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Game Blog Pregame

Game Blog Pregame

Although it’s not my job here to be a thoroughly objective journalist, I do try very hard to step back and take an objective look at things (which is more than I suspect that many who are supposed to be neutral journalists do). And in taking an objective look at the Seahawks I see a very good team, at times an excellent one, but not a great one. I don’t see an overwhelming edge that they have over the Redskins either side by side or man to man. For example, Shaun Alexander had a great season, but he’s only about 25 yards a game better than Clinton Portis and, while he’ll get some yardage today, he’s not going to dominate vs. a strong, tough Washington defense. To be sure, Seattle is a deserving favorite, but until they get it done in the playoffs they are deserving of being examined with a degree of skepticism.

Don’t get me wrong here. If I had to bet my house on the outcome of this game straight up I’d put it on Seattle, but I’d be scared to death.

Back to the future

A lot of what’s happened in the past is part of the discussion in this game and some of it is relevant and some of it isn’t. The game the two teams played in October, for instance, is of little relevance (see 36-0. Giants and then 35-20 Redskins with a shorter gap between the games). Seattle’s 13-3 record and 8-0 home field mark is very relevant.

So is Joe Gibbs’ record of 17-5 in the playoffs. Yes, as Gibbs will tell you, the game is decided by the players on the field. But he’s not pulling down five million bucks a year to be a spectator on the sideline. He’s paid to prepare his team for moments like this and few have ever done it better.

And it’s fair to take a shot at Mike Holmgren’s 9-8 postseason record. All nine of the wins were accomplished with one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, Brett Favre in his prime, pulling the trigger. Holmgren, too, gets paid to prepare his team to win. That’s a delicate balance in the playoffs. You have to find a way to crank up the intensity while at the same time not making your players so tight they can’t perform. In the past two seasons, Holmgren’s two key players, Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck, may or may not have been tight, but they have come up small the past two years in Seattle’s one and done playoff appearances. Alexander averaged just 2.4 yards a carry in those losses to the Packers and Rams and Hasselbeck threw the game-losing pick in Green Bay.

Still, by far, the Seahawks’ 2005 record is the most important thing to look at when evaluating this game. But how Gibbs’ and Holmgren’s teams play in January is far from irrelevant.

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Want to beat the Cardinals? Bring down Carson Palmer

Want to beat the Cardinals? Bring down Carson Palmer

Many considered the Cardinals a Super Bowl contender this season, though the team has not performed to that level so far in 2016. One huge problem for Arizona - protecting quarterback Carson Palmer. 

In its last four games, Arizona has given up 16 sacks on Palmer, including a staggering eight sacks against the Carolina Panthers. In the last two games, Palmer has gone down six times, and both games have been losses. 

With weapons like wideout Larry Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson, Palmer has lots of options to move the ball. That's why Jay Gruden knows how important it is for his front seven to get home.

"It’s going to start with the pass rush," Gruden said. "If Carson [Palmer] has all day to throw and give Larry time to do double moves and stem you inside and vertical and then get back out or break it back across, I don’t care how big you are or how fast you are, it’s going to be hard."

In all six Cardinals losses, Palmer has been sacked at least two times, and in four of the losses, Palmer has gone down at least four times. Beyond the Panthers' eight sacks, the Bills brought down the Cards QB five times, and both the Seahawks and Vikings got to Palmer four times.

While the sack totals stand out, Washington's Preston Smith knows each week is different in the NFL.

"Every game you’re fired up because you feel like it's an opporttunity to get out there and get sacks," Smith said. "You don’t think about what another team did, they’re going to play us different."

Talking on the latest #RedskinsTalk Podcast, Redskins linebacker Trent Murphy acknowledged that the defense knows how beat up the Cardinals' offensive line is. Murphy, who has seven sacks on the season, added that he's 'drooling' for this matchup and the opportunity to take advantage of the Arizona vulnerabilities up front. (Listen to the full podcast below.)

Bruce Arians knows his team is undermanned on the line, and the Arizona offense will be creative to protect Palmer.

"You have to help them," Arians said of his O-line. "You have got to stay balanced and hopefully not get into a situation where it’s a throw, throw, throw game because then you’re putting them in harm’s way and your quarterback in harm’s way."

It doesn't help that in his 14th season, Palmer is probably one of the least mobile quarterbacks in the NFL. After matching up against Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott in their last two games, the Redskins defense knows Palmer won't move nearly as much, though that doesn't mean he's neccesarily easier to get down.

"You’re not going against a mobile quarterback but you still got to get to that spot," Smith said. "Carson’s a good quarterback."

Linebacker Mason Foster said that sacks aren't as important as consistent pressure. 

"On a great quarterback like that you want consistent pressure all day long. Make things tough on him, you don’t want a clean pocket," Foster said. "If you have pressure in his face all day and you don’t get no sacks, I think that's a success."

Even at 36, Palmer is still a dangerous quarterback. He's thrown for nearly 3,000 yards this year with a beat-up offensive line and missing one start. But numbers are numbers, and the data shows that if the 'Skins pass rushers can get Palmer to the ground, the chances of a Washington win shoot right up. 

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

 

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Poll: What is your approval rating for Redskins coach Jay Gruden?

Poll: What is your approval rating for Redskins coach Jay Gruden?

As always, hit the poll and then head to the comments section here and talk about your answer, or reply on Twitter.