Saturday, January 05, 2008

Game 17: Redskins (9-7) at Seahawks (10-6)


Ladies and gentlemen this is it, better than Christmas, the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks open the 2007 playoffs with a 4:30pm ET single elimination wild card game in Seattle.

This game matches the NFC West winner number three seed Seahawks against the number two wild card six seed Redskins. On its face this game clearly favors the Seahawks, it's a home game, the crowd noise is going to be a factor, weather mid 40s 40% chance of rain.

Look a little deeper and the matchup changes. The Redskins are the hottest team right now in the NFC, winners of four straight and have not trailed in 16 quarters.

After 2006 the Redskins earned a middling strength of schedule and the Seahawks earned a very easy schedule. It turns out the Redskins' schedule was actually even harder and the Seahawks' schedule actually was easier. The Redskins have played seven games against playoff teams, Cowboys twice Giants twice Buccaneers Packers Patriots, they went 2-5. With the exception of the Patriots game the other six were all either close within a score or decisive Redskins victories. This team can play with the NFC's best.

Seattle on the other hand played exactly two playoff teams this season, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, going 1-1 and also getting shut out against the Steelers. The rest of their schedule? The combined record of the Seahawks non playoff teams was 71-105 (.40), the only three above .500 on the entire schedule were the two playoff teams and Cleveland. Seattle has skated and now they will be tested. That said this is their fifth straight playoff appearance and Seattle was 7-1 at home this season, Seahawks Stadium is an incredibly difficult place to play.

Curly R aside: what's up with Seahawks fans' obsession with the 12th man thing? Methinks they protest too much. So Mike Sellers who was with the Redskins when they played a playoff game at Seattle in 2005 said this week he thinks there is no way a stadium that size at 68 thousand can be as loud as it is without the PA helping out. The answer obviously is sure it can but is really? As if somehow to take the Nixonian I'm not the only crook here approach Seahawks blogs and bulletin boards have seized on accounts of the Redskins piping in artificial crowd noise to, what, rebut these claims? One very popular story right now in Seahawksland (one/two/three/four) is my very own story on Redskins crowd noise. If you read this story it is not an 'allegation' or a 'rumor.' I heard the noise, they did it, it's bad and they need to stop. For a team and fanbase that is so sure the Seahawks would never do such a thing it got a lot of media coverage last year. In September 2006 the league notified the Seahawks about complaints from the Giants about a game the previous November, the same season the Redskins played in Seattle and the game about which Mike Sellers commented. The league sent a monitor to Seattle. New York Times on the story, New York Daily News and interesting Fox Sports story on the architecture of new stadiums. What do I think? Of coarse they did it and they likely still do, piping in artificial crowd noise is a story that no reputable media outlet will follow up on for fear of upsetting the league. The league's attitude to the offending teams is quit being so obvious dumbass. The Redskins and the Seahawks: two dumbass teams.

On offense the Redskins are going to stick with what works. Clinton Portis, whether on the ground or as a receiver and Todd Collins finding open receivers. If there is one thing I can say about the difference between Jason Campbell and Todd Collins it is Todd's understanding of the timing. There is an open receiver on every play, the trick is to find him and get the ball there in time. If you step back and recall the Redskins starting left guard was not in training camp, the right guard is a full season replacement and the right tackle is an undrafted rookie then this offensive line has done well for itself. One game at a time guys.

For the Seahawks defense, they are undersized but fast. Patrick Kerney (Wahoowa!) was number two in the regular season with 14.5 sacks. Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson are a devastating linebacking combination, Lofa led the team in regular season tackles and Julian had ten sacks himself. Marcus Trufant is as good a cover cornerback as the Redskins will see.

On defense for the Redskins I am somewhat amazed at the run the Redskins have put together considering starting cornerback Carlos Rogers and starting weakside linebacker Rocky McIntosh were lost with injuries weeks ago, a pair of unheralded second year players go at tackle and after the loss of the team's best player in Sean Taylor the touted rookie and the second year sixth round players at safety had to switch positions to keep it going. During this four game stretch for the Redskins the defense has held opponents to 13.25 points per game against two playoff teams and a team in need of a win to get in, that number six points lower than the Redskins full season defensive average of 19.4 points. Is Sean Taylor still with this team?

Stuff the running lanes and send the cornerbacks into man to man. It has worked for three games. It is however a high risk strategy. A precise quarterback like Matt Hasselbeck could make you pay.

Which brings me to the offense of the Seahawks. Anecdotally Shaun Alexander seems to have lost a step from his MVP season of two years ago but does it matter? Weak division or no they won ten games and anecdotally it's a passing league now and without Matt Hasselbeck, Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram and DJ Hackett they are not here regardless. Besides by this time next season we may be talking about Mo Morris as the main yardgetter for the Seahawks, that guard is about to change.


Joe Gibbs gets some unusual front page coverage, not unusual that Joe Gibbs is on the front page of the Washington Post but rather unusual that the Post put Joe on the front page before the game. The Redskins game has been featured in a front page story the day after the game every week this season.

Today Mike Wise gets the piece, it is about Joe's fall in the Buffalo game, calling two timeouts to try and ice Bills kicker Rian Lindell and then being called for unsportsmanlike conduct, turning Rian's kick in the rain from 51 yards to 36 yards and the aftermath of that game. Joe says that was his lowest professional moment and readily admits his desire to get the team a win overrode his football sense.

The next day the entire team flew to Miami for Sean Taylor's funeral. The day after when the team met to gameplan for the Bears game Joe went against his training and experience in preparing the team. What he did worked.

More news, nips and notes: the city of Virginia Beach is lobbying Dan Snyder to move the Redskins 2009 training camp to that city. Not only do I think this will not happen but I will not be surprised if Joe Gibbs who I expect will still be around moves training camp back to Carlisle Pennsylvania.

Although Seahawks Stadium may be loud this team's fans are not known for their boorish behavior. Insert joke about standing around in flannel drinking strong coffee here.

LOL, this gets billing near the bottom of the preview because I think it is so obvious: Jason Campbell is the quarterback of this team's future. Todd Collins has done some great things for this team and he will have the chance to do so in the future but the real longterm success of this team is on Jason's shoulder.

Washington Post preview, Redskins Gameday. Campbell's Collins' Corner, entertaining because it's Todd's first playoff start and he thinks all the attention that comes with being the Redskins winning quarterback is 'fine.' Redskins roster, Seahawks roster. Redskins injury report, Seahawks injury report. Redskins season stats, Seahawks season stats.

Other previews:

This is a playoff gameday open thread.