The great weekend of wild card football wraps up with the fourth and final game on the schedule featuring a pair of young playmakers at quarterback and the only road favorite in this weekend’s action. Can Russell Wilson go across the country and get a win over RG3 and the red-hot Redskins? Find out right here…
What to Watch for…
When the Redskins are on offense: One of the top storylines of the season has been the emergence of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III as an electrifying weapon out of the Washington backfield. Griffin has filled a highlight reel of his own with his rushing, throwing, and even fumbling for touchdowns. RG3 has led the Redskins to the promised land, but can he get then a win at home with a bum wheel? Griffin appeared limited last week due to a bulky knee brace which he’ll be sporting again as he takes on Seattle. How mobile he can be will dramatically affect the outcome of this game and the effectiveness of the ‘Skins offense.
Griffin has been joined in his breakout campaign by fellow-rookie Alfred Morris who was taken in the sixth round of last year’s draft out of Florida Atlantic. (That’s why you pay attention to the NFL Draft all the way to then end of day three, people!) Morris has run for 1,613 yards this season and added 13 touchdowns. Together, he and Griffin led the top-ranked rushing offense in the league averaging 169.3 yards per game.
The weapons RG3 has in the passing game are starting to improve as Pierre Garcon has rejoined the receiving corps after missing much of the season with a foot injury. He still led the Skins in receiving with 633 yards while catching four touchdowns. Garcon has been Griffin’s top target in the Washington playoff push and should get plenty of passes thrown his way this afternoon.
When the Seahawks are on defense: Stopping RG3 will be a tough task, but one the Seahawks should be up to. Their defense ranked in the top ten in the league in rushing defense, total defense, scoring defense, passing defense, and takeaways. They’ll get even better as they get back Brandon Browner who is returning from suspension this week.
Their defense was led in tackles by rookie Bobby Wagner out of Utah State whi finished the season with 140 tackles, six tackles for loss, three interceptions, and a pair of sacks. Richard Sherman has turned into a shutdown corner this year and had eight interceptions one less than league-leader Tim Jennings. The Seahawks defense is playing exceptionally well and should be ready to shut down the effective, yet fairly simple offense of the Redskins.
When the Seahawks are on offense: The offense Pete Carroll has put in for rookie QB Russell Wilson started simple this year but has grown into a beastly offense that’s carried them to a five game winning streak including three games with 42 points or more. Wilson finished the year with 3,118 yards and 26 touchdowns through the air while throwing just 10 interceptions and added an additional 489 yards and four scores on the ground. Over 1,000 of those passing yards came in December and in the last two months he’s thrown for 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Wilson is a terrific quarterback and can’t be overlooked in the Luck-RG3 hype for offensive rookie of the year.
Wilson, like Griffin, is helped by a great running game. The Seahawks finished third in rushing offense thanks to Wilson’s numbers in addition to Marshawn Lynch who quietly put together another beast mode season and has enjoyed huge success in the playoffs in the past. Lynch rushed for 1,590 yards this season and scored 11 touchdowns. Don’t sleep on rookie running back Robert Turbin either who has looked good in his limited action behind Lynch.
In the passing game, Wilson’s two main targets are veteran Sydney Rice and immaculate interception specialist Golden Tate. Tate scored six touchdowns besides his controversial game-winner over Green Bay while finishing with 688 yards on 45 catches. Rice was the team-leader with 748 yards receiving and scored seven touchdowns as well.
When the Redskins are on defense: The Redskins defense has had a tough year but has played much better lately. They finished 30th in the league in pass defense, but did get three picks of Tony Romo last week to help their team get into the playoffs.
The unit misses star Brian Orakpo who was lost for the year in week 2. The leader in interceptions and tackles this season was veteran London Fletcher. Perry Riley has also stepped up in his third year out of LSU. DeAngelo Hall is a solid corner but has mental lapses at times that can be costly.
Special Teams: The Redskins Kai Forbath has made 17 of his 18 field goal attempts but his one miss was his only attempt in the Dallas game. The Redskins have yet to score on a punt or kickoff return this season with Brandon Banks serving as primary returner on both kickoffs and punts.
For the Seahawks, Leon Washington handles those duties almost exclusively (only three returns all year by anyone eles on the team) and did return a kickoff for a touchdown earlier this season. Seattle’s kicker Steven Hauschka has made 24 of his 27 attempts but all three of those misses have come from beyond 50 feet.
Straight up: The Seahawks defense is what will ultimately make the difference in this one. I realize it is tough to go into Washington and win. The fans in the nation’s capitol are great to be sure and will give their team a huge boost. However, RG3′s injury and the Seattle advantage on defense and special teams will ultimately get them into the second round as they head to Atlanta for next week’s game.
Against the Spread: The spread is set well with the Redskins getting three. They’re the only home underdog this weekend. Although I’d take the points and the Skins in almost every situation, I think that Russell Wilson has this offense rolling along enough to cover and that the defense will force turnovers late and ultimately Seattle will cover.
Pick: Seattle 24, Washington 13