First and foremost, the Seahawks need to prove that they can rebound from a poor performance in Pittsburgh, particularly against an inferior opponent like the New Orleans Saints. The loss in Pittsburgh was far different than the one in Arizona because they were handled on all fronts by the Steelers. How will they respond?
What will Leonard Weaver look like as the starting fullback? All the talk about Shaun Alexander this week has hidden a very important part of the running game, and that is that Weaver is taking over as the primary blocking back. There will undoubtedly be a learning curve, both with Weaver and the offensive line and Weaver and Alexander.
Even if he does not pay attention to outside criticism, Alexander has to know there is pressure on him to perform like he says he is capable of performing. The Saints' defense is not that good and now is the time for Alexander to silence his critics, who are a rapidly growing number, and produce. He has a history of doing that on Sunday night, so with the football world watching this is his chance.
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I think Matt Hasselbeck just had one of those weeks against the Steelers where for whatever reason he was off. His reads were bad, his accuracy was bad, his decision-making was bad. I sense that he will be back to the form he was in the first four weeks. The question will be how does he click with a set of receivers playing different spots? Bobby Engram is now the flanker and will slide to the slot in the three-receiver set, with Ben Obomanu the third receiver and Courtney Taylor the fourth. They have not had that much time to work out the kinks, so the timing issue may be there. Also, Marcus Pollard was very gimpy on Friday and is a game-time decision. If he cannot go, how does Will Heller and/or Ben Joppru fill in for Pollard in both the passing and the running game. The Saints have only one sack, so the line should be able to give Hasselbeck enough time to figure it out.
Will the defense be able to get off the field, either through stops or turnovers? They weren't last week, when they had zero turnovers and allowed the Steelers 50 percent conversion on third down. But Drew Brees has nine interceptions and only one touchdown. The defense will likely focus on stopping Reggie Bush and force Brees to beat them, in part because they have not had a big-play threat this season. If the Seahawks get ahead, it would force Brees to throw and hopefully increase his interception total.
Rocky Bernard is hurting, but I thought Craig Terrill has done a nice job this season, and Ellis Wyms got his first sack last week. Bernard probably will play, but if he doesn't Terrill likely will get most of his reps. That should enable the Hawks to get more pressure on Brees.
Will long snapper Boone Stutz make a difference? Derek Rackley certainly was not overly talented so the Seahawks hope Stutz is more effective. Ryan Plackemeier had several poor punts last week, but I wonder if it was because he felt he didn't have enough time. Stutz may help ease Plackemeier's mind.