Quick Links

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

Quick Links

Redskins coaching staff believes backups on O-line will be 'ready to roll'

Redskins coaching staff believes backups on O-line will be 'ready to roll'

All signs point to the Redskins starting Arie Kouandjio at left guard this weekend against the Eagles, and the coaching staff knows it's a big chance for the second-year man.

Incumbent starter Shawn Lauvao injured his groin last week against the Cardinals, and has not practiced all week. Assuming he doesn't play, this would mark Kouandjio's second start this season. He also got the start against the Browns in Week 4.

Washington coach Jay Gruden did not speak glowingly of Kouandjio's play against Cleveland, but it wasn't a negative review, either.

"He’s played one game, he played OK," the coach said. "He has another great opportunity for him. He’s waited his turn, done what’s asked of him. Practiced hard, played hard, and it’s a great opportunity.”

With center Spencer Long currently in concussion protocol and backup John Sullivan started to go in the middle of the Redskins offensive line, the group will have a number of new faces against the Eagles. The right side of the line, with guard Brandon Scherff and tackle Morgan Moses, will be the same as its been all year, though both of those players are nursing ankle injuries. 

"We have confidence in the guys that if some of those guys that are backups need to step up and be ready to roll," offensive coordinator Sean McVay said. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

Quick Links

One stat that should make DeSean Jackson very dangerous against Eagles

One stat that should make DeSean Jackson very dangerous against Eagles

The Eagles defense is on a big-play streak, but not one that defensive coordinators will like very much, and it could be very good news for the Redskins and DeSean Jackson. 

At this stage of his career, Jackson is a well-known deep threat. While much of the 2016 season has been disappointing for Jackson, in back-to-back weeks, the vertical passing attack has worked. In Arizona last Sunday, Jackson only caught one pass, but it went for 59 yards. On Thanksgiving in Dallas, Jackson hauled in a 67-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins as part of his season-high 118 receiving yards.

"What he brings to this football team, he brings something that not a lot of people can bring, and that’s obviously the speed and the big play ability," 'Skins head coach Jay Gruden said of Jackson.

The last two games moved Jackson's yards-per-catch average back in normal range with the rest of his career at 16.5. Halfway through this season, Jackson was averaging below 14 YPC, which would have been by far the worst of his career.

"A lot of people think that we haven’t utilized his speed quite like we should, but I think he has had a major impact on this football team," Gruden said. "His deep threat has an impact on the defense. It opens up areas for Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder and the backs sometimes. He’s been a major influence for this football team in a good way."

Beyond just the big plays, the Eagles defense has given up 645 passing yards in their last two games. Cousins has historically played well in Philadelphia, and should be in good position to do the same this weekend.

And based on the Eagles' past six games, expect Jackson to have another big game at Lincoln Financial Field. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!