Over the next few weeks, we'll analyze the NFL playoffs using EA Sports' powerhouse football simulation, Madden NFL 25, determining the pros and cons of each team and picking an overall winner.
This weekend, the Saints charge into Seattle, home of the thriving Seahawks.
Let's see what each team has to offer.
New Orleans Saints – Madden NFL 25 Team Rating: 82
Although it didn't repeat its Super Bowl success, the New Orleans Saints refused to go quietly when it came to this year's playoffs. Quarterback Drew Brees put on another powerhouse performance to bring his team to Seattle this week.
However, there's a lot they'll need to consider. The last time they faced the Seahawks, they were manhandled in a December 2nd match-up, 34-7, held to their lowest point total in years. In addition, the Saints don’t play well away from home, with three straight losses this past month.
Still, with Brees' hot arm and an offense that includes Jimmy Graham (with 16 touchdowns during the regular season) and Pierre Thomas (with a huge number of yards), the team will seek revenge when it re-enters the Seahawks' building.
Playing With the Saints
When it comes to offense, the Saints don't have much to worry about. Brees is a very reliable passer, whether you prefer long Hail Mary-style plays down the field or quick passes to get the first down. The key is throwing quick, razor-sharp passes that may leave the Seattle defense guessing. Try and mix up your strategies.
Defense is a whole other matter. We'll break down the Seattle offense in more detail below, but the key is watching what quarterback Russell Wilson does. Get to him as quickly as possible.
Back to offense, one more weapon you shouldn't overlook is Pierre Thomas. Get him an open route and he's bound to eat up plenty of yardage. Just make sure you don't leave him too loose-handed for a fumble – one costly mistake is all it takes to send New Orleans packing, especially against Seattle.
Seattle Seahawks – Madden NFL 25 Rating: 90
The Seahawks have a number of advantages going into its match-up this weekend against the Saints. It knows that New Orleans is a weak team when it comes to road games, and it certainly had its number with the 34-7 loss back in December.
The team has racked up a number of impressive wins at home, and the fans at CenturyLink Field scored a Guinness World Record for crowd noise at a deafening 137.6 decibels. You probably won't be able to repeat that in the game, but this kind of frenzy adds fuel to the team's offensive drives.
Wilson is a terrific quarterback, amassing a number of those wins on reliable passes and a strong offense. Another factor to consider is the return of Percy Harvin, who will no doubt bring a strong wide receiver performance. Marshawn Lynch is another factor to consider with his huge rushing game, as he achieved over 1,250 yards this season, leading to 12 touchdowns.
Playing As the Seahawks
When it comes to defense, the team should read what Brees is up to. He's got just as stable an arm as Wilson, even without the home field advantage, and there's no question the team's previous loss is on his mind. This makes him knowledgeable – and a bit unpredictable – so watch what he does. For good measure, keep some guys up front for the rushing game as well, as you never know when Graham will do while on the run.
With scoring, Seattle has a number of options. Give Lynch the ball and he'll practically chew up yards like a lawnmower, depending on the open routes. Likewise, don't be afraid to pass with Wilson. There's a reason he's a high-ranked quarterback, and if you see a wide-open receiver, throw the ball. Even if it's a long shot, Wilson has dead-on accuracy.
It's just a matter of finding the same balance that worked so well for the team over the course of the season, and shrugging off the rust that led to home losses in Arizona and San Francisco towards the end.
So Who Wins?
This is another tough match-up to call, mainly because of what each team brings to the field. Sure, Seattle fans already have their minds made up based on the recent history between these two teams, but New Orleans hasn't forgotten what happened in the past – and won't be so easy to conquer this time around.
The simulation we played pegged Seattle with a close win over the Saints, 23-20, sending them packing. The final game can go either way, but considering Seattle's incredible fan base, the superb power of Wilson and a strong balance between offense and defense, we could easily see the Seahawks working their way to the Super Bowl. We'll find out soon.
Madden NFL 25 is available now for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.