The Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins are both on fire heading into the playoffs. The Redskins rattled off seven straight wins to secure the NFC East while the Seahawks have won five straight. One of those streaks will end on Sunday.
All eyes will be on a pair of tremendous rookie quarterbacks. Seattle's Russell Wilson started the season in the shadow of Andrew Luck and his Wild Card Weekend counterpart Robert Griffin III, but quickly emerged as a dynamic option in his own right.
While Wilson and Griffin lead the two sides in terms of star power, both sides were able to reach this point thanks to terrific depth. It also makes the winner of this game a threat to make a deep playoff run despite not generating much Super Bowl hype right now.
Let's take a glance at all the important information for the NFC wild card clash, followed by a preview and prediction as the Seahawks battle the Redskins.
Which team will advance?
Where: FedExField in Landover, Md.
When: Sunday, Jan. 6 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Listen: KIRO 97.3 FM (Seattle) or WTEM 980 AM (Washington)
Live Stream: NFL Audio Pass
Spread: Seahawks -3 (via Vegas Insider)
Key Injuries (via USA Today)
Seahawks: LeRoy Hill (questionable, hamstring)
Redskins: DeJon Gomes (questionable, knee)
What's At Stake
A trip to the divisional round would be a tremendous accomplishment for either team. It was expected to be a rebuilding season for each as their rookie quarterbacks got their feet wet in the NFL, and instead they are facing off for a chance to move within three wins of a championship.
The winner's opponent will be decided by the other NFC wild-card game. If the Green Bay Packers win, the winner will take on the Atlanta Falcons. Should the Minnesota Vikings pull off the upset, the winner will face the San Francisco 49ers.
Either way, the Seahawks or Redskins should feel confident. Neither bye team was in top form as the playoffs approached, giving the underdogs a real chance to keep moving on. But first, they must take care of business on Sunday.
Seahawks Players to Watch: Marshawn Lynch
Lynch is a perfect fit for the Seattle offense. The workhorse carried the ball 315 times, taking a lot of pressure off Wilson's shoulders in the process. He's also one of the most reliable running backs in the league, losing just two fumbles all season.
Even though he's not an explosive back, his relentless running style tends to wear down the opposing defense by the second half. He's going to punish any opponent who gets in his way, even if it only means gaining an extra yard or two.
Furthermore, Lynch has been on an absolute roll as of late. He's topped the 100-yard mark in four straight games and scored five touchdowns during that stretch. The fifth-ranked Redskins rush defense is going to have its hands full.
Redskins Player to Watch: Robert Griffin III
The numbers speak for themselves. Griffin totaled over 4,000 yards of total offense and accounted for 27 touchdowns while turning the ball over just seven times. There's no doubt he was the main reason Washington was able to turn things around.
It all comes down to how healthy he is heading into Sunday's game. Although he helped lead the Redskins to a crucial victory over the Dallas Cowboys last week, he didn't illustrate his usual level of elusiveness. At least in terms of what fans witnessed before his knee injury.
In order to win, the Redskins need Griffin at operating at 100 percent efficiency. Anything less and the edge shifts to the Seattle defense. It shouldn't take more than a few drives to find out what's he capable of doing, and everything else will fall into place from there.
What They're Saying
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll didn't want to give the Redskins any bulletin-board material, but it's clear he's confident in the future of his team, reports Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times.
"The thing that all of us know," Carroll said on 710 ESPN Seattle this week, "I'm talking about the players, the administration, everybody knows — we're going to be good for a while. This is a young, aggressive, rolling team."
While most of the focus has been on Griffin, the star quarterback praised his fellow rookie, running back Alfred Morris, for what he's done, according to Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times.
"Alfred did a great job. He makes runs that are blocked for 3 yards [into] 7-yard gains," Griffin said. "He’s out there running over guys and continuing to move his legs, getting those hard yards."
Which side has the edge?
Key Matchup: Seahawks secondary vs. Redskins wideouts
Seattle's secondary is one of the best in the NFL. The return of Brandon Browner from suspension will provide a boost. He's formed a great tandem with Richard Sherman, helping lead the Seahawks to the sixth-ranked pass defense.
Browner and Sherman are joined in the defensive backfield by the equally impressive safety duo of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. They combined for 163 tackles during the regular season and can expect to be busy again on Sunday.
The Redskins will combat that secondary with a group of receivers led by Pierre Garcon. It makes Griffin's health even more important because if he's forced to become more of a pocket passer, the advantage swings clearly in Seattle's favor.
Seahawks 24, Redskins 20