If you told me that I’d be pumped for Seahawks vs. Redskins in the first round of the NFL playoffs before the season started, I probably would have laughed and walked away. But here we are, and I really wish this matchup was happening one or two weeks from now. It’s going to be that good. Each team was led to the playoffs by a rookie quarterback with an atypical skill set, supplemented by two of the best running games in the NFL. Neither team lost a game in December, and the Redskins haven’t lost since before their week 10 bye. I wouldn’t have believed me, but this is going to be a great game.
The QB Matchup
On one side, you have RGIII. The adopted favorite player of everyone who doesn’t have a team in the playoffs (and probably for a few who still do). Second overall pick, Heisman winner, and spokesman for Adidas, Gatorade, and Subway, a lot was expected of Griffin this year, and he delivered more than anyone could have asked for. Griffin only threw 5 interceptions on the year, giving him less than, oh wait: EVERY OTHER STARTING QB. Even if you include his two fumbles lost, those 7 turnovers were still less than every full time starting QB in the NFL. Granted, his 400 attempts were less than the over 600 Tom Brady threw, but that is still an amazing feat for a rookie. Yes, he still had some moments this year that reminded you that he is still just a rookie, but he takes care of the ball like a veteran of the league. RGIII, if he’s fully healthy, makes both the passing and rushing game better. And even if he’s not 100%, he can still limp a lot faster than I can run…
And then there’s Russell Wilson. Considerably less hype coming into the season as a third round pick for a Seahawks team that had just signed Matt Flynn to be their starter this year. But Wilson proved his worth in training camp, and Pete Carroll ignored contracts and gave him the starting job. Early on in the year, Wilson looked like the rookie he is, but as the year progressed he came into his own and the Seahawks relied less on him to win games. Wilson only threw two picks in their last 8 games, which they won 7 of, and began scrambling more often. If Wilson is on his game, he can make the big play that could decide the outcome.
Seattle’s Difference Maker: Secondary
Seattle’s defensive backs are some of the best and most physical in the league by far. Richard Sherman leads the league in passes defended and is second in picks, and they are getting him and Brandon Browner back at the perfect time. Those two, combined with the physical play of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, will disrupt the rhythm of the Redskins passing game. The key for them is going to be picking the right time to undercut the short routes, the quick slants and screens that the Redskins love to throw (more than 50% of passes by RGIII have been less than 10 yards in the air).
Washington’s Difference Maker: Ingenuity
So… Still think the option can’t work in the NFL? To any doubters out there, just look at this season as proof that it can with the right coaches and personnel. Alfred Morris has been powering for 4 yard chunks every time he gets the ball out of the power pistol, and yet defenses can’t just pile up inside and stop him. Why? Because the guy handing him the ball leads the league in yards per carry. (No, I’m not lying. See for yourself)
All it takes is RGIII keeping the ball on one read and getting an easy 10 yards for the defense to worry about him all over again, and then Morris gets an opening up the middle again.
Based on pure emotion going into writing this, I was picking the Seahawks all the way, no question. I love the momentum they have going into the playoffs, the amount of belief they have in their defense and in their young quarterback, and the convincing win they had over San Francisco in week 16. But every word I’ve written in this post has gotten me closer and closer to picking the Redskins, and I’m approaching 750 words now. I think this game is going to make up for yesterday’s pitiful showings, and I cannot wait for kickoff.