Sports with Art Thiel
5:00 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Seahawks Vs. Saints: Battle Of Two Great Coaches

The Seahawks host the New Orleans Saints Saturday at CenturyLink Field in round two of the NFL playoffs.

The Seahawks beat the Saints 34-7 last month in Seattle. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the outcome of that Monday Night Football game has affected how both teams are preparing for Saturday’s match-up.

'Comes Down To Coaches'

There is something to be said for player-to-player match-ups but Art thinks the game will "come down to coaches."

"I think Sean Payton of the Saints and Pete Carroll are two of the best in the game and they have to take completely opposite tacks in this game," he said.

According to Art, Payton has vested interest in making sure his players "remember every excruciating moment" of the 34-7 loss.

"Then Pete Carroll has to do the opposite. He has to say 'forget that game, it didn't happen, never mind.' He has to guard against overconfidence and Payton has to guard against intimidation," Art said.

Surprises In Store

Seahawks fans can expect to see a few new plays on Saturday. Carroll announced this week that the team has "a few things in store that the Saints haven't seen." Art said that's integral in a game of this magnitude.

"When you get into a do-or-die game like this, you've got to be able to pop some things — and I've seen them in practice — that nobody has seen from the Seahawks this year. So that could be a lot of fun and I think that edge belongs to Seattle," he said.

Seahawks' Harvin Could Be 'X Factor'

Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin has been practicing this week and could play Saturday. That would be a big deal.

"He is the fastest player in the NFL," Art said. "We saw a glimpse of it in the one game that he played after hip surgery where he blew through the kick return defense of the Vikings and he also had a great one-handed catch."

"So this may be a very dramatic storyline: the return of Percy Harvin and what he means to an offense that's been a little bit stagnant. Russell Wilson would love to get Percy Harvin one-on-one down the field and if he does that we're going to have another earthquake at the Clink," Art said.

Some Penalties 'Cost Of Doing Business'

Many Seahawks fans have been frustrated in recent games by the team's many penalties that have reversed offensive gains. A penalty even took a touchdown off the board in the final regular season game against the Rams.

"That's been a notorious irritant for Seattle fans," Art said. "Part of it is what Pete Carroll's philosophy is: if you're going to be an edgy, aggressive team you're going to have more penalties than normal. What he really hates is the after-the-whistle penalties: unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls. He's really fighting to get that erased and probably accepts the rest as the cost of doing business."

Who's Going To Win?

Art thinks it will be a close game but that the Seahawks will win. And then they get to play the winner of San Francisco-Carolina on Sunday.

"I really hope it's going to be the 49ers because it's going to be a great week of anticipation for the clash of the titans that following Sunday," he said. 

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com