Seahawks vs. Redskins: 5 Matchups That Will Decide Wild Card Weekend Clash
Of all the playoff matchups in Wild Card Weekend perhaps the most unlikely will take place in the nation's capital, where a pair of teams led by rookie quarterbacks will attempt to keep surprisingly successful first years going when the Seattle Seahawks travel to face the Washington Redskins.
Those quarterbacks, Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and Robert Griffin III of the Redskins, will no doubt be the dominant storyline entering Sunday's game, but their duel is far from the only matchup that will decide who moves on to the divisional round.
Here's a look at a handful of the biggest ones.
Russell Wilson vs. Robert Griffin III
We might as well get this one out of the way.
As I said, the predominant storyline entering this week's game will be the matchup between two rookie signal-callers in a playoff game, a circumstance unheard of in the National Football League.
Robert Griffin III of the Redskins and Russell Wilson of the Seahawks have enjoyed incredibly successful first seasons in the NFL, with Wilson tying Peyton Manning's record for touchdown passes by a rookie while Griffin III broke the mark for rushing yards by a first-year quarterback.
Neither passer has played like a rookie in 2012, and whichever newcomer is able to make the most of his first playoff start while avoiding mistakes will be the one whose season moves on.
Alfred Morris vs. Marshawn Lynch
The matchup at quarterback may be the one that will get the most hype entering this game, but it's the battle at running back that may well be the deciding factor in this game.
Both the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins leaned heavily on the ground game this season, with Seattle's Marshawn Lynch rushing for a career-high 1,590 yards while Washington's Alfred Morris set a single-season franchise record with his 1,613 yards on the ground.
Neither back is going to find the sledding especially easy on Sunday, however, as both the Redskins and Seahawks ranked in the top 10 in run defense this season.
Bobby Wagner vs. London Fletcher
And now for the players who will be tasked with shutting down those run games.
Granted, it will take a team effort to do so, but as the leading tacklers for their teams the pressure will be on linebackers London Fletcher of the Redskins and Bobby Wagner of the Seahawks to come up with big games.
This matchup is all about youth vs. experience, as Wagner was all of nine years old when Fletcher hoisted the Lombardi trophy in 1999 as a member of the St. Louis Rams.
Richard Sherman vs. DeAngelo Hall
The Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins both lean heavily on the ground game, but at some point the teams will be forced to take to the air, and in that area the Seattle Seahawks have a distinct edge.
That edge comes in stopping the pass, an area in which the Seahawks have excelled this season, ranking sixth in the NFL in pass defense behind the stellar play of cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, who returns this week after serving a four-game suspension.
The Redskins, however, have had their struggles against the pass this year, and Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall is going to have to step up his game if the Redskins and their 30th-ranked pass defense are going to emerge with a win.
Steven Hauschka vs. Kai Forbath
The Seahawks and Redskins are two fairly evenly matched teams, and the contest between the two will more likely than not be a hard-fought struggle that may well go down to the wire.
Should that prove to be the case then the game may well be decided by a couple of players who aren't exactly household names, as it could come down to kickers Steven Hauschka of Seattle and Washington's Kai Forbath.
Both kickers have had excellent seasons, and in Forbath's case that's all the more remarkable given that the rookie began the season sitting at home only to then sign with the Redskins and proceeded to make his first 17 field-goal attempts, an NFL record to begin a career.