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Bold Predictions: Defense Wins Championships

Bold Predictions: Defense Wins Championships

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
There is much talk about the relative strength of the schedules played by the Washington Redskins and the Seattle Seahawks and how that should influence the view of their NFC Divisional playoff game on Saturday at Qwest Field. Here are the facts:

The Redskins played home and home against the other three teams their own NFC East division, four games each against the NFC West and the AFC West plus Tampa Bay and Chicago. Those opponents went 138-118, a .539 winning percentage (counting the division opponents’ records twice). That means that every week, week in and week out, the Redskins were facing a 9-7 team.

Seattle played home and home against its own NFC West division, four each vs. the NFC East and the AFC South, plus Atlanta and Green Bay. Those opponents went 110-146, a .429 winning percentage, translating into about a 7-9 team each week.

There are those who say that this means that the Redskins are a battle-tested bunch whose record was well earned while Seattle is a mere paper bird of prey with a gaudy record built on the backs of the dregs of the NFL. There is some merit to the first point while the view here is that the talk of the Seahawks being weaker than their record doesn’t hold much water.

If Seattle had been taken down to the wire a lot this season, if they had needed late field goals or defensive stands to eke out wins over their mediocre competition, their schedule might legitimately taken into account when evaluating them. However, in their 13 wins they outscored the competition by a combined 404-202. If you do the math, you’ll find that that is a 2-1 margin. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, if you double up your opponent week in and week out you probably would have been pretty successful no matter who you were playing.

Might the Seahawks have won one or two fewer games had they played Washington’s schedule? Possibly but it’s still likely that they’d have home field advantage. Would they have the league’s top offense and the NFL’s top rusher if they’d had a tougher road along the way? Probably not, although it wouldn’t make Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander and company any less formidable.

That offense is one of many pluses the Seahawks have going for them. They also have the home field advantage throughout and the bye week in their favor. History has shown that these are not just major advantages, they are insurmountable. No six seed has ever advanced through the top seed to get to a conference championship game.

All is not lost for the Redskins, however. They have a few things going for them as well. Joe Gibbs is a Hall of Fame coach because he wins in January. Mark Brunell, albeit a younger, spryer version, has won playoff games in tough places. Clinton Portis is clearly a cut below Alexander in the pecking order of NFL running backs, but just one cut. The best receiver on the field will be Santana Moss and even the most avid Seattle homer would have to concede that the Redskins have the superior defensive unit.

Offensively, the Redskins will come out just like they did against the Bucs; taking some shots to try to get the early lead (That entire game wasn’t played with the offense in a shell; remember Portis’ option pass on their first offensive series?). In the course of doing so, expect heavy doses of Clinton “Gut and Power” up the middle. That’s not just because those are his favorite plays, it’s because the Redskins have an average weight advantage of over 30 pounds a man along their offensive line compared to Seattle’s front four. Ladell Betts will spell Portis as Gibbs is going to want 40 carries out of the two of them combined (they got a combined 37 against Seattle in Week 4).

Should the Redskins get decent production out of Moss and Chris Cooley—and they caught a combined 10 passes for 148 yards the last time these two teams played—the Redskins should be able to put up 17 to 21 points.

The Seattle offense is death by a thousand paper cuts and that’s not intended to be a slight against them. They lead the league in long drives and they finish them off, scoring 48 touchdowns in 60 Red Zone possessions. They’re not going to kill you with the big play—Hasselbeck’s long completion this year is 56 yards—but they are brutally efficient. Unless the Redskins jump to an early lead like they did last week, look for Gregg Williams to gamble more often with the blitz, confident that the defensive backs will be able to keep the receivers in front of them.

Will Seattle be able to inflict enough paper cuts to score 20 points? With the Redskins’ defense healthier than it was a week ago when the put up a classic defensive performance, no. Defense wins championships and, therefore, it wins in the playoffs. Hasselbeck throws an interception on a tipped pass, Alexander finds the going very tough and the Redskins again survive and advance.

Redskins 21, Seahawks 17

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Redskins Draft Room Revealed: Who works the phones, and who makes the call

Redskins Draft Room Revealed: Who works the phones, and who makes the call

Since the dismissal of former general manager Scot McCloughan, there's been little question who was in charge at Redskins Park. Unofficially anyway. 

Bruce Allen is back running the show, if he ever stopped, and will be at the center of the Redskins draft room and decision making process.

For weeks, Allen and Jay Gruden made clear that the entire Redskins front office - from scouts to the top brass - have input on draft grades. Those grades will determine what players the 'Skins take, and the team is unlikely to deviate from their draft board. 

On Monday, however, Washington director of college scouting Scott Campbell addressed the media and explained that when a decision needs to be made, it will be Allen's call. 

From Campbell:

The way we have the room when the draft is ongoing is we have Eric Schaffer and Alex Santos are constantly calling teams above us. They’re taking the phone calls from the other teams – also behind [us]. A lot of times per Bruce’s instructions, he’ll say, ‘Hey, you take these five teams. You take the next five teams. Start making calls.’ And then we’re receiving calls too at the same time. Once they get that information, they’ll tell the table in the front and say, ‘Hey, we can trade back for this, we can trade up for that.’ It would be me and Bruce and Jay saying ‘No, no, we’ve got enough guys there’ or say ‘I like these guys,’ or like, “Hey, there’s guys there.’ So it’s kind of a discussion amongst the people, and most times it’s Bruce saying, ‘Just tell them we’re not interested,’ or he says, ‘Get the league on the phone. We’re going to make that trade.’”

Campbell's comments reveal quite a lot. To start, it's interesting to know the roles of Schaffer and Santos during the draft. Both men carry a lot of impact in the team's personnel selection. Also, and it was fairly obvious since McCloughan's firing, but Jay Gruden's role continues to increase.

The biggest tell, however, is that ultimately Bruce Allen makes the decisions. It's not a surprise, but it is important to know. Officially.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Redskins won't say if Joe Mixon is on their board but say character does count

Redskins won't say if Joe Mixon is on their board but say character does count

The Redskins may or may not have one of the most polarizing members of the 2017 draft class on their draft board. But they do believe that character counts.

Scott Campbell, the Redskins’ director of college scouting, would not say if  Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who is seen on video striking a woman and knocking her to the floor in an incident that occurred in July of 2014, is on the team’s board.

“We don't announce who's on and off the board for strategic reasons,” said Campbell on Monday at the team’s pre-draft news conference, saying that it’s the team’s policy.

He added that incidents like the one that Mixon was a part of do come into consideration.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 10.0

“Character is very important to me, it's very important to the Redskins,” said Campbell.

He explained that early in the scouting process, character issues are not taken into account.

“What I always told the scouts and how I was trained 30 years ago when I started is when you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don't factor in the character, you don't grade character, you grade talent,” said Campbell, who has been with the Redskins organization for 16 years. “You don't throw away somebody early who may have some redeeming quality or a part of the story you didn't know about.”

It’s later on that the scouts gather information on such incidents as problems with the law, failed drug tests, and other quarters of character.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often 

“Our scouts do a great job getting a lot of information,” said Campbell. “Some of the incidents you brought up happened after the season, at the combine, and just a few days ago. All those things are factored into an evaluation as they are gathered.”

With that information at hand, they start the process of elimination, deciding who fits and who doesn’t.

“When it comes close to the draft, you start weeding out all that, getting more information, deciding, OK, that guy's not our kind of guy, that guy's not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted but good luck to them,” said Campbell.

It seems like much more of a gut feel type of process than anything rigid. There is not much of a clue there as to whether or not the team will consider bringing Mixon aboard, who is inarguably one of the most talented running backs in the draft. The upside is that Mixon could provide a jolt to the team’s offense. The downside would be an immediate public relations hit. The team also must consider what will happen if Mixon were to run afoul of the NFL’s domestic abuse policy in the future, which calls for a six-game suspension for a first offense with penalties getting progressively worse if problems persist.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.