It’s game time. The Seahawks will catch a beak in the weather here in the nation’s capital. It’s expected to be dry and about 50 degrees at game time, so weather will not be a factor this morning.
That said, here are my five keys for the Seahawks as they look to earn they’re first playoff road win in 29 years against Washington in this NFC Wild Card matchup.
Win the turnover battle: I think the team that wins the turnover battle will win the game today. Both teams have done a nice job taking care of the ball and forcing turnovers in the second half of the season. In the last eight games, Washington has forced 15 turnovers while giving it away only five times (+10 turnover differential). The Seahawks have forced 20 turnovers and only turned it over five times (+15 turnover differential) in the last eight games.
Stop the run: With two of the top running attacks in the league facing off, the focus will be on which defense can control the line of scrimmage and shut down the running lanes. Robert Griffin III should be a little healthier going into this one, but Seattle did a good job of containing running quarterbacks like Carolina’s Cam Newton and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, and I expect them to do the same thing here.
Create big plays: While the Seahawks lean on Marshawn Lynch to move the chains, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell also uses the play action game to create big plays in the passing game. And with Washington giving up 31 passing touchdowns this season, I expect the Seahawks to test the Redskins’ secondary with Sidney Rice and Golden Tate down the field. The Seahawks have had 28 passing plays of 20 yards or more in the last eight games. They had just 16 of those plays in the first eight games.
Limit Penalties: The Seahawks had at least five games where they had double digit penalties, and that can’t happen if they want to win on the road today. Seattle has to play with an edge, but also play under control emotionally, particularly with guys like cornerback DeAngelo Hall and offensive tackle Trent Williams, who like to stir things up. A matchup to watch will be Seattle fullback Mike Robinson and Hall, who obviously did not exchange Christmas cards last year.
A fast start: One scenario that could be hard for Seattle to deal with is getting down by a couple touchdowns early in the game. The Seahawks offensively are not built to score fast, and could get away from the running game if they are pressured to play from behind. So Seattle has to keep that Washington offense from getting some early scores and making the game a track meet.
Here’s my advance for today’s game. A good matchup to watch today will be the chess match between rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and Washington iron man linebacker London Fletcher.
Dave Boling of The News Tribune takes a closer look at Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who are raising the bar for rookie quarterbacks.
Danny O’Neil of The Seattle Times offers some things to watch for in today’s game.
Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times writes that the future is now for the Seahawks.
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com breaks down the game here.
Check out the "playoff version" of The Real Rob Report in the video below.
Craig Cracker of the Tri-City Herald talks with Dana Brunsdon, who served as a host family for Russell Wilson when he played minor league baseball for the Tri-City Dust Devils.
Kent Babb of the Washington Post breaks down the deception in Washington’s offense.