"If somebody had said to me after the Super Bowl, the Saints are going to be the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, I would have jumped on it," said Saints linebacker Scott Shanle.
The logistics of a short week and traveling to the Pacific Northwest are a challenge, but the Saints are experienced in handling inconvenient situations. They traveled to London in 2008 and beat the Chargers and have practiced on the road in recent years when hurricanes were approaching New Orleans. Playing a 7-9 playoff team isn't the biggest challenge the Saints have faced.
"You look in everybody's eyes, and you see it's time to go now," said Shanle. "It's a new season, it's time to defend this thing, everything we have worked for is right in front of us, let's go do it."
The Saints won their earlier game with the Seahawks 34-19, but the Seahawks moved the ball with ease. Matt Haselbeck passed for 366 yards.
But the Saints defense has been better recently. The defense has always been aggressive, but it may be more aggressive than usual against Seattle. Hasselbeck (hip) has been banged up and Charlie Whitehurst led the Seahawks over Cardinals 16-6 on Sunday. Making his second career start, Whitehurst threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams on Seattle's first possession and ex-Saint Olinde Mare connected on three field goals.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said he hasn't decided on a starting quarterback yet.
Seattle's defense that allowed at least 34 points in four of its last five games, suddenly showed a backbone, making St. Louis' conservative offensive approach seem even slower.
The Seahawks finished a laughable 7-9 and tied with St. Louis, but won the NFC West thanks to a better division record than St. Louis.
"I guess we won for all the teams that have a losing record and think they can't be champions," said Carroll. "It can get done. Somehow it happened."
The Saints' running game could be a key for this game. Chris Ivory ran for 99 yards in the regular-season meeting, but he has been banged up the past month. Seattle's run defense has been among the weakest in the league, and the Saints need to exploit that weakness to keep the Seahawks from devoting too much attention to the passing game.
Reggie Bush has come back slowly from his broken leg, but he ran hard against the Bucs. They Saints may need him to carry the running load if Ivory and Pierre Thomas aren't able to contribute much. Julius Jones hasn't done much but fumble on the Tampa Bay one when given playing time.
Make jokes and laugh all you want at the Seahawks making the postseason with a losing record.
"There is no apologies for making the playoffs. The easiest way is to win your division, period," said gnarled veteran safety Lawyer Milloy. "We did that."