Every so often there is a "Monday Night Football" game that doubles not only as a great regular-season matchup, but a potential championship game preview. Tonight's game has that gravitas, as the 9-2 New Orleans Saints visit the 10-1 Seattle Seahawks.
This matchup is even more significant because of the playoff ramifications it holds. The Seahawks haven't lost at home in 13 games with Russell Wilson as the starting quarterback, while the Saints are 6-0 (5-1 against the spread) so far at the Superdome this season. No playoff team wants to travel to Seattle or New Orleans in January.
Drew Brees has been fantastic as usual this season, with a 71.3 QBR and 28 TDs against eight INTs. The New Orleans offense has been prolific in multiple categories, including 415 yards per game (third), 22.9 first downs/game (tied for third), a 45.3 percent third-down conversion rate (fourth) and a 33:03 average time of possession that leads the NFL. That has helped keep a much improved Saints defense well rested.
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett noted, New Orleans' defense has missed the fewest tackles this season with 57; last year, the Saints were 31st with 128 missed tackles. Rob Ryan's defense also leads the league with sacks on 10.3 percent of opponent dropbacks, thanks in large part to a big season so far from Cameron Jordan (9.5 sacks).
Meanwhile, the Seahawks are about as quiet a 10-1 team (7-4 ATS) as you can be. Wilson has been a steadying presence among injuries to Sidney Rice and several offensive linemen. But off the field, there have been plenty of issues, as Brandon Browner faces a one-year suspension for substance abuse and Walter Thurmond is out four games for violation of the league's substance-abuse program. This defense is still one of the NFL's best, but the rush defense has been a concern lately, as Seattle has allowed over 200 yards rushing in two of the past four games. Look for New Orleans to try to exploit that advantage and spread the Seahawks out to create favorable matchups for Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles on the outside.
The public is pretty split on this game, as 52 percent of the bets are the on Saints as 4.5-point underdogs according to ESPN Insider's PickCenter.
Let's turn now to analysis on the line from Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hotel and an ATS pick on the game from Insider's panel of Vegas handicappers.
Matchup: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
Spread: Opened Seahawks minus-4.5; now Seahawks minus-4.5
Total: Opened 46.5; now 47