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Game Blog Pregame

Jan 14, 2006, 8:49 AM EDT

Although it’s not my job here to be a thoroughly objective journalist, I do try very hard to step back and take an objective look at things (which is more than I suspect that many who are supposed to be neutral journalists do). And in taking an objective look at the Seahawks I see a very good team, at times an excellent one, but not a great one. I don’t see an overwhelming edge that they have over the Redskins either side by side or man to man. For example, Shaun Alexander had a great season, but he’s only about 25 yards a game better than Clinton Portis and, while he’ll get some yardage today, he’s not going to dominate vs. a strong, tough Washington defense. To be sure, Seattle is a deserving favorite, but until they get it done in the playoffs they are deserving of being examined with a degree of skepticism.

Don’t get me wrong here. If I had to bet my house on the outcome of this game straight up I’d put it on Seattle, but I’d be scared to death.

Back to the future

A lot of what’s happened in the past is part of the discussion in this game and some of it is relevant and some of it isn’t. The game the two teams played in October, for instance, is of little relevance (see 36-0. Giants and then 35-20 Redskins with a shorter gap between the games). Seattle’s 13-3 record and 8-0 home field mark is very relevant.

So is Joe Gibbs’ record of 17-5 in the playoffs. Yes, as Gibbs will tell you, the game is decided by the players on the field. But he’s not pulling down five million bucks a year to be a spectator on the sideline. He’s paid to prepare his team for moments like this and few have ever done it better.

And it’s fair to take a shot at Mike Holmgren’s 9-8 postseason record. All nine of the wins were accomplished with one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, Brett Favre in his prime, pulling the trigger. Holmgren, too, gets paid to prepare his team to win. That’s a delicate balance in the playoffs. You have to find a way to crank up the intensity while at the same time not making your players so tight they can’t perform. In the past two seasons, Holmgren’s two key players, Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck, may or may not have been tight, but they have come up small the past two years in Seattle’s one and done playoff appearances. Alexander averaged just 2.4 yards a carry in those losses to the Packers and Rams and Hasselbeck threw the game-losing pick in Green Bay.

Still, by far, the Seahawks’ 2005 record is the most important thing to look at when evaluating this game. But how Gibbs’ and Holmgren’s teams play in January is far from irrelevant.

  1. Anonymous - Jan 14, 2006 at 1:07 PM

    Nobody is mentioning the fact that the Seahawks D coordinator, a former Redskins coach, Ray Rhodes is an elite coordinator. He was great when he was in Washington. He took a defense which was ranked 30th in the NFL in 1999 and brought them to 4th in one year’s time. That’s pretty impressive. Everybody is focusing on Greg Williams, but Rhodes is equally impressive, yet seems to be getting no pub this week.

  2. Kate - Jan 14, 2006 at 1:52 PM

    I love reading this blog and all the two cents added to it by commentators. So much good stuff. I’m not good at articulating Redskins stats and facts that well, so I leave that up to my hubby (bilges.blogspot.com)! I just hope that I can return to read more axiety filling information this upcoming week as we look to next Saturday. Wishful thinking – yes. :)

  3. mbarnes202 - Jan 14, 2006 at 3:26 PM

    Rich,
    I pulled together the stats from the ‘Skins last 4 road games, and saw what they did offensively and defensively. I compared the rankings of those teams to Seattle, and calculated how much under teams’ offensive average the ‘Skins held their opponents’, and how close to the ‘Skins season average on offense they achieved on the road against these defenses. I then used Seattle’s season average offensive yardage gained per game and allowed per game, and calculated a prediction as to what the ‘Skins will get on offense, and what the Hawks might get on offense.
    It showed that on Offense, one might expect about 260 yards from the ‘Skins, and on Defense, one might hope to keep Seattle just north of 300.
    IF we can keep Seattle in poor starting field position, then that 300 yards might translate to 21-24 points or so, OR LESS IF WE KEEP THEM OUT OF THE END ZONE WHEN THEY GET INSIDE OUR 20.
    Our 260 yards obviously yields fewer points, all else equal. SO, how do we tip the balance?
    As I said earlier, red zone defense is key. Seattle is #1 in the NFL in Red Zone offense. Yikes. We simply must stop them there.
    Two other keys, of course, will be the other two battles– Special Teams and Turnovers.
    I think on Special Teams, we have to put MOSS back there. We simply must gain yardage on change of posessions. If he can break one, that would go a LONG way towards securing a win for us on the road.
    Regarding Turnovers, take a look at when the Giants played Seattle in Seattle. The Giants won the turnover battle, and should have won the game. That’s our blueprint.
    Seattle, in my mind, probably closely looked at the tape of our game against Philly, where with a bunch of scrubs, Philly surpasses their season average for yardage. Reggie Brown killed us, and dump-offs and screens hurt us that game, too, if I remember (as did draws and traps). The reason is that Seattle plays a similar offense to Philadelphia.
    On Offense, we need to slow down their pass rush with some screens and roll-outs. I hope Brunnel really is healthy. I think Betts can have a big day in the passing game. Of course, Bugel simply must get an absolutely STELLAR performance out of the line.
    I’m on pins and needles, but I feel nervously confident and optimistic about this game. A lot will depend on the first quarter– if we can get ahead or stay very close, we’ll have a chance.

    You at the game?

  4. Anonymous - Jan 14, 2006 at 3:45 PM

    I get so sick and tired of hearing how “good” Seattle is. They are a paper tiger.

    Seattle has only played 5 games where their opp is over .500 (4 if you exclude the Colts game, which Indy didn’t play to win). They got beat by the Jags (another paper tiger) and the Redskins (at a time when the Skins, although undefeated, weren’t really that good). They beat the Cowboys (barely) and the Giants (barely) — both at home.

    The reason they have such a good record is because they are in a crappy division and they play 6 games within their division.

    I am also getting a bit tired of hearing about how they are 8-0 at home. Well, they didn’t play many good teams at home — only Dallas, New York, and Indy were above 500, and Indy really shouldn’t count. The 2 “good” teams that they played gave them all that they could handle (the Giants and Cowboys lost by 3 points each) — on their home field. Today’s Redskins (yes, there is a huge difference in the current ‘Skins and the ‘Skins from earlier in the season) spanked the Giants and Cowboys.

    Seattle’s “impressive” offense is predicated upon getting Alexander the ball thus opening up the passing game, which puts points on the board and causes the opposing team to make mistakes on offense.

    But …

    I don’t think that Washington’s D is going to let Seattle run ball, which means that Seattle will make mistakes on offense (they will be forced to pass).

    Here’s a stat for you:

    Matt Hasselbeck has 24 TD’s and only 9 INT’s. Wow! I am so impressed that I will go out on a limb and say that Washington doesn’t stand a chance.

    Not!

    When he plays teams with a record over 500 (not including Indy), he has 6 TD’s and 6 INT’s. That’s not nearly as impressive.

    Washington is going to win.

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