Saints morning report: Tough road ahead

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints (9-2) will face their toughest matchup to date on Monday night when they play at the Seattle Seahawks (10-1). But the road doesn't get much easier after that.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Saints' remaining schedule was tied for the second toughest in the NFL heading into this week, with an opponents' winning percentage of .618. Only the St. Louis Rams (.655) face a more difficult finish.

After Monday night's game, the Saints will finish out with a home date against the Carolina Panthers (8-3), back-to-back road games at the Rams (5-6) and Panthers, then a home date with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8).

Not only that, but every team on the Saints' remaining schedule is on a hot streak. The Seahawks have won six straight games, the Panthers seven straight, the Rams two straight and the Bucs three straight.

Rare Monday night gem: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Saints' and Seahawks' combined winning percentage of .864 is the second-highest of any "Monday Night Football" game ever played this late in the season. The highest was a 1990 matchup between the 10-1 New York Giants and the 10-1 San Francisco 49ers.

Tied for third on that list is the 2009 matchup between the 10-0 Saints and the 7-3 New England Patriots in the Superdome.

Payton thankful: Saints coach Sean Payton was asked Thursday what he's thankful for on this Thanksgiving -- and he had a pretty genuine response after spending the past season out of football.

"I am thankful for these players. I am thankful for you guys (the media), all that cover us on a regular basis. And I mean that," Payton said. "The biggest thing, and I told our team a few minutes ago, when you are away a year it is not the ancillary things, but it is the interaction that you have as a team. I think it's a close group. Obviously there are a lot of changes every year, but that's the thing I am thankful for, is this family, my immediate family, also, with my children. And that's why I always kind of like practicing on this day."

Worth a click:

  • The Times-Picayune’s Jeff Duncan wrote about Drew Brees’ chances of winning that elusive first MVP award this year. Brees’ performance Monday night could be a big factor.

  • Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson could also vault himself into that MVP conversation with a strong performance Monday. ESPN.com's Mike Sando examines in this Insider piece Insider whether or not Wilson has passed up the Indianapolis Colts’ Andrew Luck as the league’s top young quarterback.

  • WWLTV.com’s Bradley Handwerger took a deeper look into two of the challenges facing the Saints this week -- the crowd noise and the cold weather.

  • Only two members of ESPN’s panel picked the Saints to beat the Seahawks this week. But they aren’t alone. I feel like the Saints are too locked in right now to pick against them -- even under such challenging conditions. Stay tuned for that prediction and more later this morning in our weekly “Double Coverage” game preview from me and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount.