"If he's slowed down at all, he'll still outrun my big butt."
An outstanding quote from our very own Alan Branch, in relation to the injury suffered by a talented fellow named Robert Griffin III four (IV?) weeks ago against Baltimore, as reported by Eric D. Williams of The News Tribune this week.
Griffin's worn a brace during games since, to protect the sprained LCL in his right knee, but Branch sees it making little difference in how the Washington Redskins prepare for games. "I don't feel like it affects the game plan at all," he said. "So it doesn't matter to me. We've just got to get him on the ground. That's our job."
No complaints from me.
Having reached a thousand words in my Rams preview last week without bothering to even mention anything betting related, I'll have a go at being a mite more organised this week, but this does come with a word of warning. I'm a superstitious young fool and if beginning these posts with a quote since Week 13 (Bears) has been enough to see the Seahawks prevail ever since, then I'm loath to change too much. However, sod it, here's the line: Seattle -2.5, Washington +3.
Before I go any further, I find myself in agreement with the prolific and oft quotable Walter Cherepinsky of WalterFootball.com. I probably agree with his picks ATS about fifty percent of the time and this Sunday just happens to fall into that green light category when he says that he sees this matchup as a pick ‘em game, namely that either team should be available with no spread/handicap. He likes the Redskins with the three points on offer and I have to say that that does appear to represent sound judgement. I agree with him as I look at this as incredibly close to call and wouldn't be at all surprised to see it go to overtime.
Seattle needed the St. Louis Rams to really show up last week and we can all thank Jeff Fisher for bringing his team to the CLink ready to play, especially the defense, who are aggressive up front. I would much rather we enter the nation's capital on the back of a game with a playoff feel to it than steamrollering our fourth team in a row and enter the playoffs believing our own hype.
Yes, we are good, very good, but various message boards this week already has some Seahawks fans deciding who we'll face in the divisional round. Not that the players would ever adopt such a mindset, but the Rams brought some of us back down to earth last week and their timing was immaculate. The NFC West promises to be utterly brutal next season.
Memories of last week are of Russell Wilson being sacked six times and/or flushed out of the pocket, yet his completion percentage of 78.9 and yards per attempt of 13.16 were both season highs. Washington sits 30th in the NFL against the pass, evenly matched, the layman may suggest, against Seattle's 27th ranked passing offense, yet that latter statistic is one of the most misleading numbers out there.
I suspect we've known for far longer than most who follow the NFL that the Seahawks' attack through the air is better than it looks in black and white and we haven't been reliant upon it because we haven't needed to be. The only time we've had to really chase the game was at home to New England and in Chicago, when Wilson posted 293 yards in each contest, his highest of the season. Coming into this Sunday, Seattle's passing game doesn't concern me one jot and nor should it any of us (well, it won't) because I'm sure we're all now on the same page when it comes to Wilson having the ball in his hands. The kid will bring us a Lombardi, I'm certain. Maybe not this year, but he's convinced me that the eventuality will happen...eventually.
If Seattle's passing game doesn't concern me, then it undoubtedly doesn't concern Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, such an endearing chap. Trawling through Pro Football Talk this week, I was reminded of the shenanigans that occurred before the coin toss the last time these two teams met, in November 2011 at CenturyLink, when Michael Robinson took umbrage at some of the language Hall was using within earshot of a young girl, Seattle's honorary captain that day (this reported by Curtis Crabtree).
"I can remember going up there last year and almost fighting at the coin toss so they don't like us and we don't like them," Hall said this week. I'll refrain from articulating my precise thoughts on Hall through fear of a reprimand so I'll accept that he'll be giving it large on Sunday and pray that come the end of the game, he's proven to be all mouth and no trousers.
DeAngelo, you may find that any perceived opprobrium coming your way from the Seahawks isn't directed at the team or the city, just merely you.
Aside from having to endure an unbearable Hall should the Redskins win, my biggest fear this week is Alfred Morris. Yes, that is yesterday's news, but it obviously needs to be addressed. As I wrote in my preview of our trip to Toronto (with a nod to Jacson), Seattle ranks a healthy 10th defending the run, but has struggled against the league's better backs this season and even despite the 50-17 demolition of the Bills, C. J. Spiller ran for 103 yards on 17 carries (6.1 YPC).
The following week's annihilation of the 49ers saw Frank Gore compile 4.7 YPC and I only mention this because Morris averages 4.8 YPC over the season so I'm resigned to the fact that Washington won't be looking at too many third and long situations, particularly when you throw in what *Griffin's able to accomplish with his feet, too. If ever there was a game made for Bobby Wagner, then this is it. It's frightening what he's capable of accomplishing over his career and this game, his first playoff encounter, on the road, against a storied franchise, in a hostile atmosphere, is his first real opportunity at a little bit of greatness.
*Yes, Griffin will continue to wear his knee brace, but I'm not convincing myself that it'll restrict him in any way. This is the playoffs. Adrenaline.
If I may revert back to the line, the Redskins, like the Seahawks, boast the joint best record (11-5) in the regular season ATS. For those of you who care about these things, joining them in the stable are Indianapolis, Denver and St. Louis. Washington, however, have positively thrived as the underdog this season, going 7-2 when not favoured and on the back of a seven game winning streak, it's easy to see why they'll have their backers against a Seattle team who went 3-5 SU on the road.
Seahawks detractors have used that 3-5 record against them, arguing that it's difficult to trust a team who once were 1-5 away from home comforts, but of course we're all thinking that Seattle's now on a two game winning road streak and even more pertinent is the knowledge (amongst us at least) that something quite special happened in Chicago in Week 13. Pete Carroll shared this with Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports in an article published on Christmas Eve (which Silver reiterates in his staggeringly excellent post this past Thursday).
"I think Chicago was really the turning point," opined Carroll. "He [Wilson] was so good, and he was so phenomenally in control and command against a great defense on the road. When they should have had their surges, we had our surges...it was more than just points. And so, that was really when I said, ‘OK, I'm sold.'"
I'm loath to label this anything akin to the ‘Battle of the Rookie QBs' as that's been done to death in almost every outlet, although it's crazily obvious as to why it's been highlighted so. Yes, it may come down to which QB scores last, passing or running, but there's a multitude of facets to this game (isn't there ever?), perhaps none more relevant than a Seahawks defense welcoming back Brandon Browner.
The cornerback's four game absence through suspension has been a handy exercise in addition by subtraction for the Seahawks as it's allowed Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell invaluable playing time, which in turn creates greater depth in the long run, naturally. Having Walter Thurmond available (not to mention Jason Jones) would've been possibly too much to ask for, but we've been incredibly fortunate with injuries this year, which makes it difficult to bang that particular drum too loudly.
So, a first step towards destiny will be taken as the ball's kicked off tonight and we have a hell of a chance of advancing to Atlanta next week. I don't anticipate it being easy to watch and there'll be moments hairier than a coterie of prairie dogs, but we have the defense to win a championship and an offense to win tonight.
Enjoy it...if you can.
Please gamble responsibly.
In addition to contributing here, Rob runs his own blog, Rob's NFL Yard and contributes atThe NFL Injury Report, so make sure you head over to those sites and check out more of his work. Follow @RobDaviesNFL on Twitter | Follow @FieldGulls on Twitter | Like Field Gulls on Facebook
AFC Wild Card: Colts vs. Ravens
NFC Wild Card: Seahawks vs. Redskins