The headliners are sure to be the pair of Washington rookies—QB Robert Griffin III and RB Alfred Morris—who will be rivaled by the Seahawks' duo of third-round signal-caller Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch in the backfield.
But Seattle has a clear advantage, and it's on the defensive side of the ball. No unit allows fewer points per game, and it will be the reason that the Redskins succumb to defeat at home.
Sometimes the Seahawks can be overlooked, being so far on the West Coast and all. They were unavoidable in Week 16, though, when they put a 43-12 beat down on the San Francisco 49ers—considered by many to be the best team in football at the time.
Attribute that to Seattle's home crowd, all the breaks falling in the host's favor—whatever. This is a legitimate, emerging superpower, and the defense is largely to thank.
Put it this way: there is a reason that the Seahawks are the favorite, on the road, against a franchise with rich tradition desperate for playoff success.
First of all, check out the secondary. CB Brandon Browner is returning from a four-game PED suspension, which gives Seattle back its 2011 Pro Bowl selection. Both starting safeties—Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor—also went to Honolulu last season.
The only man who hasn't gotten that distinguished nod is Richard Sherman, who has emerged as the best shutdown corner in the league this side of the New York Jets' Darrelle Revis.
So as good as Pierre Garcon has been lately for the Redskins, he will have quite a difficult time getting open against coverage that good.
RGIII and the Redskins, much like the Seahawks, have a passing game heavily set up by play-action. Seattle has the luxury of one of the most dynamic defensive fronts in the game, led by Chris Clemons' 11.5 sacks. The line also features Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch—all of whom are over 300 pounds and are deceptively athletic. They obviously clog up the running lanes pretty well.
Then, there's first-round pick Bruce Irvin, who has lightning-fast speed even at 6'3" and 248 pounds and has registered 8.5 sacks. His speed can help contain Griffin in third-down passing situations.
As much as Irvin has flashed at times and as simply amazing as Wilson has been at QB, there is a rookie sandwiched between the two in the draft that is going under the radar. That's Seahawks MLB Bobby Wagner, whose prowess was summed up well by the Seattle Times' Danny O'Neil:
With 10 tackles Sunday, #Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner set the team's rookie with 140.
— Danny O'Neil (@dannyoneil) December 31, 2012
With 40-yard dash speed of somewhere in the 4.4 range and outstanding football smarts, the second-round pick out of Utah State has established himself as an instant impact player.
Aided by the strong foundation of Leroy Hill and K.J. Wright beside him, Wagner has emerged as an outstanding playmaker that makes all the defensive calls for Seattle as well.
Talk about crushing a draft. The Seahawks did that and then some in 2012.
There is too much speed and athleticism for even the Redskins' top-ranked rushing attack to overcome. The offenses will be the focus of this matchup thanks primarily to the success of the two first-year phenoms Griffin and Wilson.
But as the old adage goes, defense wins championships. Seattle has plenty of it, and will stifle the Redskins enough to pull out a hard-fought win.
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