Wild Card Weekend, Part 1

The NFL playoffs begin this weekend, with your own WASHINGTON REDSKINS kicking things off Saturday afternoon in Seattle.  I'm going to be going through a quick preview of the games, starting on Saturday.

SATURDAY

Washington (+3.5) @ Seattle - 4:30pm EST on NBC


Home of the Pacific Northwest Version the Professional Version the 12th Man. (image from here)

This is probably the worst matchup either team could have had in the 1st round.  Washington is playing well going into the playoffs, but having to travel to Seattle is never easy.  It is by far the biggest homefield advantage for the Wild Card round, and might be the best in the NFC.  Seattle's defense is very average against the run (102.8 yards per game, good for 12th) and Collins negates their very good pass rush because of his quick release.  They have given up pass yards (219.1 per game) if you can stay on your feet long enough to get the pass off (4th in the NFL with 45 sacks, Patrick Kerney 2nd in the NFL with 14.5 all by his onesey), which Collins does.  A clipped healthy Santana Moss has the ability to change the game with one move, one slip, or one mistake by the defense.  Beware of Trufant though, because he is tied with Ed Reed for 3rd in INTs with 7.  A lazy ball to the outside by Collins could be 6-points-the-other-way bad.  Cooley (or even Yoder) across the middle could be huge to attack the defense and open things up.  

When Seattle has the ball, look for porn star Hitler definately Hedley Lamarr Matt Hassleback and his minor league mustache to be throwing the ball.  A lot.  They were 7th this season with 261.3 yards per game, behind some pass-happy offenses like DET, GB, DAL and NE.  Why is that, you say?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  It was because they couldn't run the ball.  Like, at all.  Like, 101.2 yards per game bad.  Like, worse than the Jets and barely better than the Packers bad.  

Shawn Alexander, 2 years removed from his MVP season that carried the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, was simply ineffective when healthy.  Maurice Morris had his moments, but for the most part, this is another one of the 21st century NFL offenses that passes first, early and often.  But that actually serves as an advantage.  The Redskins were a top 5 defense against the run (actually 4th, at 91.3 yards per game, behind only MIN in the NFC) and very average against the pass (16th at 214 yards per game) this year.  With Seattle's 3 WR sets, the Skins D will miss CB Carlos Rogers more than at any point this year.

So what does it come down to?

When the Skins are on offense, they need to run the ball effectively to give Collins time to pass.  Portis will be the key for the offense: as he goes, so goes the Redskins playoff chances.  The offensive line needs to come up big against Kerney and Peterson on the outside and Tatupu on the interior.  If they can't run, or if they start getting penalties because of the loud crowd, then it might be a very long day.  They are not built to come from behind.

For the Redskins defense, can they stop Hasselstache and the passing attack?  Usually when defenses want to make the offense one dimensional, they mean take away the run.  Here, they want to force SEA to run.  If the passing attack gets hot, it could be over very quick.

PREDICTION:

I think Washington is playing outstanding football right now.  I also think that SEA is not a great matchup, despite some sloppy play down the stretch (losing to ATL in week 17, losing to CAR in week 15) and the lack of a running game.  Kerney will get at least 1 sack.  (Lock it down!)  Turnovers will be deadly.  I'm not sure either team has an much of an advantage in special teams.

I'll take WASHINGTON with the points.  I think it'll be close and come down to whoever bobbles the field goal snap has the ball last.  

The other lines for the weekend, courtesy of the Yahoo! Sports lines:

Saturday, 8:00 pm EST on NBC - JAX @ PIT (+2.5)

Sunday, 1:00 pm EST on FOX - NYG @ TB (-3)

Sunday, 4:30 pm on CBS - TEN @ SD (-9.5)

I'll try to get more previews up as the weekend nears.

Audience participation time: what are the keys to victory on Saturday?  What excites you?  What scares you?  

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