10-1 versus 9-2? Check.
Monday Night Football? Check.
The battle for home field advantage in the NFC? Check.
If you didn't already know, next week's showdown between the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks features each of these, making it the best matchup of the year and quite possibly of the past couple of years.
It has already been declared by all of the pundits that whoever gains home field advantage in the NFC will likely represent the conference in the Super Bowl. Quite frankly, it is hard to argue with that statement. Both the Seahawks (5-0) and Saints (6-0) are undefeated at home and play much, much better in their respective stadiums.
At home, the Saints and Seahawks score 33.2 and 32.4 points per game respectively, as opposed to 21.2 and 24.0 points on the road. The pattern is the same on defense. The Saints (15.8) and Seahawks (15.4) both allow fewer points at home than on the road (20.2 and 17.0 respectively). If home field advantage ever mattered, it couldn't mean more to these two NFC teams.
With that being said, next week's Monday night matchup is kind of a big deal. But will the winner of the game be a lock for the first seed in the NFC? Most definitely not. The Saints follow up this game with a few toughies: two games versus the Panthers and a not-so-easy game against the Rams in their house. The Seahawks still have to play at the 49ers, at the Giants, and two home games versus the Cardinals and Rams. As the Saints are already one game behind the Seahawks, it would be a little bit tougher for them to bounce back into first place contention if they suffered a loss.
Let's say that the Saints beat the Seahawks (which they should). They will host the Panthers the following week in a game that yet again is extremely meaningful. While looking extremely beatable, the Panthers took care of the Dolphins and will face a revamped Buccaneers team in week 13 that has strung together three wins in a row. Assuming that they win, though, the Panthers, at 9-3, will have their first attempt in three weeks to steal the NFC South crown away from the Saints.
What exactly is on the line? The difference between the 2nd and 5th seeds in the NFC; the difference between having a bye week plus at least one home game in the playoffs and having to play every postseason game on the road, unless the 6th seed happened to make the NFC Championship, and that's if it even got to that point.
Fast forward to the playoffs. It is clear that the Saints and the Seahawks are the best teams in the NFC and quite possibly the best in the entire league. While different in style, both of their offenses are high-powered and are capable of scoring a lot of points. The two defenses both pride themselves on being aggressive, opportunistic squads that don't give up many points to opposing teams. I believe that if one of these teams wins the NFC, it will will go on to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
While there are some other dangerous teams in the NFC such as the Lions, 49ers, and Panthers, I don't think any of them are capable of getting it done versus the Saints or Seahawks. The Lions have Megatron and the newly found Reggie Bush, but you can't be dependent on two players that aren't a quarterback anymore. The 49ers are lacking in the passing game and have not shown the ability to put up points on tough defenses. The Panthers, the most dangerous of these three teams, are riding an extreme high right now. They have a wonderful defense, but I'm not buying into the hype.
The final weeks of the NFL will undoubtedly be a time for the ages. This Saints team is hitting its stride at the perfect time and seems to have found their winning formula of balance on offense and stiff play on defense. Visions of Payton, Rob, and Brees taking turns grasping the Lombardi Trophy in their hands are already running through my head, much like a lot of the Who Dat Nation. This sure feels like a special finish to a dream-like story to me, a finish that as Ron Burgundy would say is "compelling and rich."
More from Canal Street Chronicles:
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