Wednesday, January 02, 2008

NFL WildCard Playoffs Pre-Game Analysis: Washington at Seattle

Seattle Do’s and Don’t’s:

Do let the Redskins beat themselves. The Redskins coaching staff has shown comfort with small leads, keeping the other team in the game. Seattle needs to keep it close going into the fourth quarter, where Redskins opponents have proven to be the better team for most of the season

Do attack the Redskins center field. Sean Taylor being posthumously named as a pro bowl starter was no fluke. The Redskins are weak in coverage at the safety position now. Between Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson, Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett, the Seahawks can take advantage. The slot receiver could get a lot of looks.

Do get in the Redskins backfield. Todd Collins is running an offense that he knows like the back of his hand. If Patrick Kerney can spend the game in the Redskins backfield, Collins will be more susceptible to mistakes.

Don’t let the Redskins pass rush touch Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck is already hurt (wrist). The last thing the Seahawks need is for Hasselbeck to be taken out of his game (or knocked out of the game entirely).

Don’t underestimate the Redskins. Even though they barely squeezed into the playoffs, the Redskins are winners of four straight, and are one of the hottest teams in the conference. They also played in a tough NFC East. The Seahawks, on the other hand, played in the weakest division.

Washington Do’s and Don’t’s:

Do get the receivers involved early. Getting Collins in sync with his receivers early will do wonders for Portis and the running game. If effective, the Redskins receivers could pull a linebacker into coverage, allowing the offensive line to open big holes.

Do allow the front seven to attack. As surprisingly well (or lucky) as the corners have been playing for the Redskins, they can't be left on their own for too long. The front seven must rush Hasselbeck to get rid of the ball early. If Hasselbeck has time, it will be a long day for the Redskins.

Do run up the score. The Redskins can't expect to hold the Seattle offense down the entire game. The Redskins offense will need to step up and put up big numbers to keep up.

Don’t give up the big play. If there is something that has consistently beaten the Redskins in close games this season, it is the big play. Gregg Williams seems to have found a way to stop that during the last four games of the regular season. If Hasselbeck can find his receivers deep, the Redskins won't be able to keep up.

Don’t settle for conservative play. While Saunders and Gibbs should put the ball in the hands of Portis and let him run wild, they can't sit back and allow Seattle to stick around while attempting to run the clock down. As previously mentioned in the Week 10 FourCast, in the second Gibbs era, the Redskins have 13 blown halftime leads in the last four years. In the first Gibbs era, the team blew 11 halftime leads in 12 years.

Key Matchups:

When Seattle has the ball
LT Walter Jones vs. DE Andre Carter
Expect Carter to be cut loose against Seattle. With Hasselbeck already hurt, Jones must keep Carter from rushing Hasselbeck's throws. If Jones wins the battle Hasselbeck is free to throw to his deep set of receivers.

When Washington has the ball
WR Santana Moss vs. CB Marcus Trufant
A bit of a mismatch. Trufant doesn't have Moss's deep speed, and Moss doesn't have Trufant's size. Trufant must jam Moss at the line, or else Moss will get by him and draw safety coverage, leaving another receiver open for Collins.


Riding the Emotional High
While the Redskins were on an emotional low after Taylor's death and losing to the Bills, they have come together over the last four games, and are playing the best football of the season. The Redskins have been rallying and have found ways to win games.

Rematch of the 2005 Playoffs
Despite turning the ball over three times, the Seahawks played a solid enough game to win 20-10 in the Divisional Playoffs. For the Redskins, the loss left a bitter taste in their mouth, as some felt the Redskins had the better team coming off a 6-game winning streak. Many of the players from both of those teams remain.

Final Score Prediction:

Washington wins, 27-24.

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