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.