Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at Washington Redskins (10-6) +3.5
Of the four NFL playoff games this weekend, this matchup of two red-hot NFC teams might be the most difficult to predict. On one hand you have a surging Seattle squad that has won five straight contests (including their last two road games) in impressive fashion, outscoring opponents by nearly 27 point per game over that streak. Meanwhile, Washington is the NFC’s hottest team and have not suffered a defeat since Week 9.
Both of these teams are led by athletic, rookie quarterbacks and rank in the top three in rushing. Seattle appears to have the edge defensively, ranking top ten defending both the pass and run. Washington has the better run defense (5th) but has been very vulnerable through the air (30th).
The Redskins led the NFL in rushing this season. When healthy, RG3 was the top dual-threat quarterback in the league. The majority of their rushing yards came from fellow rookie, and sixth round gem Alfred Morris, who finished second in the NFL with 1606 rushing yards.
Since Griffin is limited due to a knee injury, he’s not going to escape the pocket and blow by slower defenders. This has led to more carries for Morris and play-action deep passes to Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson and Leonard Hankerson.
Look for Shanahan to follow this same strategy. Try to establish Morris early and pick spots to challenge Seattle’s secondary, which will be bolstered by the return of Brandon Browner.
Like Washington, Seattle utilizes a strong rushing attack,features a dual-threat rookie QB and has a lesser receiving corps. Running back Marshawn Lynch was an absolute terror down the stretch, ending the season with four straight 100+ yard games and six total touchdowns. The Redskins defensive strength is defending the run, but undoubtedly Lynch will still get a healthy amount of carries.
If Seattle has difficulty establishing a ground game, they’ll look to go to the air to attack Washington’s 30th ranked secondary. Sydney Rice and Golden Tate have been a capable, if unspectacular duo on the outside. Doug Baldwin and tight end Zach Miller are the main threats underneath.
Nearly everyone is picking the Seahawks to advance from this game but several factors point to Washington having a chance at the upset. While the Seahawks were a perfect 8-0 at home, they struggled to 3-5 on the road, with all three victories coming against teams that missed the playoffs. Seattle has also lost their last eight road playoff games. Meanwhile, the Redskins are a perfect 5-0 in their last five home post-season games and are riding the momentum of a seven game winning streak.
Seahawks 27, Redskins 30