There is a reason I’ve held off until last to predict this game and it isn’t because it is the last game of the weekend. The reason I’ve procrastinated on this one is simply because even as I’m writing it, I’m not sure who I’m going to pick to win it. When two of the hottest teams in the league face off in the 5th seeded Seattle Seahawks and the 4th seeded Washington Redskins, anything can and probably will happen.
Seattle Seahawks (5) @ Washington Redskins (4)
The first thing to realize about this match up is that it is two teams that hardly anyone predicted to be playing a seventeenth game of the season. With two rookie quarterbacks on two teams that were still in the midst of a rebuild, people expected flashes, but nothing like this.
For all of the talk Colts rookie quarterback, and number one overall pick in this draft gets, you’d be crazy not to consider both of these guys in contention for the NFL offensive rookie of the year. With all three of them leading their teams to a playoff berth and double digit wins as a rookie, the future appears to be now for the league and I doubt this will be the last meeting between these youngsters.
There was talk before the season that it was the do or die season for Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. Well, he definitely did, as Seattle enters the playoffs as the team playing the most well rounded ball in the conference. With a strong offense and a punishing defense, Seattle only has to ask their young quarterback Russell Wilson to be a game manager, not try to do to much and help the team score about 17-20 points per game.
The Seattle defense, led by Chris Clemons and rookie sensation Bruce Irvin, have generated a consistent pass rush that can force a rookie quarterback like the one they’ll be facing today into dumb mistakes. This is where guy like Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas have had huge seasons in turning the ball over and making plays. However, they’ll be facing a more mobile quarterback than they’ve faced all season, as Robert Griffin III loves to take off with the ball if the pocket begins to collapse.
On the other side, just when the Washington Redskins looked to be dead in the water, they reeled off seven consecutive wins to earn their first NFC East title since 1999. And they did so with good defense and stellar quarterback play that began by running the ball; an essential piece to head coach Mike Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme. It took him a few years, but he finally got the personnel in the trenches that he needed to turn a late round gem like Alfred Morris into a stud running back.
Just like Shanahan did in Denver, he has a way of finding that late round guy who can fit his one cut and go running scheme that almost always generates a 1,000 yard plus rusher. Did anyone think Terrell Davis was a superstar coming out of Georgia? What about Olandis Gary or Mike Anderson? It isn’t that you can just plug anyone in his system and be successful; it’s that Shanahan and his staff are wizard’s at finding a late round prospect with the ability to fit what they do. At this point, it’s no longer an anomaly, it’s a trend.
With the running game working as well as it has, that’s the kind of football you need to beat a team like Seattle. Washington has to get off to an early lead and then run the ball to win the time of possession battle. And if the running game is working, it gives Griffin his opportunity to spread the ball around to his wide receiver group that has done a fabulous job of sharing the ball.
When you have a team that has won seven straight meeting up with a club that has won five straight, and seven of their last eight, something has to give. For anyone who has read my stuff before knows; I’m a defense guy and I don’t think you can win anything in the NFL postseason without having a really good one. That’s why, even with the Redskins fantastic home field advantage, I’m going with the road team to squeak one out this evening in a game that will come down to the last possession.
Seahawks 20 Redskins 19
Tagged with: Alfred Morris, Andrew Luck, Bruce Irvin, Chris Clemons, Earl Thomas, Indianapolis Colts, Mike Anderson, Mike Shanahan, NFC, NFC East, NFC West, Olandis Gary, Pete Carroll, Richard Sherman, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, Terrell Davis, Washington Redskins