-Noranda (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League).

Fortin was passed over in two NHL drafts but his prospect camp was impressive enough to earn him an invitation to this training camp.

Notre Dame schedule watch: Irish bowl eligibility far from a guarantee

Notre Dame schedule watch: Irish bowl eligibility far from a guarantee

After losing to Duke to fall to 1-3, Notre Dame isn’t making a New Year’s Six bowl this year — and, the way things are shaping up, there’s a very real possibility for the Irish to have some nervy games to get to bowl eligibility in 2016. 

Should Notre Dame beat Syracuse, N.C. State, Navy and Army, and then at least one of Stanford, USC, Miami and Virginia Tech? Of course. But Notre Dame should’ve beaten Duke on Saturday — S&P+ gave the Irish an 84 percent chance of winning and the line was Notre Dame by 21. There are no sure victories left on this schedule, starting with next weekend’s game against Syracuse. 

Before looking at how Notre Dame’s opponents fared in Week 4, a power ranking of those 12 teams:

1. Stanford (3-0)
2. Miami (3-0)
3. Virginia Tech (3-1)
4. Michigan State (2-1)
5. Texas (2-1)
6. Navy (3-0)
7. Army 3-1)
8. Duke (2-2)
9. Syracuse (2-2)
10. N.C. State (2-1)
11. USC (1-3)
12. Nevada (2-2)

Worth noting, Notre Dame would probably slot in these at No. 11, just ahead of USC and Nevada, right now. 

On to the weekend’s results:

Texas: Bye

Charlie Strong put his coaches on notice this week as Texas licked its wounds from its 50-43 loss to Cal. Next up is a trip to Oklahoma State before the Red River Shootout against Oklahoma in Dallas. 

Nevada: Lost, 24-14, at Purdue

Purdue committed four turnovers and still won by 10 against a Nevada side that, after making back-to-back bowl games, should’ve done better than this. But hey, at least Nevada got a sack, meaning that for part of the afternoon Notre Dame was the only team at the FBS level without one. 

Michigan State: Lost, 30-6, vs. Wisconsin

So maybe Michigan State’s offense really isn’t as good as it looked against Notre Dame’s defense? Tyler O’Connor threw three interceptions and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes (18/38 for 224 yards) as Wisconsin charged out of the second half with 17 third quarter points to cruise in East Lansing. Losing this badly at home qualifies as embarrassing for Mark Dantonio’s Spartans, but it doesn’t make Notre Dame — which was picked apart by O’Connor — look any better, either. 

Syracuse: Won, 31-24, at UConn

Eric Dungey threw for 407 yards and two touchdowns against Bob Diaco’s Huskies, with 270 of those yards and both scores courtesy of receiver Amba Etta-Tawo. Dino Babers’ up-tempo, passing-oriented offense could very well cause this shaky Irish secondary some problems at MetLife Stadium on Saturday. 

N.C. State: Bye

The Wolfpack had the weekend off before opening ACC play with a home date against Wake Forest next weekend. 

Stanford: Won, 22-13, at UCLA

Ryan Burns’ touchdown toss to JJ Arcega-Whiteside was the game-winner, and Soloman Thomas returned a fumble 42 yards with no time left to make this margin look a lot greater than it actually was. Christian McCaffrey rushed for 138 yards and Stanford held Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen to an 18/27, 248 yard, one touchdown evening. Next up for the Cardinal is a Friday night trip to Washington that could have College Football Playoff implications. 

Miami: Bye

An extra week to prepare for a road trip to Georgia Tech — which was blown out by Clemson last week — isn’t the worst thing to get ready to face the triple option. 

Navy: Bye

At 3-0, Navy is in a good position record-wise but the transition away from Keenan Reynolds hasn’t been entirely smooth. Navy travels to Air Force next weekend before hosting Houston on Oct. 8. 

Army: Lost, 23-20, at Buffalo

Army’s No. 1 placekicker was injured, and backup Blake Wilson missed what would’ve been a game-winning 34-yard field goal at the end of regulation. Instead, Army was dealt its first loss of the season in overtime to a fairly weak Buffalo side. At 3-1, Army is still in its best position in six years, but this is still a stinging loss. After a bye next weekend, Army travels to face Duke. 

Virginia Tech: Won, 54-17, vs. East Caorlina

Hokies quarterback Jerrod Evans threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 97 yards and another score in a pasting of ECU, a perennial group-of-five upset specialist (ECU beat N.C. State earlier this year). Outside of that turnover-filled loss to Tennessee, Virginia Tech has looked pretty good so far in Year 1 of the Justin Fuente era. They have a bye next week before a trip to North Carolina that’ll be a good test for their ACC Coastal chances. 

USC: Lost, 31-27, at Utah

The Trojans are 1-3, and that there’s a very real path to that season-ending game against Notre Dame having bowl eligibility implications for both teams. USC led by 10 late in the third quarter but allowed a 15-play, 93-yard scoring drive that ended with an 18-yard game-winning touchdown for the Utes with 16 seconds left. How much longer does Clay Helton have in Los Angeles?