New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks: Jameis Winston and Geno Smith look to step out from Drew Brees and Russell Wilson's shadows
Watch Monday Night Football - New Orleans Saints at the Seattle Seahawks - live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.15am in the early hours of Tuesday morning
Last Updated: 26/10/21 6:15am
New Orleans Saints vs Seattle Seahawks. A match-up of two of the most dominant teams in the NFL since the turn of the 21st century.
Except it will have an unfamiliar feel to it as the two teams meet on Monday Night Football this week. Drew Brees vs Russell Wilson is no more; in its place the somewhat less mouth-watering prospect of Jameis Winston vs Geno Smith at quarterback.
The Saints lost the 42-year-old Brees - the NFL's second leading passer of all time (80,358 yards), surpassed only this season by Tom Brady - to retirement in the offseason. The Seahawks lost Wilson to a finger injury in Week Five that is expected to keep him out for at least another month.
That is a combined two Super Bowl titles (Brees 2009, Wilson 2013), 21 Pro Bowl appearances (Brees 13, Wilson eight), a combined 115,500 passing yards (Wilson with 35,142 of those) and 848 touchdown passes thrown (Brees 571, Wilson 277) lost from the field on Monday.
Serving in their place, Winston has shown flashes this season, most notably in throwing five touchdowns in a shock Week One shellacking of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, while his 12 TDs to just three interceptions through five games reads favourably for a man most famed for being the first quarterback in NFL history to throw more than 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season - in 2019, his last with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Smith, meanwhile, is coming off the back of his first NFL start in four years! The journeyman back-up did a serviceable job in the 23-20 overtime defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend - 23 of 32 for 209 yards and one touchdown - but Russell Wilson he is not.
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These are two teams finding their way following the loss of a couple of superstars under center. The Saints do at least currently own a winning record, sitting at 3-2 on the season following their bye week, but they have yet to string back-to-back wins together. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are precariously placed at 2-4, bottom of the ultra-competitive NFC West division. They need to find answers fast, starting with a win on Monday night, or any hope of a playoff push will be long gone.
These are two proud franchises. Since Sean Payton took over as head coach in New Orleans in 2006, bringing in Brees with him, the team missed the playoffs only five times (one of which, in 2012, came with Payton serving a one-year suspension), while they have claimed six NFC South titles and one Super Bowl.
The Seahawks, similarly, have only known success since Pete Carroll took over, missing the playoffs only twice during his 11-year tenure, while their last losing record was posted a decade ago. Yet, lose on Monday night and that run looks in real danger.
They need a performance from Smith at quarterback, no doubt, but where Seattle really need to step up is actually on defense. They currently rank dead-last in the league in total defense, giving up a staggering 433.2 yards per game - a performance that has them on pace to challenge the record-worst unit in NFL history which, coincidentally, was set by the 2012 Saints (440.1 YPG).
The New Orleans defense is a very different unit now, however, which will be of further concern to the Seahawks. They are joint-third in the league in scoring defense, giving up only 18.2 points per game, and they also rank second against the run - 79 yards per game allowed - so if Seattle were hoping to heavily lean on Alex Collins, fresh from his 100-yard rushing and one-score game against the Steelers, they might have to think again.
And, sticking with running backs, can this be the week where Alvin Kamara really comes to life for the Saints. Widely considered one of the best running backs in the league, it has been a slow start to the season for No 41.
He has only one rushing touchdown through their first five games, that coming in their most recent win over the Washington Football Team as he has started to show signs of hitting peak form.
Kamara tallied only 121 scrimmage yards combined from the Saints' first two games, while in their last three he has topped a ton in each. Kamara also has fond memories of facing this Seahawks side. He had 161 total yards (69 rushing, 92 receiving) and two touchdowns in their most recent meeting, a 33-27 win two years' ago.
So, while Monday night's match-up may be missing a couple of future Hall of Famers at quarterback, there will still be lots of talent on display, plenty of intrigue and certainly high stakes as these two squads try to step out of their long-casted shadows and closer towards their playoff goals.
Watch Monday Night Football - New Orleans Saints at the Seattle Seahawks - live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.15am in the early hours of Tuesday morning.