Two of the league's premier rookie quarterbacks go head-to-head in a playoff battle in Washington on Sunday afternoon. Covers Expert Sean Murphy explains which side holds the edge in his tale of the tape.
The Seahawks managed only 20 points in last Sunday's win over the Rams, but there's no question this is a unit that has improved as the season has gone on. Prior to last week, the Seahawks had scored 150 points over their previous three games. QB Russell Wilson has thrown at least one touchdown pass in nine straight, and 14 of 16 games this season. RB Marshawn Lynch has gained at least 100 yards on the ground in four straight contests. He's scored at least one touchdown in seven of his last nine games.
With the exception of a stretch from late October into early November, the Redskins offense has been humming along all season. They enter Sunday's matchup having scored at least 27 points in six of their last seven games. RGIII didn't appear to be 100% healthy last Sunday, but still helped his team to a 28-18 win over the Cowboys. He's had plenty of help from RB Alfred Morris, who is coming off his best game of the season, running for 200 yards and three touchdowns in last week's playoff-clinching victory.
Seattle will get a boost defensively with the expected return of CB Brandon Browner from suspension. Of course, it's not as if the Seahawks have suffered in his absence. They've held five straight opponents to 17 points or less, giving up a grand total of 60 points over that stretch. Seattle allowed just 5.3 yards per play over the course of the regular season, but if it does have a defensive weakness, it's against the run, having surrendered 4.5 yards per rush.
The Redskins saved their best for last, allowing 21, 20, and 18 points over their final three regular season games. Remember, this is a unit that started the season by giving up 101 points over its first three contests. We've actually seen the Washington defense come together and play its best football since suffering key early season injuries to Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo. The 'Skins have struggled against the pass at times, allowing 11.5 yards per completion.
Even with electric return man Leon Washington, the Seahawks return game hasn't been anything special this season, averaging just over 27 yards per return on kickoffs, and 8.5 yards on punts. At the opposite end of the field they fall right around the league average in terms of kick coverage. Kicker Steven Hauschka has enjoyed a career year, connecting on 24-of-27 field-goal attempts, well north of his career average of 82 percent.
Washington is almost a mirror image of Seattle in terms of its return game on both sides of the football. The 'Skins are amongst the best in the league defending punt returns, allowing just a shade over eight yards per return. Billy Cundiff started the season as Washington's kicker, but was relieved of his duties after Week 5. Kai Forbath took over and connected on his first 17 field-goal attempts, before missing his last kick of the regular season.
Word on the street
“There will be a feel about the playoffs, there’s always a kind of air about it that you can sense it’s different, but the key is not allowing that to factor in to what it really takes to prepare well and not miss the message." Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on his team's mindset opening the playoffs on the road.
"Is it a month? Is it a month-and-a-half until he's completely healed? I think (the brace) bothers him just a hair. That's why sometimes he looks a little bit different when he does cut." Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan on QB Robert Griffin III's health heading into the postseason.