In our weekly Q&A with SB Nation Editor for the Hawks, Dan Kelly, of the Field Gulls, several key weaknesses were brought to light on how Shanahan and Haslett can win this game:
1.) Let's start with Tavaris Jackson's health. He's been nursing a strained pectoral for a couple weeks and an injury to his right shoulder. He's won the last two games (Giants, Rams) amazingly. Is he full health this week? Can you notice him being unable to make any plays (deep throws?) with his condition?
Tarvaris Jackson has been very limited in practices these last few weeks since hurting his pectoral. He's essentially resigned himself to playing through the pain, and I'd imagine that every single throw hurts badly. I think I heard that in the week of practices leading up to the Rams game on Sunday, he only threw the ball something like 20 times total. So, naturally, he's going to favor that pec a little bit and I think his arm strength has suffered slightly. He's underthrown a few passes and when he doesn't step into a throw or if he's fading away, he hasn't been able to get as much mustard on it.
2.) The Seahwaks OLine appears to be a mess. They're #1 in QB hits allowed with 79 and #2 in sacks allowed with 34. The Redskins are tied for 1st in NFL with 31 sacks. Giants & Rams defenses got to the QB a lot in their losses. Is there any upgrades to Seattle's Oline from those games? Who are the weak links Jim Haslett will focus on?
Yes, the Seahawks' o-line has definitely been a work in progress, but over the season has improved significantly as they play together more. You have to remember that the line, at the start of the season, consisted of two rookies - James Carpenter and John Moffitt, a 2nd year LT in Russell Okung, and a third year C in Max Unger that sat out his entire 2nd year on the IR. The only veteran on the line was LG Robert Gallery, and he hurt his groin early on and missed several weeks. Regardless, the line play has improved over the season - though by no means can be considered 'elite' or even 'good', but last week, Carpenter and Moffitt (RT and RG) were both placed on the IR so the progress as a unit will definitely be stalled. In their place are backups RG Paul McQuistan and RT Breno Giacomini. Never heard of them? That's normal.
3.) On the flip side, the Seahawks defense is the 3rd least penalized defense, have a top 10 rushing defense, and a 15th ranked passing offense. If you were Mike Shanahan, how would you game-plan against the 'Hawks defense?
The Hawks stop the run extremely well so I wouldn't base my whole gameplan around running the ball. One weakness on defense the Hawks have shown is has been defending passes to tight ends so I'd incorporate strikes up the seam to Fred Davis. Another way to beat this team is to effectively attack deep against the Seahawks cornerbacks with Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth. The Seahawks have big press corners that can be sucesptable to speed receivers, so that's one way to attack this defense. Whether the Redskins have the personnel for this is a question, but that's how teams like Dallas and Pittsburgh have really taken advantage.
4.) What's your prediction for the game and why?
I think it will be a close game. The Seahawks have won two straight and are starting to click on the offensive side of the ball. Of course, losing the right side of the offensive line to injury has been a major blow so defending Tarvaris Jackson from the Redskins pass rush will prove difficult. I'm going to predict 20-16, Seahawks. The home-field advantage will play in their favor.
Seahawks only seem to play the Redskins well at Qwest Field when Mike Sellers instigates their fans. Since that's not the case, I'm predicting a Redskins win. (Obviously close).