We’re less than three hours away from what I believe is the most important playoff game the Redskins have played since Super Bowl XXVI. I really believe this team can go into Seattle and beat a solid division champion on the road, but let’s break it down, position-by-position:
Matt Hasselbeck may not be Brady or Manning, but he’s gotten his team into the playoffs for 5 straight seasons now, and if he’s not in the upper echelon of quarterbacks, he’s right in the next level. Todd Collins hadn’t started a game in 10 years prior to last month, and has never started a playoff game.
Shaun Alexander once set the single-season rushing TD record but this year he ran for barely 700 yards and 4 TD. Meanwhile, Clinton Portis topped the 1,200-yard mark (the real milestone for RBs) and ran for better than 100 yards in 2 of the last 3 games.
Mack Strong was forced to retire earlier this year, which could explain some of Shaun Alexander’s struggles. Mike Sellers is still going strong for the Skins.
Both groups have their share of big names (Deion Branch, Santana Moss) and both, collectively, put up lower numbers than you might have first anticipated. The Redskins duo of Moss and Antwaan Randle-El might have more big play ability, but the Seahawks foursome of Branch, Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson and D.J. Hackett is a little more consistent.
Chris Cooley is a Pro Bowler. He’s the perfect safety blanket for a relatively inexperienced QB, and he makes plays happen after the catch. Marcus Pollard used to do all those things, back when he was playing with Peyton Manning. Not so much anymore.
Both of these units have been banged up this year, and have gone through some turnover in recent years. The left tackles (Walter Jones for SEA, Chris Samuels for WSH) are mainstays who haven’t had as good a year as expected, but are still pretty consistent. Honestly, the lines are almost mirror images of each other.
Patrick Kerney, who finished the season with 14 sacks is the best known player among the two units, but don’t sleep on Andre Carter, who had 10.5 sacks and four forced fumbles for Washington. Outside of the two star DEs, there isn’t much in the way of name power on these two units, but they’re effective nonetheless. However, Kerney gives the Seahawks the slight edge.
Both of these teams are led by a duo of good linebackers. The thing is, Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson are like a younger version of London Fletcher and Marcus Washington. So the advantage has to go to Seattle here.
Sean Taylor’s death really left Washington in a bind in the defensive backfield. Losing Carlos Rogers for the season to a knee injury didn’t help matters. Shawn Springs has been playing admirably while his father is in a coma, and Fred Smoot has experienced a resurgence since rejoining the Skins, but this group is just too banged up to give the advantage. The Seahawks group of DBs may not be well-known, but thanks to Jim Mora (the younger) they are well-coached.
Both teams have good kickoff return units. Both have dynamic wide receivers who handle punt return duties. Both have good kickers who can put points on the board.
After the Buffalo game, this one would have gone to Mike Holmgren by default. Now, I’m inclined to give it to Joe Gibbs for the way he’s coached this team over the last month. Plus, no one is better at dealing with unrest under center.
The Seahawks have the 12th man. The Redskins have the memory of Sean Taylor. I’m sorry, but the motivation for Washington is far greater than Seattle’s semi-famed home-field advantage.
Yeah, so that comes out to 5-5-2. Maybe I should have listed an odd number of categories. Whoops.
Either way, I’m still picking Washington to win in a mild upset, 21-16.