The Seattle Seahawks (11-5) and Washington Redskins (10-6) are set to face each other in the playoffs after having exceptional regular season led by rookie quarterbacks. The Seahawks signal caller, Russell Wilson finished his regular season campaign with a 100.0 QB rating – second highest by a rookie QB in NFL history behind Washington’s Robert Griffin III (102.4).
Both teams also possess potent ground games led by running backs that refuse to go down easily. The Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch ended the regular season with 1,590 yards. Washington’s rookie running back, Alfred Morris finished with 1,613 yards, which ranked second in the NFL to only Adrain Peterson.
Although the Redskins are hosting Sunday’s playoff game as NFC East champions, they are considered underdogs in this match-up. But make no mistake about it, this will be the Seattle Seahawks toughest challenge to date. Specifically on the offensive side of the football.
It’s no secret, the Seahawks are 8-0 at home, but struggle on the road with a 3 and 5 record. Whether you believe home vs away records say much or not, it’s an intriguing stat. When you have a stadium that’s structured in a way to keep sound bouncing directly to the field, and fans that are not only extremely loud, but know when to be loud – you have something special. No group benefits from that home crowd noise more than Seattle’s defense.
Of course, the Seahawks will not have that luxury of playing a home playoff game this week. They have to travel across the country to Landover, Maryland and play on the Washington Redskins’ horrible natural grass football field, in the cold. I point this out because the Seahawks are not used to playing on natural grass. In the few times Seattle played on natural grass, they’re 2-3. Put them on artificial turf and the Seahawks are 9-2. Obviously, 8 of those 9 came on their own football field.
The Redskins are used to playing on that horrid FedEx Field grass that now parts like the red sea after 2 seconds of play. It will be a difficult task for the Seahawks.
Sure, Seattle knows that Washington’s defense is not great, although they’ve been stout as of late. But the Seahawks have yet to face a potent offense – away from home – this season. Remember, a defense can benefit from home crowd noise. It’s time for Seattle’s defense to prove they can be stout without help from their home crowd.
The Seattle Seahawks faced 7 of the top 15 offenses in the NFL this season. Four of those were played in Seattle. The other three were played in away games, and only one resulted in a Seahawks’ victory. Not to mention, six of those games came within their first eight match-ups and three of them ended up “statistically” being the top offenses Seattle faced all season.
The Seahawks played the Dallas Cowboys (6th ranked offense) week two in Seattle and of course won. Week 6, Seattle defeated the New England Patriots (league’s best offense), again, in Seattle because of a great defensive stand at the end of the game. Rowdy home crowds makes it difficult for offenses and helps the home defense play faster - overachieve. The Seahawks did have a statement game the week prior against the Cam Newton led Carolina Panthers, who at the time was underachieving with a 1-4 record. Seattle traveled to Carolina and took advantage of a team that didn’t start getting hot until the second half of the season.
On the other hand, the Washington Redskins also faced 7 of the league’s top 15 offenses. But here’s the difference, 3 of the top 15 offenses are division rivals. Meaning they played each team twice. The Seahawks’ division carries two of the the top 10 worst offenses in the league with the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals. Both teams Seattle lost to, on the road, albeit early in the season. The Redskins just went on a seven game winning streak to close out the season, and five of those games were against top 15 offenses – division rivals.
Point and case, the Seahawks have clearly waltzed through the season without a true challenge against a potent offense, away from Seattle. Again, I go back to the fact that Seattle’s defense benefits from home crowd noise. Therefore, their wins against Dallas and New England were very much attributed to an overachieving defense, motivated by a rowdy home crowd. Not to mention, the Seahawks’ victory against the Green Bay Packers (13th ranked offense) in week 3 may be one of the more undeserved victories in the history sports. That game is the reason football fans now know what “simultaneous catch” means.
The Seahawks will have to face the Washington Redskins’ 5th ranked offense that also packs the league’s most prolific running game. This will, without a doubt, be the Seahawks’ toughest match-up to date. The Seahawks didn’t play an offense as balanced as Washington’s all season. The best running backs they faced in 2012 was Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson. Both had over 130 yards against the Seahawks – Peterson had 182 yards. Frank Gore was slowed down in his second match-up against Seattle, but he also only had 6 attempts – averaging 4.7 yards.
This week, Seattle has to face the closest thing to Adrian Peterson this season – Alfred Morris. It will be a difficult task for their defense on the road. Robert Griffin III was healthier against the Cowboys last Sunday night than the week prior, so he should continue taking steps to regaining that 4.3 speed. The Redskins also have receivers that play to the weakness of Seattle’s big defensive backs. Pierre Garcon, Joshua Morgan and Santana Moss have great change of direction – which will stunt what the Seahawks’ DBs do best. In addition, Washington’s receivers are chatter boxes that can keep up with attitude and junk-talk Seahawks’ DBs often spew.
This is a great match-up, but it’s one that the Washington Redskins have been battle tested for in 2012. The Seattle Seahawks, on the other hand, have not.
*Offensive rankings are by total yardage via NFL.com
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