Matchup: (5) Seattle Seahawks at (4) Washington Redskins
Site: FedExField (Landover, Maryland)
The “second season” kicks off on Sunday as the 11-5 Seattle Seahawks head to the Nation’s Capital to take on the 10-6 NFC East champion Washington Redskins in an NFC Wild-Card playoff game. Both teams head into the playoffs with tons of momentum. The Seahawks enter the postseason riding a 5-game winning streak. The Redskins made a tremendous run to the postseason after starting the season 3-6. They ended on a 7-game winning streak and won their division. The Redskins lead the all-time series with Seattle 11-6 but the Seahawks hold a 2-0 advantage against the Redskins in the playoffs. The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was after the 2007 regular season in Seattle. The Seahawks defeated Washington 35-14 after pick-six’s by Marcus Trufant and Jordan Babineaux sealed the game in the 4th quarter. These two teams met in the regular season last season in Seattle and the Redskins knocked off the Seahawks 23-17. There are many storylines that are being covered by the national media and storylines that have been swept under the rug that I will try to cover in this preview. Here are some things to be looking for this weekend.
14 months ago the quarterback matchup between these two teams was Rex Grossman vs. Tarvaris Jackson. Both teams used the draft to pick quarterbacks they thought could lead their teams for years to come. For Washington, they traded three future first-round picks to trade up to take 2011 Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III. The Seahawks kept their early round picks and maneuvered themselves in position to take Russell Wilson in the third round. Both teams have struck gold. Griffin led Washington to their first division championship since 1999 and Wilson led the Seahawks to their winningest season since 2005. Both are extremely quick and add an extra dimension to their teams running games, not to mention that they have combined for 46 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions passing.
For Washington, their main focus should be to put pressure on Wilson. I am sure the Redskins defense will be watching film of last week’s Seahawks game against the Rams to see how they can penetrate Seattle’s offensive line to hurry Wilson. J.R. Sweezy will start for the Seahawks at right guard this week but John Moffitt will also be rotated in and see playing time. I hope that Moffitt plays more than Sweezy. Keeping the continuity along the offensive line with Moffitt would be the best scenario because in our four wins before the Rams game the offensive line gave Russell Wilson plenty of time to make plays. With the amped crowd and a pumped up pass rush, the Seahawks could be in trouble this week if the offensive line plays like they did against St. Louis.
The main focus for the Seahawks this week is definitely to stop the Redskins powerful rushing attack. Washington has rushed for 2,709 yards this season; the most total rushing yards by any team in the National Football League. Robert Griffin III plays a big role in the running game because of their similarly-designed zone-read option but rookie running back Alfred Morris is just as dangerous if not more dangerous than Griffin III. The Seahawks have the second best run defense in the league and the fourth best defense overall. The Redskins have not faced a top 10 defense all season. If the Seahawks can successfully stuff Morris and keep RGIII at bay, the Redskins will have to throw. Washington has minimal talent at the wide receiver position and with our secondary at full strength this week, I expect the Seahawks to be able to shut down the Redskins offense and will allow our defense to get extended rest on the bench.
The Seahawks head to Washington with no injuries of note and a huge piece of our starting defense back in the mix. After serving his 4-game suspension for Adderall the Seahawks will start Brandon Browner at cornerback this week. With Browner back, the “legion of boom” is back in full. This week Richard Sherman will line up against Washington wide receiver Pierre Garcon and Browner will line up against either Santana Moss or Leonard Hankerson depending on the situation. Like I previously stated, the Redskins do not have the advantage in terms of the wide receiver group this week. If the Seattle defense is successful in stopping Washington’s running game, Griffin III will be forced to throw. As a fan I am licking my chops at the possibility of this. In their 16 games this season, Griffin III has been the leading passer only three times and he has not faced a secondary as big and fast as the Seahawks. I would not be surprised to see a couple on interceptions this week if Griffin III has to throw. I think Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas will have the biggest impact this week for the Seahawks. If those two guys can create turnovers by the Redskins, they will put us in good position to win the game.
Let’s talk about the Washington Redskins defense. They have good talent at each defensive level but I will put my spotlight and focus this week on the linebackers. The most notable player on defense for Washington is linebacker London Fletcher. Fletcher is the veteran leader of the Redskins defense. He played in the Redskins playoff game against Seattle in 2007 and was a part of the Rams squad that won Super Bowl XXXIV in 1999. Fletcher has not slumped off with age as he led the Redskins in combined tackles this season with 139. He also added 3 sacks and a forced fumble. Fletcher is mentoring and playing alongside two other noteworthy linebackers. Ryan Kerrigan is one of Washington’s starting outside linebackers. The second year man out of Purdue leads all Redskins defenders with 8.5 sacks this season and he does a good job of moving around and confusing the opponent’s offensive line. Kerrigan will be zoned in on by the Seahawks offense but my player to watch this week is linebacker Perry Riley. Riley may be the most consistent and balanced player on the defensive side of the ball for Washington. Riley finished the regular season second on the team in tackles with 129 and finished third on the team in sacks with 3.5. Playing in the middle next to Fletcher, Riley is a rising star on this team and in this league and he will be around many plays this week for the Redskins.
Random Thoughts: This is the first game the Seahawks have played at FedExField since week 4 of the 2005 season. In that game Seahawks kicker Josh Brown missed a field goal at the end of regulation and Nick Novak connected on a 39-yard field goal in overtime to win it for Washington 20-17. The Seahawks then went on an 11-game winning streak which helped take them to Super Bowl XL… The Seahawks will wear white jerseys this week with the Redskins wearing maroon tops. No word on pants yet. The Seahawks are 1-0 this season with the white jersey/white pants combination so I hope that’s what we go with this week… Expect things to be a bit chippy early between these two teams. Last year in Seattle, the captains of these two teams got into a verbal altercation at the coin toss and the first part of the game was very pushy. Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall has even come out this week and said these two teams hate each other. I would not be surprised to see some players get into it after some plays… This is the first Redskins home playoff game since 1999. Crowd noise will play a factor this week. I think Russell Wilson will control the offense with poise eerily similar to our win in Chicago earlier this season… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews patrolling the sidelines. I really hope Andrews gets to cover the Seahawks sideline… Pete Morelli is the referee this week, I believe his first Seahawks game of the season… The Seahawks have not won a playoff game on the road since 1983 when they upset the Miami Dolphins in an AFC Divisional playoff. After the game the players carried head coach Chuck Knox off the field on their shoulders. As cool as that would be to see, the players know that as great of a win as it would be we still have work to do. Pete Carroll wouldn’t be carried off the field until we do further damage in the postseason… I am very surprised we are favorites in Las Vegas this week…. I think I would rather play in San Francisco in the Divisional playoffs if I had a choice in the matter. What is great though is no matter who we play in any round, the Seahawks should feel no pressure to perform well. We just need to go out and play football… I am glad they scheduled our game for Sunday. We are not screwed out of a day of preparation and our week of practice has not been changed… For the first time in recent memory weather will not play a huge factor in a Seahawks playoff game. Dating back to 2003, we have played 2 road playoff games in Green Bay and 2 games in Chicago. Snow and other bad weather always seem to work against us in these games. This Sunday in Washington they are calling for a daytime high of 40 degrees and sun. Perfect conditions for playoff football in my opinion.
Prediction: Our strength is our run defense. This week we will be able to hold Alfred Morris to under 80 yards and RGIII will have to throw especially because he is battling an LCL injury, which is causing him discomfort to move around a whole lot. The Seahawks will intercept two passes; one by Richard Sherman and one by Earl Thomas. Russell Wilson will struggle early but will settle down in the second half. After the Seahawks break a tie midway through the 4th quarter, the Redskins will drive for a game-tying touchdown but our defense will shut them down before they can even get into field goal range. The Seahawks will head home with their first playoff win on the road in 29 years and will start preparation for Atlanta (most likely).
Seahawks 27, Redskins 20
I hope everyone enjoys this game. There is nothing better than playoff football and I am extremely excited to see if the Seahawks can keep our momentum going. Check back Monday afternoon for a review of our game with Washington and hopefully a short preview of our potential NFC Divisional Playoff game. Go Seahawks!
“The separation’s in the preparation.”- Russell Wilson