Saturday, January 5, 2013

Seahawks look for first road playoff win since 1983 at Nations Capitol

By Kshell

This playoff match up features the leagues two hottest teams as the Seattle Seahawks(11-5) who have won five games in a row travel to Washington D.C. to take on the Washington Redskins(10-6) who have won seven in a row. Both teams feature a strong rushing attack, older coaches who have re-invented themselves and more importantly electric rookie quarterbacks. The Redskins will be hosting their first playoff game since the Bill Clinton era back in 1999. While the Seahawks will be looking to win their first playoff road game since the Ronald Reagan era back in 1983.

The focus of this game will be on the rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and Robert Griffin III of the Redskins. Griffin was supposed to be all that as the Redskins traded a lot to acquire him. Whereas Wilson was the 6th quarterback taken in the draft. Wilson, many figured would back up Matt Flynn. While Wilson had other plans this year. After a slow start Wilson ended up having an incredible season that has him in contention for rookie of the year.

 He finished the year 252-393(64.1%) passing for 3,118 yards(7.9 YPA) with a rookie record 26 touchdown passes to only 10 interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 100.0 which is a Seahawks record. He also ran for 489 yards(5.2 YPC) with four touchdowns. Wilson has been red hot in the second half as he is 123-183(67.2%) passing for 1,652 yards(9.03 YPA) with 16 touchdowns to only two interceptions. He has posted an incredible 120.3 quarterback rating during that time. He has also ran for 361 yards(6.2 YPC) with four touchdowns. Wilson might be the NFL's best quarterback during that stretch.

His receivers are Sidney Rice who led the team with 50 receptions for 748 yards(15.0 YPC) with seven touchdowns. Rice has been pretty consistent this year as the #1 threat for this offense. Golden Tate had a very big year. He was most famous for this this catch on Monday Night but he also had a pretty good year. Tate caught a career high 45 passes for 688 yards(15.3 YPC) with 7 touchdowns. He also threw a touchdown this year to Rice. Doug Baldwin has been coming on strong lately has 29 receptions for 366 yards(12.6 YPC) with three touchdowns. Then tight end Zach Miller has 38 receptions for 396 yards(10.4 YPC) with three touchdowns. Anthony McCoy the other tight end has caught 18 passes for 291 yards(16.3 YPC) with three touchdowns. The Seahawks don't have a go to guy but spread the ball well. Which will come in handy on Sunday as the Redskins rank 30th out of 32 teams against the pass allowing 281.9 yards per game with 31 touchdowns to 21 interceptions.

The Redskins are led by what many think will win the rookie of the year. Robert Griffin the third who won the heisman last year and ended another seattle football teams season defeating the Huskies 67-56 in last years Alamo Bowl . I have a feeling this years game won't be as high scoring. Griffin is coming into this game a little banged up though. Griffin had an incredible season passing 258-393(65.6%) for 3,200 yards(8.1 YPA) with 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 102.4. What makes Griffin even more impressive is the fact he has ran for 815 yards(6.8 YPC) with seven touchdowns.

Just like Wilson, Griffin doesn't have a primary go to receiver. This year the Redskins leading receiver is Pierre Garcon who has caught 44 passes for 633 yards(14.4 YPC) with four touchdowns. The Redskins also have Santana Moss who has caught 41 passes for 573 yards(14.0 YPC) with eight touchdowns. Leonard  Hankerson has caught 38 passes for 543 yards(14.3 YPC) with three touchdowns. Josh Morgan caught 48 passes for 510 yards(10.6 YPC) with two touchdowns. The Redskins will probably have a tough time against the Seahawks secondary which features three guys who have played in the pro bowl with another Richard Sherman who was snubbed for political reasons.

Both teams love to run the football. The Seahawks are led by pro bowl running back Marshawn Lynch who is going to his second straight pro bowl. Lynch made a big splash in his very first career playoff game two years ago against the Saints. When he busted a 67 yard touchdown run which many consider the greatest run in NFL history. Lynch after signing a new contract this offseason leads the Seahawks rushing attack which ranks 3rd in the NFL.  Lynch finished third in the NFL in rushing yards rushing for 1,590 yards on 315 carries(5.0 YPC) with 11 touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 196 yards(8.5 YPC) with a touchdown. His backup is Robert Turbin who ran for 354 yards on 80 carries(4.4 YPC). He had 19 receptions for 181 yards(9.5 YPC). The Seahawks rushing attack will go up against the Redskins rush defense which ranks 5th in the NFL against the run.

The Redskins lead the NFL in rushing led by another rookie of theirs Alfred Morris. Morris finished the year second in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,613 yards on 335 carries(4.8 YPC) with 13 touchdowns. Morris is another late round find by head coach Mike Shanahan. Morris who was only a 6th round pick out of Florida Atlantic came out of nowhere to lead the Redskins rushing attack. Teams have to focus so much on Griffin the Redskins are able to run Morris. The Seahawks defense ranks 10th against the run has struggled the second half of the season against the run. The Redskins will hope to pound the run and keep their weakness(pass defense) off the field. If the Seahawks are able to shut down Morris look for them to win this game rather easily.

The Seahawks have a big advantage in the special teams department.  Leon Washington is going to the pro bowl for the Seahawks as a kick returner. On kickoff returns he averaged 29.0 yards per return including a 98 yard touchdown.  On punt returns he averaged 8.7 yards per return on 41 returns(356 yards). Kicker Steven Hauschka on the year is 24-27(88.9%) on field goals. Punter Jon Ryan is averaging 45.6 yards per punt on 65 punts and a net average of 40.8 yards per punt. He has 30 inside the 20 and only 3 touchbacks.

The Redskins on the other hand are poor in special teams. Their return average on kickoff returns is 23.5. On punt returns with new punt returner Richard Crawford the Seahawks have to worry as he is averaging 19.5 yards per return on eight returns. Their punter Sav Rocca has a 43.9 yards average on punts but only 37.2 net average. He also has just 22 punts inside the 20 on 68 attempts. Look for the Seahawks to use this field position to get a cheap score.

Pete Carroll has done a wonderful job reshaping this roster. This is a much different team than the group he led to the playoffs two years ago. Two years ago was an aging team on it's last run which Carroll squeezed a playoff win out of. This group is the youngest team in the playoffs and is looking to go on a run. Carroll has a chance to snap that 29 year streak of not winning a road playoff game and hopefully lead this team to the Super Bowl title.

This Seahawks team led the NFC in point differential with a plus 167 trailing only Denver and New England. According to Bill Barnwell's DVOA rankings the Seahawks are the best team in the NFL and 6th best team since 1991. The Seahawks finished 9th in offensive points and 1st in defensive points allowed. The bulk of this roster was either drafted by Carroll and John Schneider or acquired by them. I don't think Carroll receives enough credit for the job he is doing in Seattle.

Prediction: Seahawks 23, Redskins 17

I've learned over the years as a Seattle fan that it is never easy. I expect the game to come down to needing a stop against Griffin which is going to be stressful. Ultimately I feel like the Seahawks will win this game due to Wilson lighting up their weak secondary. The Redskins love to blitz which I feel like Wilson will hit some big plays on that as will Lynch running.

I think defensively with Brandon Browner back and Richard Sherman the Seahawks can leave those two corners on an island. Sherman should be up for defensive player of the year. He recorded eight interceptions while also leading the league with 24 pass deflections. He also forced three fumbles and scored two touchdowns this year. With those two on an island and former pro bowl safety Kam Chancellor playing over the top look for the Seahawks to allow pro bowl safety Earl Thomas to roam. This is where Thomas is most dangerous as he is so fast and quick he can read run then quickly recover for the pass. I expect Thomas to make a big play whether that be a key sack on third down, forcing a fumble or simply picking off a pass.

The Seahawks have a great opportunity as a franchise to go on a run this postseason. This will be the franchises seventh trip in the last 10 years but the first trip without Matt Hasselbeck. This is a new era of Seahawks football as Mike Holmgren, Hasselbeck, Walter Jones and Shaun Alexander are no longer around. The only Seahawk who has been here this entire run is Marcus Trufant who had a key interception return for a touchdown to end the Redskins season back in 2007. This team is growing and will only get better. I also know that in the NFL there is no guarantees so for all we know this could be it. I think the Seahawks have what it takes to get it done but it will be a nail biter like all their true road games have been this year.

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