This is kind of new for me. Typically, by the time December rolls around, I’m throwing my head against the wall attempting to comprehend the Washington Wizards and getting over my hangover that was the Redskins regular season.
But not this time. Oh no, my friends. Today, in early January, I’m basking in the glory of a Redskins playoff run. Meaningful football in Washington, in January with a distant shot at the Super Bowl. I’ll take it.
Although unsure whether it’ll be a sprint or a marathon for the Redskins, it all starts with one game.
FedEx Field – Landover, MD
Sunday, January 6 at 4:30 p.m. EST
Whether it be Las Vegas and their current (-3) line for Seattle, fans from the northwest that believe the Seahawks are just as good on the road as they are at home, or Redskins fans who seemingly lack confidence in the momentum that Washington has built on a very respectable seven-game heater, the burgundy & gold don’t seem to be getting the respect they deserve.
Make no mistake about it folks, this Redskins team can do damage. They can also fail miserably. But that’s the beauty of the playoffs. That’s why we love the NFL. We watch teams gut it out through 17 weeks, fighting for just one of six playoff spots. And then, if your team is lucky enough to have made it, there’s a track record long enough to justify that anything is possible once you’re there.
In order for the Redskins to make the most of this roller coaster of a season, beating the Seahawks will rely on these four keys.
3. Attack with confidence
Coming into this game, we’re all very much aware of Seattle’s defense. They’re sixth against the pass, tenth against the run and fourth overall. They have mean cornerbacks in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner that punch at the line of scrimmage and cause fits with their immense size, they can apply pressure to the quarterback by parlaying stunts and disguises with their physical corners and starting safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are dangerously aggressive.
And that’s exactly why offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan should come out with a wide-open playbook, attack the Seahawks at every angle and do so with confidence.
This Redskins offense is a playoff offense. They deserve to be where they are. Although the front line isn’t top notch, there’s a superhuman under center, a dump truck in the backfield and quality receivers. Since incorporating the option-read with Robert Griffin III, Shanahan and the Redskins rank first in rushing offense and fifth overall.
That’s not to say that Sunday’s game will be easy. Seattle is arguably the Redskins’ toughest oppenent since Atlanta in Week 5. And while many will argue that the Seahawks haven’t played an offense quite like the Redskins, rest assured that they’ve practiced against it. Fellow rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and Co. operate plenty of their own option-read offense.
Point is, don’t come out intimidated by the Seahawks. As much respect as I have for that defense, I still believe the secondary can get chewed up on option-read play action. I also believe the Redskins can find success running the ball against Seattle — a team that has allowed 970 yards over the past eight weeks ( 121/game ).
Assuming Seattle enters the game with first intent of stopping Alfred Morris, Kyle Shanahan will begin to see things open up down field. Aldrick Robinson and Pierre Garcon open up down field.
2. Stop the run
Looking at both teams, there are obvious similarities between each offense. Like the Redskins, the Seahawks have a fluid quarterback that can sell on play action and threaten with rollouts. Like Alfred Morris in Washington, Marshawn Lynch is a trusted back in Seattle who receives plenty of carries and plays smash mouth football. And, like the Redskins, the Seahawks are on a winning streak of their own, nabbing seven of their last eight games and blowing out a few opponents in the process.
Two things that stand out to me when gauging the Seahawks’ success over their past eight games has been an effective ground attack paired with a turnover-forcing defense. Of those seven wins, Seattle had at least 153 yards rushing in each and hit impressive totals of 195 against Minnesota, 284 against Arizona, 196 against Buffalo and 209 against St. Louis.
Thankfully, the Redskins defense is ranked fifth against the run. They haven’t, however, played a rushing attack as potent as Seattle’s since their Week 10 bye. And before that, only two Redskins opponents this season ( Minnesota, Carolina ) currently rank amongst the top-10 rushing offenses.
During the Redskins’ win streak, we’ve seen a newfound passion and determintation, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. Guys are playing with confidence, finishing plays and executing assignments ( coordinator Jim Haslett deserves credit here ). Against the run, defensive end Stephen Bowen can set the edge, nose tackle Barry Cofield can plug and crash, and the linebacking corps tackles well enough to keep opposing running backs at bay.
That of course, has come against teams that don’t offer a homerun threat like Russell Wilson at the quarterback position. The only threatening mobile passer the Redskins have faced all season was Cam Newton in Week 9, and he finished with 37 yards on eight carries and a score.
As we see many of Washington’s opponents focus on stopping Alfred Morris and containing Robert Griffin III in the pocket, the Redskins must do the same with Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson.
1. Limit turnovers
As mentioned before, Seattle has won seven of their last eight games and is widely considered ( along with Denver ) to be one of the hottest teams in the league.
In addition to their strong rushing attack, the Seahawks have also been able to force turnovers, which has served a crucial role in a majority of their recent wins ( especially in blowout victories ). In their last seven wins, Seattle has forced a very impressive 19 turnovers ( +14 ).
On the season, the Redskins have 14 turnovers. Over the course of their latest seven-game win streak, they have just four. This comes by way of a rookie quarterback in RG3 that’s mature beyond his years, a rookie running back that understands ball protection and reliable receivers.
Despite some costly or would-be costly turnovers here and there, this Redskins team has managed games with discipline even with their backs against the wall.
If the Redskins continue to protect the football, Seattle is deprived of unexpected momentum on the road and their offense isn’t given easy chances.