by Mike Hayes - 01/09/2006
The top-seeded Seahawks will host the red-hot Redskins in Divisional playoff action Saturday in a rematch of a week four game won by Washington.
The Seahawks, who finished the season 13-3, were installed as a healthy 8.5 point favorite for the game and the point total has been set at 41. Many shops have already moved the game to 9.5.
Kickoff is 4:30 p.m. EST in a game that will be televised on FOX.
The game is a rematch of an Oct. 2 contest won by the Skins 20-17 in overtime in Washington. If Washington hopes for a repeat performance, or is even to be competitive against the Seahawks, one thing is certain. The Redskins offense needs to put on a much better effort than it did in last week's game against the Bucs.
In a mild upset of Tampa Bay in first round playoff action, the Redskins won their sixth straight game, but tallied just 120 yards of total offense, the lowest ever by a team that won a playoff game. The Tampa Bay defense held Clinton Portis to 53 rushing yards and Mark Brunell to just 41 in the air on 7-of-15 attempts. Santana Moss, who finished as the NFC's number two receiver with 1,4863 yards, caught just two passes for 18 yards.
The good news for Washington is that the Seattle defense is not the Tampa Bay defense, and in fact both Portis and Brunell enjoyed some success in week four, with Portis gaining 90 yards on 25 carries and Brunell connecting on 20-of-36 for 226 yards and two touchdowns. Moss caught 6 passes for 87 yards in that game.
Overall the Seahawks defense is among the top half in the conference thanks to a No. 2 ranking against the run. They are suspect against the pass, however, as just two teams rank below them in total passing yards allowed.
As a result the Skins recipe for success is simple. Get enough out of Portis and the rushing game to allow for Brunell and big-play threat Santana Moss to enjoy some success of their own, which is exactly what happened back in October.
That game left Seattle looking a rather mediocre 2-2 but that that turned out to be the last game they lost in three months as they rolled off 11 straight, a streak that ended when they dropped what was a meaningless season finale against Green Bay.
The recipe for Seattle success is also pretty simple. Shaun Alexander, Shaun Alexander and more Shaun Alexander.
The league MVP rushed for 1,880 yards and an NFL record 27 touchdowns in leading the NFC's top ranked offense, which averaged a league best 28 points a game, to 370 yards-per-game.
The main beneficiary of the Seahawks potent ground game is of course QB Matt Hasselbeck, who completed better than 65 percent of his pass attempts for 3,459 yards. He tallied 24 touchdown strikes against just 9 INTs, stats that although not flashy, were good enough to earn him the top QB rating in the NFC at 98.2.
Hasselbeck and Alexander find themselves up against a solid defensive unit is ranked No. 7 among NFC teams against the run, allowing 105 yards-per-game and No. 6 against the pass, giving up 193 yards on average. During their October meeting Alexander rushed for 96 yards on 25 carries and Hasselbeck was good on 26-of-38 for 242 yards.
The Seahawks lack a big-play receiver but have competent ball catchers in Bobby Engram who grabbed 67 passes and Joe Jurevicius who caught 55 on the season.
The Seahawks were a perfect 8-0 at home while the Redskins, including last weekend's win at Tampa Bay, are now 5-4 on the road. Both teams boast 11-2 marks against conference foes. Washington has a 7-1 record and Seattle 6-1 against common opponents.
As far as intangibles go, the Redskins have coach Joe Gibbs in their corner, who enters with a playoff record of 17-5. Gibbs led the Skins to three Super Bowl titles in his first tenure with the club, which began in 1981 and ended when he retired after the 1992 season. Saturday's playoff win was Gibbs first since that 1992 campaign and first appearance back in the postseason since he came back to the Redskins in 2004.
Should the Redskins post the upset they would play at the winner of the Chicago/Carolina game in the NFC Championship game.
Should they emerge successful Saturday the Seahawks would host their first ever championship game against the Bears/Panthers winner. As a member of the AFC, Seattle did appear in the championship game back in 1983, a game they lost to the Raiders in Los Angeles.