Keys to the game
Manning the corner
Seattle will play without two of its top three cornerbacks in Brandon Browner (injured and with a possible suspension coming) and Walter Thurmond (suspended for four games). That will force Byron Maxwell into the starting lineup and Jeremy Lane into a bigger role, as well. Maxwell, in his third year, has been a regular in reserve but this will be his first career start. Seattle says it won’t have to alter what it does defensively with the losses of Browner, who has been out since the Nov. 10 game at Atlanta, and Thurmond. The Saints, though, are sure to test Maxwell (who is scheduled to start on the right side with Richard Sherman on the left) and Lane early and often.
Saints at home on the road?
Seattle set a team record with its 13th straight win at home when it beat Minnesota 41-20 on Nov. 17 at CenturyLink Field. And like most teams, the Saints are better at home than on the road — they are 6-0 at home this year and just 3-2 on the road, which has caused some to wonder anew if their style plays as well outside of the Superdome. The facts, though, indicate that the Saints may be a better road team than often presumed — the Saints have the best road record in the NFL since 2009 at 24-12, and they are also 21-12 on the road in November through January since 2006. Seattle will do what it can to unnerve the Saints, though, and might get some help from the weather — temperatures could dip to the low 30s with a chance of precipitation.
A tall order
The most critical individual matchup for the Seattle defense may be New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, a 6-foot-7, 265-pounder who also played college basketball at Miami and has six games with at least 100 receiving yards this season. His size means opponents usually try to guard him with a bigger defender, and for Seattle a logical matchup is strong safety Kam Chancellor (6-3, 232). The Seahawks, though, say it will be a team effort to try to contain Graham, and that means cornerbacks such as Sherman also figure to get their chances on Graham. Sherman, recall, had success defending San Francisco’s Vernon Davis (6-3, 250) in Week 2.