Coaches Pete Carroll and Sean Payton both cautioned that it’s still early in the season.
For Payton, it was in reference to New Orleans’ passing game. The Saints are second-to-last in the NFL with 169.4 yards through the air per game, well off the standard set during the Drew Brees era.
“The good news is I don’t have to bring the report card home to my mom right now,” Payton said. “We’ve got a lot of football” still to play.
Quarterback Jameis Winston and the Saints (3-2) are coming off a bye week heading into Monday night’s game at Seattle. New Orleans is a 4.0-point favorite at BetRivers, where 52.7 percent of the bets and 65.5 percent of the spread-line handle are backing the Saints.
Carroll’s Seahawks (2-4) are in a more dire situation, especially with quarterback Russell Wilson (finger surgery) and running back Chris Carson (neck) on injured reserve. The reigning NFC West champions are already four games behind undefeated Arizona in the division race.
The public is also not strongly supporting the Seahawks at DraftKings, where they have been backed by just 37 percent of both the bets and money as 4.5-point underdogs. However, AI-driven predictive sports analytics provider Quarter4 has an even 50 percent win probability for the game.
Carroll was adamant in his unwillingness to write off his team just yet.
“It’s going to be a long way down the schedule. There are a lot of things that will happen around the league, and we have to take care of our business,” Carroll said. “As it is always the case, postponing judgment is a powerful tool if you have it, and that’s what we have to do.”
Geno Smith will get his second consecutive start at QB for the Seahawks. He completed 23 of 32 passes for 209 yards in a 23-20 overtime loss last Sunday night at Pittsburgh. Smith directed the Seahawks to a tying field goal late in regulation, but his fumble while being sacked in overtime led to Pittsburgh’s winning score.
“I can’t keep coming up short. I put that on myself,” said Smith, who threw an interception when a receiver fell down as he tried to rally the Seahawks past the Los Angeles Rams the previous week after Wilson was injured. “Back-to-back weeks, our defense gives us a chance to score. Give me the ball. We don’t get it done. That’s solely on me. I vow to be better.”
Carroll said he doesn’t want his players feeling a sense of urgency against the Saints.
“I think it’s really important that we don’t let that disrupt the way we prepare and operate because it can turn the way you respond and react in a direction that can work against you,” Carroll said. “When you over-try, you’re not acting like you’re capable of acting. You’re acting like something else.”
The bye couldn’t have come at a better time for the injury-riddled Saints.
Defensive end Marcus Davenport and linebacker Kwon Alexander haven’t played since the season opener and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith and kicker Wil Lutz have been sidelined since the preseason. All four could return Monday.
Center Erik McCoy (calf) and left tackle Terron Armstead (elbow) returned to practice as limited participants, though quarterback Taysom Hill (concussion) did not and has been ruled out along with wide receiver Deonte Harris and running back Dwayne Washington.
“This bye is more unique than I can recall in the past just because of the amount of players that have been injured,” Payton said. “This is a tough week because there’s so much going on, and we have to see how it goes. … There’s a handful of different guys (coming back). So, keeping track of it this week is challenging for me.”
Seahawks running back Alex Collins (groin), who rushed for 101 yards against the Steelers in place of Carson, is listed as question but Carroll said he will play. However, guard Damien Lewis (shoulder), defensive end Darrell Taylor (neck) and cornerback John Reid (knee) are game-time decisions.
The Over/Under is 41.5 points at both sportsbooks. The Over has been backed by 71.7 percent of the bets and 71.8 percent of the money at BetRivers and 74 and 76 percent, respectively, at DraftKings.
–Field Level Media