The Match Up We’ve All Been Waiting For
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Some rise to fame, as the best teams remain, and the 12th man will cheer!
The playoffs are upon us! The Rookie of the Year voting is coming to a close, and the two top candidates are meeting in the wild card round.
The Seahawks are riding into the playoffs with a 5-game winning streak that included a scoring explosion of 170 points in their last 4.
The Redskins had an impressive closeout to the season as well, winning their last 7 games.
The Seahawks are currently mild field goal favorites over the ‘Skins, to which some have aired their grievances – looking at you Tony Kornheiser. Here is what I’m watching for in Sunday’s showdown.
Bobby Wagner vs. Alfred Morris
RGIII is the face of the Washington franchise. His rare athleticism and charismatic charm make the media weak in the knees, and through his leadership he has earned the the letter “C” on his chest – a rare honor for a rookie.
The man behind the scenes – the true workhorse of the team if you will – has been Alfred Morris.
There are several key match ups in this game, but they all revolve around the success of their running back.
If Morris is to be slowed, the Seattle defensive line will need to ensue their will into the backfield. However, the Redskins run a pistol offense – much like the Seahawks.
Because of this, their play-action and misdirection leaves the defensive lineman on islands – requiring the linebackers to follow the ball and stay on the runner.
For this reason, Bobby Wagner must provide evidence for his defensive rookie of the year consideration.
Wagner’s rare athleticism allows him to run the field as well as a running back – thus making him a great safety blanket in the running game. His 140 total tackles are a result of this.
London Fletcher vs Marshawn Lynch
Since the Redskins offense mirrors the Seahawks, the success originates in the same place – the running back.
Lynch is now third in the league in rushing, but his legs may not show it.
At mid-season Lynch was at the top of the league in carries. But over the final 4 weeks, he had a total of 65 carries – only surpassing the 20-mark once.
In comparison, Alfred Morris carried the ball 105 times over the final four weeks. Because of Morris’ youth, this may not take too great of a toll on the tailback’s stamina. But for a veteran like Lynch, this rest will definitely pay its dividends.
With the read-option that Seattle runs so well, the linebackers are key in stopping the run.
London Fletcher will likely take on this responsibility.
The 15-year veteran has had an incredible career at the linebacker position – and he has yet to slow down. Racking up 139 total tackles along with 5 interceptions, Fletcher has led the Redskins defense in every aspect.
It is a tall order to slow down Beast Mode, and we shall see if the vet is up to the task.
Richard Sherman vs. Pierre Garcon
Reunited and it feels so good.
Without Browner, the Seahawks still went undefeated. In fact, in the 42-13 route of the 49ers the Hawks were missing their top-3 corners opposite of Sherman. Yet the Stanford product remained steadfast, and showed the world why he was the biggest pro-bowl snub on the season.
While Pierre Garcon hasn’t been the most productive receiver in the league – his presence has certainly been felt.
When Garcon has been on the field, the Redskins are 9-1. When absent, 1-5.
The reason being is the vertical threat he provides. Along with Santana Moss, Garcon likes to run the deep routes. This fits perfectly into the Redskins’ schemes of heavy running and play-action.
Sherman has made a name for himself as one of the best, most physical shutdown corners in the league.
With Garcon shut down, the potency of their offense will be greatly dulled down.
RW3 vs. RGIII
Okay, okay. This match up is KIND OF intriguing as well I suppose.
The argument over Rookie of the Year has been debated all season-long.
It began with Luck and RGII. Then Wilson earned his spot in the conversation, and now he finds himself at the top of the list alongside the Heisman trophy winner.
This game will likely be a platform for both players to provide their case – so who has the advantage?
RGIII is the media favorite. He won the Heisman, jokes with reporters in interviews, and plays in the nation’s capital – not Seattle.
Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s rookie touchdown record with 26 – 6 more than Griffin – remained healthy throughout the season, led his team to an 11-5 record, and already has the demeanor of an NFL veteran.
Both are fantastic products, and will be running similar offenses. But Wilson has the advantage.
The Seattle defense ranks #1 in points allowed and #4 in total defense. Meanwhile, the Redskins are #22 in points allowed and #28 in total defense. Somewhat of a difference.
Also, the Redskins do not have Earl Thomas.
They have a standout corner in Deangelo Hall – who showed his ability last week in shutting down the suddenly-elite Dez Bryant. Hall will likely give Sidney Rice all he can handle. Fortunately, we have other options.
But Earl Thomas has truly been the center point of the Seattle secondary.
Sherman and Browner have done so well because they have the ability to jam every receiver, knowing they have help over top.
Thomas reads a quarterback’s eyes as good as anyone in the league, and accelerates faster than any safety I have ever seen. With this combination, he will constantly be on the same page as Griffin all game.
The Redskins simply don’t have this kind of trump card.
Darrell Bevell vs. Kyle Shanahan
Once, again, Darrell Bevell enters the conversation.
His offensive evolution over the second half of the season has been outstanding. The additions of the read-option, the pistol formation, and the pre-snap activity has kept defensive coordinators on their heels throughout the winning streak.
This week, Bevell meets his match.
Kyle Shanahan – son of Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan – is the offensive coordinator for Washington.
He is widely considered a head coaching candidate in the near future – due to his rapid development of RGIII and their standing as the 5th offense in the league.
Both defenses will be well prepared for their opponents due to the familiarity of the two in practice. This is why the showdown of offensive coordinators could very well decide the outcome.
Both surely have tricks up their sleeves, and will likely incorporate these into their schemes come Sunday. Whoever is more effective will give their team the victory.
Let’s Go Hawks!!!