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Seahawks vs. Saints preview: 4 key questions ahead of Monday night’s game

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Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks (2-4) have back-to-back home games before their Week 9 bye, with the first one coming against the New Orleans Saints (3-2), who are well rested after having their bye week.

There’s some history at stake here for the Seahawks. They’ve never lost three straight in a season in the Russell Wilson era (albeit with Geno Smith now set to make his second start), they’ve never started 0-3 in Lumen Field history, and they’ve not lost three primetime games in a season since 1985.

The latest odds from DraftKings Sportsbook have the Seahawks as 4-point underdogs against the Saints, who are officially 3-1 on the road but keep in mind their “home opener” was played in Jacksonville due to Hurricane Ida, so they are more than capable of winning away from the Superdome.

Here are some key storylines that we should know the answer to by the time Monday Night Football is over.

1.) Will the Seahawks try and “establish the run” against an elite run defense?

Pete Carroll was no doubt delighted that the 3rd quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers game featured a shitload of running plays that were mostly effective. Alex Collins tore up that Steelers defense and the offensive line did a tremendous job creating lanes for him, Deejay Dallas, and Travis Homer.

Trying that against the New Orleans Saints? Ehhhh that might be a problem. New Orleans is currently 2nd in rush defense DVOA, and they have limited the opposition to a paltry 3.3 yards per carry thus far. You would think the advantage in the trenches in this particular matchup would heavily favor the Saints, so while trying to run the ball more to alleviate some of the pressure off Geno Smith sounds good in theory, this is going to be exceptionally hard to do in practice. And lest we forget that Alex Collins is banged up now, so is Rashaad Penny ready for a full workload straight after returning from injury? That’s worth considering.

2.) Is Shane Waldron ever going to get back around to play-action passing?

This has been by far my biggest gripe concerning Shane Waldron’s first six games as Seahawks offensive coordinator. Out of 205 dropbacks (sacks and scrambles included), Waldron has only called play-action 54 times according to Pro Football Focus. That rate of 26.3% is middle of the pack in the NFL and that’s more glaring when you realize just how play-action heavy the Seahawks were in Week 1.

I do not understand why he’s bailed on this. Even though Geno Smith’s costly turnover against Pittsburgh occurred on play-action (along with at least one sack I can recall), Seattle is still one of the most efficient offenses when utilizing play-action and Waldron’s rate of PA calls is not any better than the 2020 team. It’s also down from the 2019 season, in which the Seahawks called play-action at a near 30% clip.

Seattle hasn’t trailed by more than 14 points all season and certainly haven’t been in too many obvious positions to abandon even pretend rushes, so the onus is on Waldron to use what’s working well.

3.) Can the Seahawks defense take advantage of Jameis Winston’s recklessness?

I’m not going to bother with “Will the Seahawks have an answer for Alvin Kamara?” because they won’t. Or rather, the answer will be to scan the pass rush rotation and figure out which one should be covering Kamara on passing plays.

So let’s focus on Mr. Jameis Winston. He has just four turnovers through five games, which is downright impressive by his standards. But old habits die hard and historically he is a turnover machine and even in the win over the Washington Football Team, the Winston rollercoaster was in full effect.

Just in the opening quarter, he threw an interception to kill a promising drive and then his very next pass was a 72-yard touchdown to Deonte Harris. On the next possession he lost a fumble, and by the end of the afternoon he threw for four touchdowns but only completed 15 of 30. In the loss to the Carolina Panthers, Winston was a remarkably tepid 11/22 for 111 yards and a pair of picks.

Sometimes you’ll get mistake-free Jameis for a whole game, other times you’ll get mistake-laden Jameis, and other times you’ll get both often minutes apart from each other. And sometimes he’ll have an obviously bad decision turn into a good outcome.

You don’t even have to necessarily pressure Winston for him to self-destruct, but it sure helps. The Seahawks have not been great at generating takeaways this season, so while Winston has kept the turnovers to a minimum, you know he’s due for one of those nights.

4.) Will the Seahawks secondary hold up against a more aggressive quarterback?

Winston is a boom or bust quarterback — would you believe New Orleans (alongside Seattle, of course) is one of the league leaders in three-and-outs? — and despite his propensity for turnovers he is still pretty damn productive. His completed air yards per attempt is actually a little higher than Russell Wilson’s, and his intended air yards per attempt is the 2nd highest among Seahawks opposing quarterbacks faced this season.

New Orleans doesn’t have a stacked receiving group like we’ve grown accustomed to seeing during Drew Brees’ prime, and they may yet be thin at this position come gameday. Michael Thomas hasn’t practiced despite coming off injured reserve so it’s unlikely he plays, and speedster Deonte Harris has yet to practice this week. The receiver to keep an eye on may be Marquez Callaway, who had 13 receptions for 222 yards and 3 touchdowns, including a Hail Mary grab against WFT two weeks ago. From preseason and through the regular season he’s proven to be a formidable downfield option.

Not to totally pour water on the positives from the Seahawks defense against the Steelers... but that Steelers offense looks awful. I think we’ve been here before with the 2020 team “improving” by playing bad offenses. The Saints are pretty inconsistent but unlike Pittsburgh, Winston is going to stretch the field more and take more risks, so it’s up to Seattle’s much criticized secondary to be up to the challenge.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.