January 4, 2013 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game
By Staff Writer John Manuel:
Playoffs are here for the Washington Redskins, so here are my keys to the game and what to watch for in Sunday's Playoff battle against the Seahawks:
1. This matchup brings us the two hottest teams in the NFC.
The Redskins have won seven games in a row while the Seahawks have won their last five. Both teams win streaks have come against solid opponents as well.
The Skins used their win streak to capture the NFC East crown while the Seahawks just missed out catching the 49ers and are the wildcard. Seattle has dropped Washington in their last two playoff appearances but those games were in Seattle. I think this plays a major role Sunday. Earlier in the season Seattle struggled on the road but their recent play has shown them to be a much better road team.
Good news for the Skins is that both Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch have had much better statistical performances on turf than grass this season. And we all know by now that the FedEx Field surface is far from turf. This could play a major factor Sunday.
2- The key matchup all of the NFL world will first look at is between the two rookie quarterbacks.
Both Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson deserved Pro Bowl nods as rookies. RG3 made it and Wilson didn't, but if it went the other way around it would have been hard to argue. Both quarterbacks have shown poise in big games and have produced in big games. Much will be made about Griffin's knee, but I think he is better than most feel. I have confidence in him in the pocket and he showed last week he could still be a running factor as he ran for over 60 yards.
Unlike last week’s game versus Dallas I cannot see quarterback play being such a huge factor in who wins Sunday. I don't see either Wilson or the Seattle game plan putting him into situations to make mistakes like Tony Romo did.
3- One of the biggest factors why the Redskins have won seven in a row is that they have not faced any top notch defenses during that stretch.
Philly, Dallas, New York, Cleveland and Baltimore were far from stellar on the defensive side of the ball. Seattle is a different story. Up front they can get after the quarterback and on the back end they have two corners who can man up on receivers. "Drip cup" Sherman and Brandon Browner are the best corner pair Washington has faced all season and will challenge Redskins receivers like Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to get open.
Griffin will need his mobility in this game to make time for his guys to break open. Browner and Sherman, as well as Earl Thomas are very opportunistic so RG3 must protect the football as his has done all season.
4- Both teams like to run the football and both teams have shown they can run the football.
Seattle has been successful when they go into "Beastmode" with Marshawn Lynch and the Redskins cannot let him get going Sunday. It could be a long day for a defense that has played much better recently if Lynch can move the ball down the field.
They have to get Wilson into 3rd and longs and not 3rd and shorts so stopping Lynch will surely benefit. As for the Redskins, once again it will be key for Alfred Morris to pound an opposing defense. The Skins ran well against the Seahawks last season without the force that is Alfred Morris. Sunday they must continue to ride Mo' Diesel like the Gibbs teams did on their first runs. Morris has not hit any kind of rookie wall and seems to be getting stronger like Riggins did in the past. We have to like that.
5- Finally special teams have a couple concerns for me.
Cobra Kai finally had a miss last week, but I am still confident in him as our kicker. I am worried about the Seahawks being able to block a kick especially with Red Bryant in the mix. He got us last year and it’s a concern for Danny Smith's crew.
Also, as I have mentioned in the past I really wish the team brought in a kickoff specialist and this week one is clearly needed. Leon Washington is dangerous and I would rather not give him the opportunities to break one. Forbath's kickoffs will give him the chance to burn the Skins. And I was very happy with Niles Paul last week on kickoff returns. When Dallas had the momentum, Paul came up with a great return that put the Redskins at a good starting point. He and Richard Crawford need to do the same again.
This is the toughest opponent the Redskins will have faced since going on the streak, but I am confident not only our game plan will work but our quarterback and others can win this game. Good news is that the last draft has put us in great position for years to come, but I still would love to see this team go far this year. I see it being a battle and the Skins coming out victors, 17-16.