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.

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Yanni Gourde had a breakaway goal 4:25 into overtime and the Tampa Bay Lightning rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on Monday night.

Victor Hedman set up the winner with his third assist of the game.

Tampa Bay, which trails Boston by a point for the second Eastern Conference wild card, also got two goals from Jonathan Drouin. Ondrej Palat and Anton Stralman also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who got pulled 14 minutes into the first after allowing three goals on eight shots, returned to the start the second and finished with 25 saves.

Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane, Tomas Jurco and Richard Panik scored for the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks, who were coming off a 7-0 loss Saturday night at Florida. Scott Darling stopped 25 shots.

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

MESA, Ariz. – After an impressive camp where he looked like the next homegrown Cubs hitter to roll off the assembly line, Ian Happ will go to Triple-A Iowa and get ready to make his big-league debut, or perhaps build his value for a trade-deadline deal.

Along with Happ, the Cubs assigned outfielder John Andreoli and catcher Taylor Davis to minor-league camp on Monday while optioning pitchers Eddie Butler and Rob Zastryzny to Iowa, cutting their roster to 31 as the Opening Night picture comes into focus.

Happ – the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati – batted .417 with five homers, four doubles and 17 RBI in 24 Cactus League games.

"Offensively, what was there not to like?" general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I feel like he hit the ball hard every at-bat for six weeks. It's always fun to see a young guy like that come in and open a lot of eyes."

Happ, 22, is a switch-hitter who can play second base and the outfield, skills that could help him escape from Des Moines once the need arises on the major-league level.

[MORE CUBS: How Cubs came to fully believe in the legend of Kyle Schwarber]

Though there are questions about Happ's defense, Theo Epstein's front office and Joe Maddon's coaching staff clearly value versatility and trust young talent, moving Addison Russell to shortstop in 2015 and elevating rookie catcher Willson Contreras last season.

Stay tuned to see when/if the Cubs will have a spot at Wrigley Field, but Happ looks like he will be on a fast track.

"Whenever you're in Triple-A, you're always a call away," Hoyer said. "Sometimes it happens quicker than you think. We never expected Addie would be up in April of that year, and he was. I feel like with Willson last year, if you had asked me in spring training – would he be up in June? – I probably would have thought it would be more like a September call-up or something like that.

"You never know. Things happen. When you have good players in the minor leagues, sometimes it speeds up on you a little bit."