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NFL New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks: What To Watch For

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Saints vs. Seahawks: 5 Things To Watch For

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Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Another NFL week has come and is mostly over with by now. Week 13 was another fantastic week of professional football, with plenty of divisional matchups to help sort out the standings and make the playoff picture that much clearer.

The first three games we were treated to were the annual Thanksgiving Day games.

The Detroit Lions humiliated the Green Bay Packers in the opening game, 40-10, giving the Lions lead of the NFC North and the ability to control their own future. To be fair, the Packers were once again without Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is still recovering from a broken collarbone he suffered weeks ago.

The second game was a chance for the Dallas Cowboys to shine on national television, which they did. They defeated the Oakland Raiders and are currently tied for first place in the NFC East with the Philadelphia Eagles. Who wins that division could very well come down to the final week of the season when the Eagles play the Cowboys in Dallas.

The final game on Thanksgiving was an AFC North showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore was able to edge the Steelers, but what was unique about this game was Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and his approach to defending kick returns.

Tomlin was seen near the sideline watching the Ravens’ Jacoby Jones return a kickoff on the stadium jumbotron screen, only to act surprised when Jones neared and jump away. The NFL is considering taking action and levying penalties and fines on both Tomlin and the Steelers for what appeared to be the Steelers’ coach attempting to interfere with the play.

Crazy.

In other NFL news, the Jacksonville Jaguars secured their third win of the season over the Cleveland Browns and the Houston Texans continued their bid for the first pick in the 2014 draft with a loss to the New England Patriots.

The Denver Broncos finally showed who the better team in the AFC West with a win against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Carolina Panthers also continued their winning ways with a 27-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, making the New Orleans Saints' upcoming Monday night game against the Seattle Seahawks all that much more important.

Speaking of the Saints, here are five things to watch for in the Saints-Seahawks matchup.

Jack Cavanaugh is a New Orleans Saints contributing writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @cav_jack, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Seattle's Secondary Woes?

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle has a strong secondary led by cornerback Richard Sherman, but recent happenings might have weakened them in that area. Walter Thurmond is currently serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, and Brandon Browner is going through an appeals process for substance-abuse violations of his own.

The Saints and Drew Brees may take advantage of this, especially if Sherman is assigned to cover tight end Jimmy Graham in a manner similar to the way Aqib Talib of the Patriots did. If Sherman is otherwise occupied with Graham, look for Brees to test the waters and try spreading the ball around to others, like Kenny Stills, Lance Moore and Marques Colston.

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4. Road Woes For the Saints?

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

CenturyLink Field in Seattle is a tough place to play for NFL teams not named the Seahawks. Seattle has won its last 13 games in this stadium and earlier this year their 12th man set a sports stadium crowd roar decibel level record.

The crowd makes it tough for opposing teams to operate, so the Saints will have to maintain their composure and play smart football. We all remember the playoff loss to the Seahawks in January of 2011 when Marshawn Lynch did his Beast Quake run.

This will be an opportunity for New Orleans to prove they are capable of winning outside of their dome and on the road. It will be tough, but it is doable.

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3. A Healthy Jimmy Graham

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Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Graham fully participated in team practices this week and was not listed on the injury report. Graham will likely be a big part of the Saints' offensive game plan, even if he is bottled up by cornerback Richard Sherman.

Look for him to get a lot of targets and be a part of a lot of snaps.

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2. Can Saint Rob Continue The Miracles?

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Ryan righted the defensive ship and is a big reason why the Saints are serious contenders this season. After getting gutted by running back Chris Ivory of the New York Jets several weeks ago, Ryan and his defensive unit have significantly improved their rushing defense. Hopefully that trend continues against Marshawn Lynch and the athletic, mobile Russell Wilson.

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1. Smart Play and Efficient Running Is Crucial For Saints' Victory

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Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Even with the secondary concerns in Seattle right now, New Orleans must be able to focus on and commit to smart and efficient play calling. Their run game has to be involved to help minimize the risk of throwing and for those short yardage situations that troubled them earlier in the season.

Pierre Thomas has been a solid producer all year and Darren Sproles should be healthy and active after suffering an ankle injury two weeks ago. Also, if the Saints can get Mark Ingram involved and in a rhythm, all the better.