Here we are, the fourth and final game of Wild Card Weekend. The NFC East Champion Washington Redskins will be hosting the 11-5 Seattle Seahawks later in the afternoon at Fedex Field. We'll get the privilege of watching two top rookie quarterbacks––Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson––go at it in a very loud environment in Landover, MD.
The headlines will be given to RGIII and Wilson, but I think it'll be the two defenses that play a key role in how this one plays out.
4:30 PM, Fedex Field
Favorite: Seattle by 3
On offense, it will be a tough task for the Seattle defense to stop the two top rookies on Washington's offense (RGIII and the league's second leading rusher Alfred Morris). But if any defense out there can contain these two, it's Seattle's. As the league's best overall defense, Seattle has the ability to take away the passing game and make the Redskins a one-dimensional offense. Robert Griffin hasn't looked like the same runner since his knee injury, so I don't think they'll have as much trouble stopping him as people seem to think.
Alfred Morris is who I'd be more concerned about if I was Seattle's defensive coordinator. The explosive rookie back makes it look easy out there and is tough to stop this season. On offense, however, Seattle can pound the ball with Marshawn Lynch early and often to take the pressure off Wilson and control the clock.
Offensive 2012 Stats
Seattle: 9th-ranked scoring, 27th-ranked passing, 3rd-ranked rushing
Washington: 4th-ranked scoring, 20th-ranked passing, 1st-ranked rushing
Defensive 2012 Stats
Seattle: 1st-ranked scoring, 6th-ranked passing, 10th-ranked rushing
Washington: 22nd-ranked scoring, 30th-ranked passing, 5th-ranked rushing
Clearly Washington has had great production in all aspects of the offense, leading the league in rushing and seeing its rookie signal caller post a 102.3 rating with just 5 interceptions on his way to a Pro Bowl appearance. But this game will all come down to who steps it up on the defensive side of things, and we'll see the top-ranked scoring defense go head-to-head with the 4th-ranked scoring offense.
Defense wins championships, and as both teams have a knack for causing turnovers (both teams have 31 on the season), it'll come down to whoever can get its defense off the field. We wont see these two quarterbacks throwing 30+ times for 300 yards and 3 TDs, but we may see both starting running back (Morris and Lynch) break 100 with a couple of TDs. Lynch has the advantage over the young Morris, despite facing the 5th-ranked run defense in Washington.
For Wilson, he will need to limit mistakes and play perfect football. If you turn the ball over against this Skins team they will turn it into a touchdown. If Wilson manages to do this, and Lynch breaks 100-120 yards, the Seahawks will be able to wear down Washington's banged up defense and control the clock. I'm expecting the Seattle front 7 to pressure Griffin all day and keep him in the pocket.
Griffin will outplay Wilson, there's no doubt about that, especially since he'll be playing in familiar territory. But as a team Seattle is a superior team over Washington and will be able to manage the clock and prevent damage on offense with its top scoring defense.
The one-two punch of Griffin and Morris, the youngest QB-RB combo out there, has proven to be deadly this season, but it has also been proven that they are beatable when rushing for 200+ yards in a game. In fact they have run for 200 or more yards as a team on four different occasions this season, and went 2-2 in those games with two early-season losses to the Bengals and Giants.
Things to Remember While Watching
*Washington has put up 30+ points seven times this season, going 6-1 during those games. But on defense they've limited their opponents to under 20 points just three times all season.
*Alfred Morris finished 2012 as the league's second-leading rusher with 1,613 yards (second in TDs with 13), and Marshawn Lynch was third with 1,590 (t-fifth in TDs with 11).
*Seattle's Russell Wilson orchestrated four game-winning drives this season.
*Wilson also had a higher TD% (6.6) than guys like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, behind only Aaron Rodgers on the season, while tying Peyton Manning's rookie passing touchdown record of 26.
*RGIII has outrun Wilson this season, 815-489 and 7 TDs to 4 TDs.
*Washington started the season with a 3-6 record, but a current 7-game win streak put the Skins in the postseason. Seattle is riding a 5-game win streak, including back-to-back 50-point games in mid-December.
Key Players for Each Team
*Marshawn Lynch: A lot rides on the legs of Lynch in today's match-up, as he will need to have a great game in order to keep up with the running game of this Redskins squad. I expect him to bring some extra skittles with him today and to run for another 100 yard game in his third postseason appearance (had 131 against New Orleans in 2010).
*Richard Sherman: Seattle's front seven will do everything they can to keep Griffin in the pocket, and if they are successful, Griffin will be passing the ball a little more often than usual. Turnovers are key in this game, and if Sherman can come away with at least one interception (had 8 during the regular season) it could pay dividends for Wilson and the offense.
*Alfred Morris: Griffin III hasn't been the same runner since his knee injury against Baltimore, so it will be up to Morris again this week to put the team on his back. I'm not expecting another 200-yard performance from the guy, but 120-130 could do wonders against Seattle's defense this afternoon. Both offenses will be battling over control of the clock, and it'll all come down to Lynch and Morris.
*London Fletcher: The heart and soul of Washington's defense, the veteran Fletcher will need to help contain Wilson and keep him in the pocket today. With Seattle's dangerous defense likely to limit what Washington can do on offense, Fletcher and his defense will need to do the same in order to have a shot at knocking off these 'Hawks.
This may be the most evenly-matched game we'll see this weekend. Both teams with rookie quarterbacks who have the ability to make plays with their legs, both have top three running backs and both teams have solid defenses. Washington has the advantage at the quarterback position, but I'd take the combination of Lynch and Seattle's No. 1 defense over Morris and the Skins' injury-riddled defense (have been without Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker for most of the season).
Seattle will take this one on the road in a very close game.
Final Prediction: Seahawks 28, Redskins 24
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