Sky Sports 1/1HD, 9.00 P.M Sunday, 6th January.
Key Story Lines: The Seahawks with their devastating offense and ‘Legion of Boom’ defence could potentially be the most dangerous wild card team, especially when taking into consideration they’ve won their last five games by a combined 193 - 60.
Led by the exciting Russell Wilson, who leads the NFL in QB rating since week 10 (84.1) and ranks second only to Payton Manning since week 5, Seattle had piled up 150 combined points from week 14 - 16, before coming back from behind to beat Jeff Fisher’s plucky Rams on Sunday.
Even more astonishing is the fact that Wilson has also tied Manning’s rookie record for touchdown passes with 26, despite the fact that Seattle, in the words of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger kept their offense ‘with the handbrake on’ for the first few weeks of the 2012 campaign. His plus 16 margin ratio of touchdowns to interceptions represent the best by a rookie triggerman.
He also leads the NFL in QBR rating on the road since week 8 (92.7), so much so that he’s left the likes of Matt Ryan (88.7) and the previously mentioned Manning (84.7) well and truly in the shade. During the aforementioned period Wilson has plundered 10 touchdown passes, committed just the one turnover, and in the last three road games, Wilson has thrown 5 touchdown passes, and no picks.
His contemporary on the opposite side-line, Robert Griffin 111 has been eerily similar when it comes to overall performance, as to date, both triggermen have attempted the same volume of passes (393), have completed a remarkably similar volume of passes, Griffin completing 258 to Wilson’s 252, and the same being true where it concerns completion percentage - RG3 posting 65.6 to Wilson’s 64.1, and touchdown passes, RG3 posting 20 (passing) to Wilson’s 26.
Although both men trail fellow rookie Andrew Luck in terms of pass yards, posting 3,200 (RG3), and 3,118 (Wilson) respectively, compared to Luck’s 4, 374.
On the subject of offense, both the Seahawks and Redskins represent two of the most rush - heavy offenses in the NFL, but more intriguingly, is not the volume of rushes, but the use of the ‘read - option’.
Washington and Seattle are two of five teams to run at least 30 option plays this campaign. While RG3 and the Redskins have featured it constantly, in all but three games, Seattle have only recently exposed Wilson to the scheme.
Approximately 30 percent of the Seahawks rushes through a combination of Wilson and runningback Marshawn Lynch in the last five weeks have commandeered a variation of that option. That figure leads the league though that period. The Seahawks are averaging an impressive 7.3 rush yards per game, bringing about quite a change for Seattle. They used the option only five times, or the equivalent of 1.4 percent on rushing plays - over their first 11 games.
The use of the option has been a hugely significant factor in Seattle averaging a 211.8 rush yards per game, and a 38.6 points per game, during the 5 game winning streak brought them an 11 - 5 finish and a wild card spot; both of which lead the league in that span.
While both the Seahawks and Redskins have had success with the option, they’ve utilized different schemes in doing so. Seattle like to spread the field and run the zone - read exclusively out of the shotgun, while Kyle Shanahan prefers to run the play out of the pistol formation.
Forty of the Seahawks 55 option rushes this season have come with at least three or more receivers on the field at any given time, the highest in the league. Whereas the Redskins, have run just 48 percent of their option plays via the Spread option and its derivative ‘the flexbone formation’.
All but one of the Seahawks option rushes have come via the shotgun. A league high 82 percent of the Redskins options have come from the pistol. Washington have an NFL high 25 percent of all their non-option plays out of the pistol.
This is particularly effective in creating confusion for defenses and defensive coordinators.
'key to defining the success of both offenses and their various schemes, will be how they fair against each other’s defenses. Alfred Morris and RG3 may have combined for 2,428 rush yards and 20 rushing scores, but ‘the legion of boom’ spearheaded by the fearsome triumvam of Richard ‘The Sherminator’ Sherman, Brandon Browner (back following a four game suspension), and Chris Clemons (11.5 sacks) represent a far more dangerous proposition than the 17th ranked Dallas run defense they faced in the NFC East title decider.
Washington may rank 4th in points scored, but the Seahawks (due in so small part to the aforementioned three) boast a defense that ranks 4th in points allowed, 4th in yards allowed (306.2), 6th in pass yards (203.1), and much of the credit must go to the previously mentioned Sherman and Browner, who aside from combining for 143 tackles and 5 forced fumbles, have picked off opposing quarterbacks 16 times; presenting the Redskins who to date, have put up an average of 27.2 points and 383.2 per game, with quite the challenge.
Who will win and why: Jim Haslett and his defence blitzed Romo into a world of confusion, baiting him into three costly picks, but Seattle’s aggressive defense will give Russell Watson the platform to leave ‘The mad Scientist’ desperately needing an antidote. Seattle to win 31 - 24.
Trivia: RG3, Russell Wilson, and Andrew Luck have combined to go 31 - 16 through 2012.
image: © Neal D