After missing seven weeks with a broken fibula (from a Niners blatant cheapshot i might add), Reggie Bush plans to make his return to the field in a game which could be bigger than the Seahawks versus the Saints; Reggie Bush versus Pete Carroll. Although each has stated otherwise, you can only assume there will be animosity between the two after all the speculation, analysis, and overall criticism during the course of this very strange 2010 NFL season.
Carroll who is in the process of making his triumphant return to the NFL...or timely escape from the then obviously impending NCAA doom, whichever you prefer, has led his Seattle Seahawks to a 5-4 record. Good enough for 1st place in the seemingly ever troubled NFC West. Coming off a road win against the quarterback mess that is the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks will look to slow down the apparent return of the Saints vaunted passing attack, as well an improving run game. As for Carroll, well, the last I personally heard him say regarding Reggie Bush and the USC shenanigans was on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, and he had this to say: "I don’t know. Something happened. Something happened in there. There’s too much stuff. . . . There’s a house and there’s a lot of things going on.” Carroll's words, while vague and not too direct, essentially threw Reggie under the bus, and while the handshake may happen before and/or after the game you can bet Reggie is out to prove something.
Sean Payton on the other hand, I can almost guarantee will not have these distractions on his mind, and will do his best to keep his players' minds, including one Reggie Bush, clear of them. While I've heard that the Saints' opponents have been inferior, which is true to some degree, they're still professional football teams who haven't been able to stop them as of late. Coming off of their bye week, and a trouncing of the Panthers in Carolina the week before, which I was able to personally watch from the stands with delight (unfortunately I can't say the same for my cohort), the Saints will look to keep the ground game rolling after a 165 yard rushing game against a very underrated defense who seemingly only crumbled to the big play.
After speculation of his return began weeks ago, one can safely assume that Reggie, having waited so long, will be in or close to top form. If that's the case, look out Seattle because he'll be out for blood to say the least. The nay sayers and critics never cease in their undying criticism of Bush's supposed "inability to stay healthy" and/or "ability to run north and south", and having sustained the injury he did, even while it was on a punt return, has definitely not slowed those critics' mouths. In actuality, as I've said elsewhere within these walls, before that injury, really going all the way back to the Dome game against Arizona in the 2009 NFC Divionals, Bush has really changed his stripes and began to lower the shoulder and "shit-rock" people.
All high school drama (err...college drama?) aside, it will be interesting to see how Seattle's defense gameplans for this one. Obviously they'll have schemes ready in the event Reggie does in fact return, but if and when the Saints and Reggie see those gameplans, how effective will Seattle really be? In my personal opinion, as I've maintained forever, just the fact that Bush is on the field will force defenses to accommodate for him. That being said, if that's the way it pans out and 2-3 defenders run with Bush at all times, look out for Brees to put on a verifiable clinic for the Seahawks secondary.
Despite impressive road wins against Chicago most notably, and Arizona most recently, their road games have been nothing to write home about. And to come into the Dome and leave with a notch in the W column is no easy task. Take into consideration that every game the Seahawks have played against a mediocre to good defense, they have lost, with the statistical exception being the home win against the Chargers who have ranked in the top 5 of both defense and offense throughout the course of the season (and have been #1 in both for most of the season). Again, as I've also said within these walls, a statistic that The Times Picayune's Jeff Duncan dug up: The Saints have held 6 consecutive opponents to 280 yards or fewer of total offense. Let that sink in. Then realize we're about to play the Seahawks. Then realize they may not even have Matt Hasselbeck again. Then realize that that leaves them with what? Marshawn Lynch (a reputable tailback) and Mike Williams (who may or may not be hurt) and that's pretty much it.
I see this going no other way but for the Saints. I'm a strong believer in our defense and our offense is more than capable of lighting up the score board. Barring some crazy Browns-game-like shenanigans, the teacher will become the student as Carroll watches Bush slice up his defense, and potentially his special teams too, depending on whether or not Sean Payton will thrust Bush back into his complete role or just eases him in gradually over a few weeks. The only upside for the Seahawks in this one? Once you lose, and exit the Dome, you're in New M*thaF*ckin Orleans. Go have some fun and try not to have nightmares about your next visit.
Final Prediction: Saints 37 Seahawks 17 Sorry Pete, next time maybe you should give it the old college try.