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Saints vs. Seahawks Scouting Report

Sunday in the Superdome the Saints will face off against a division leader. All be it, the division leader of arguably the worst division in NFL history. That being said, the Seattle Seahawks are 5-4, and have some good wins this season under first year head coach Pete Carroll.

Nakia Hogan of the Times Picayune breaks down the Seahawks.

There was a time when the Seattle Seahawks ruled the NFC West, winning their division four consecutive times before Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals took over.

But the Seahawks — under Coach Pete Carroll, who left Southern Cal after last season to return to the NFL — appear ready to regain the division’s supremacy. Seattle’s 36-18 victory against the Cardinals on Sunday improved the Seahawks to 5-4 and moved them into first place.

Seattle’s chances of pulling off an upset of the defending Super Bowl champion Saints, though, will take a big hit if quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is unable to play Sunday.

Hasselbeck was enjoying his best game of the season against the Cardinals before suffering a cracked bone in his left, non-throwing wrist, in the first half. He did not start the second half but returned for the third possession. Hasselbeck and Carroll say the quarterback will be able to play against the Saints.

Seahawks offense

If Hasselbeck can’t play, the Seahawks will turn to backup Charlie Whitehurst to guide the NFL’s 30th-ranked offense.

Even with Hasselbeck under center for much of the season, the offense has had its share of problems, averaging 18.4 points a game, while ranking 23rd in passing offense and 28th in rushing offense.

Until the win against the Cardinals, Seattle’s offense had been rather anemic. But Hasselbeck’s 333 yards passing were the most he’s thrown for since Nov. 18, 2007.

Mike Williams, who spent the past two seasons out of the NFL after flopping in Detroit, provides the Seahawks with a talented pass-catching threat. Against the Cardinals, Williams had a career-high 11 catches for 145 yards, pushing his total to 46 catches for 545 yards and a score.

Running backs Justin Forsett, who has gained 397 rushing yards, and Marshawn Lynch, who has rushed for 217 yards, provide the offense with a 1-2 punch in the backfield.

Seahawks defense

The Seahawks also have had problems on defense, where they rank 27th in yards allowed. But in the win against the Cardinals, the defense showed it is making progress, holding the Cardinals to 41 rushing yards and two of 11 conversions on third down.

Veteran defensive end Chris Clemons, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles in a mid-March trade, is off to the best season of his career, having posted 33 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks.

His constant pressure has enabled rookie safety Earl Thomas to get off to a strong start with 47 tackles and a team-high four interceptions.

Cornerback Marcus Trufant leads the Seahawks with 50 tackles and has defended nine passes. He hasn’t intercepted a pass, however, since the season opener, when he returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown. Safety Lawyer Malloy and linebacker Lofa Tatupu are solid against the run, where the Seahawks rank 14th.

Seahawks special teams

Leon Washington is perhaps the most dangerous kickoff returner in the NFL. Washington, who was acquired in a trade this offseason, has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and is averaging 31 yards a return. He also is averaging 23.8 yards on two punt returns.

Golden Tate, the regular punt returner, is averaging 11.7 yards a return. Kicker Olindo Mare has made 15 of 18 attempts with a long of 51 yards, and punter Jon Ryan is averaging 43.1 yards a punt.

I’d look for the Saints to put together their first three game winning streak of the season this Sunday. New Orleans has better talent, and more depth than a Seahawks team who is strong at home, but has a losing record on the road.

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