NFC Wild Card Matchup Box: Seahawks at Redskins
When: Sunday, 1:30 p.m. PT, FedExField, Landover, Md.
Records: Seahawks were 11-5 during the regular season to finish second in the NFC West and clinch the No. 5 seed in the playoffs; Redskins were 10-6 to win the NFC East and clinch the No. 4 seed.
Significance: The winner advances to the divisional round of the playoffs next weekend
TV: FOX (KCPQ/13 in the great Seattle area), with Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver
Radio: 710 AM ESPN Seattle and KIRO Radio 97.3, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller
Rest of the NFC: Vikings (10-6) at Packers (11-5) on Saturday night; Falcons (13-3) and 49ers (11-4-1) have first-round byes
Seahawks’ middle linebacker Bobby Wagner vs Redskins’ running back Alfred Morris: It will take more than one tackler to contain Morris, who ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns last week in the victory over the Cowboys that clinched the NFC East title. But Wagner is a good place to start in this battle of Rookie of the Year candidates. Wagner led the Seahawks in tackles during the regular season (140) and set a club rookie record in the process. He averaged 10 tackles during the five-game winning streak to close the regular season. But he’s far from a one-trick pony. Wagner also collected three interceptions and two sacks to force his way into the discussion for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. But his primary focus on Sunday will be Morris, a sixth-round draft choice who finished second in the League with 1,613 rushing yards and ran for 13 touchdowns to make himself a candidate for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
One to watch
Redskins’ linebacker London Fletcher vs Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch: This is the flip side to Wagner vs Morris. Or the more-seasoned version, if you will. Fletcher is 37 and in his 15th season, but you’d never know. He leads the Redskins in tackles (139) and, as Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson put it this week, “He will make, literally, every single tackle if you don’t block him.” Fletcher also led the Redskins in interceptions (five) and had a pair of sacks against the Cowboys. But again, his primary focus on Sunday will be the Beast Mode-running Lynch, who finished third in the league in rushing with a career-high 1,590 yards, scored 11 rushing touchdowns and had four of his 10 100-yard rushing games the past four weeks. It’s Lynch’s presence that sets up the play-action passing game. It’s Lynch presence that has made the zone-read runs so effective during the team’s five-game winning streak.
Fun to watch
Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson vs Redskins’ QB Robert Griffin III: This one includes apologies to both rookie QBs, who stressed this week that they are not playing against one another but the respective defenses in this game. But come on, it’s the most-discussed matchup in a much-discussed matchup between team that have won their past five (Seahawks) and past seven (Redskins) games. While RGIII set an NFL rookie record for passer rating (102.4), Wilson tied the rookie record for touchdown passes (26) that was set in 1998 by Peyton Manning and also had a passer rating (100.0) that bettered the old mark (98.1 by the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger in 2004). Griffin ran for more yards (815 to 489 for Wilson), but Wilson led his team to one more victory. Any way you slice and dice the numbers these two put up, it’s impressive-squared. The rookie QB who plays the least like a rookie on Sunday will go a long way in determining which team advances to the divisional round.
One tough task
Seahawks’ cornerback Marcus Trufant vs Redskins’ wide receiver Santana Moss: Trufant returned last week after missing four games with a hamstring injury and made a couple of huge plays in the seven-point victory over the Rams. But Moss will present a different challenge than the receivers Trufant faced coming out of the slot against the Rams. Moss leads the Redskins with eight touchdown catches among his 41 receptions, including a 77-yarder. So with Moss, it’s not just covering him, it’s also containing him once he makes the catch. Trufant returned an interception 78 yards for a TD to ice the Seahawks’ win over the Redskins in a 2007 wild-card game in Seattle.
The Redskins are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007, when they were eliminated in the Wild Card round by the Seahawks in Seattle. … The Redskins won the NFC East title for the first time since 1999, which is why they’re hosting a team that finished with a better record. … The Seahawks have won their past three Wild Card playoff games – 41-36 over the defending Super Bowl champion Saints in 2010; 35-14 over the Redskins in ’07; and 21-10 over the Cowboys in 2006. But all three games were played in Seattle. … During their five-game winning streak, the Seahawks have outscored their opponents 193-60. … The Redskins were third in the league with a plus-17 turnover differential. They turned the ball over a league-low, and club record, 14 times (eight interceptions and losing six of their 26 fumbles). … The Seahawks tied for fifth in the League with a plus-13 turnover differential. They had 31 takeaways (18 interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries), which tied for fifth in the league. … The Seahawks ranked No. 4 in total defense, while the Redskins were No. 5 in total offense and led the League in rushing for the first time since 1933. … The Seahawks’ Leon Washington ranked second in the League in kickoff-return average (29.0). … Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman tied for second in the League with eight interceptions.
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