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2012 - Wildcard Game vs. Seattle Seahawks

Blognosticator - Boone

Lenny: "Skitch", how did we get here?
Guy: I led you here, sir, for I am Spartacus.
- from 'That Thing You Do’

If the Washington Redskins unexpected rise as NFC East champions and playoff team were a feel-good Hollywood movie, there can be no doubt that one Robert Griffin III would be our Spartacus.

With the Redskins just 3-6 midway through the 2012 NFL campaign, fans were doing that thing they do. Detaching, rationalizing, blaming, and bristling at the thought of another meaningless December. The idea that the Redskins, after losing to a down, out, and dysfunctional Carolina Panthers squad, were about to reel off a 7 game winning streak would have been pure madness. Yet that’s exactly what happened.

So, seriously, how the hell DID we get here Skitch?

Belief is a powerful thing. And at that critical juncture, heading into a mid-season bye week as an irrelevant team in 'evaluation’ mode, fans believed the team had improved drastically under center, had found a hidden gem in 6th round running back Alfred Morris, but not much more. What fans didn’t realize is that Shanahan’s 2012 squad was beginning to believe.

They believed their coaches knew what they were doing.
They believed in their 2 rookie quarterbacks.
They believed that no matter who they faced across the line of scrimmage on any particular Sunday, they had a chance to win.
They believed they could come back to win, when previous teams folded like wet newspaper.
They believe that 'down’ was not 'out’.
They believed they could run and pass and score.
They believed they could make field goals, 17 straight of them.
They even believed that, when it counted, they could stop the other guys from scoring.

But most of all, they believed in each other.

Talent matters in the NFL, in case you hadn’t noticed. Just look at the difference having a gifted quarterback on the roster has made for this team. But even in the NFL, belief, motivation level, and teamwork almost always trump talent. Lacking top tier talent at a number of key spots, the Redskins are not the most talented team in the 2012 playoffs. They may not even be the most talented team to take the field Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in their wildcard matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

But I think we’ll beat the more talented Seahawks on Sunday.

The Seattle Seahawks are this year’s 'media darlings’. And not without reason. Head coach Pete Carroll has apparently finally shed the 'college coach who can’t win in the NFL’ moniker, and has put together one of the more complete teams in the NFL. The Seahawks are more than solid across the board. They enter Sunday’s playoff matchup against the Skins having won 7 of their last 8. Most notably, the Seahawks boast the 4th ranked defense, and their own rookie sensation at QB, 3rd round draft pick Russell Wilson. Wilson has racked up over 3100 yards this season, thrown just 10 interceptions to 28 touchdowns, and completed an impressive 64% of his passes. In a normal year, he would be the undisputed rookie of the year. Add in a 1500+ yard 2012 rushing performance by Marshawn Lynch, and the Seahawks are a team no one wanted to face in the first round.

So, why do I think we beat the more talented Seahawks on Sunday?

1. Home Field Advantage. The Seahawks have always been far more dominant at home than away. At Qwest Field, in rainy, miserable Seattle, most opponents 'do as in Rome’ and fall into a deep depression. All it takes is that '12th Man’ flag being raised. Seattle is 8-0 at home in 2012. On the road, the Seahawks veil of invincibility can be torn. Sure, Seattle pulled off 3 road wins this year. But all 5 of their losses came outside the confines of home. And, of their road wins, only one was anything approximating 'impressive’. They barely beat the then hapless Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, and it took overtime for them to beat the head case Bears on the road. The Seahawks did lay a 50 point road drubbing on the Buffalo Bills a few weeks ago – key words 'the Buffalo Bills’. But they are heading into a DC buzzsaw, against a hungry, opportunistic Skins team, in front of a fired up and frenzied Fed Ex Field crowd. The Seahawks are imminently beatable on the road. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

2. Leaving on a Jet Plane. Winging across the country sounds like fun, and it is. But anyone who does it knows, there’s something about that kind of travel that just throws the body a little off kilter. Whether it’s 'jet lag’, disruption of the circadian rhythms, or bad airline peanuts and soda, history has shown that travelling from coast to coast is not helpful before a big game. Can it be overcome? Of course. But I’d much rather be the Redskins resting and preparing for a home game than the Seahawks who’ve spent a lot of their week preparing for a long trip and then making one.

3. Griffin’s Knee. First of all, it’s real, and it’s spectacular. Secondly, I believe the Redskins are in mid-rope-a-dope mode concerning the health of Robert Griffin. Sure, Griffin looked a little hobbled against the Cowboys. He was only able to rush for 68 yards and a touchdown. Some argued his injured knee also disrupted his plant leg and impacted his passing ability. But the Redskins rushed the ball 42 times for 274 yards. Tossing a few balls was just icing on the cake. I believe Griffin is fine, and that we’ll see not only a better passing performance this week from him, but some devastating designed runs that will catch Seattle, busy preparing for another 42 rush game from the Skins, off guard. Everyone thinks they can stop Griffin. Until they actually have to.

4. The Swagger Factor. The Redskins are a humble, mostly blue collar, and confident team. The Seahawks? Well, the nicest way I can say it is, they like to talk. Hearing Seattle’s players tell it, it’s a travesty they should even have to play an unworthy Redskins team this weekend. They’re a damn juggernaut, a 'team of destiny’, the Redskins game little more than an inconvenience in the way of their playing truly worthy opponents. Keep believing it Seattle fans. It’s a familiar story, one played out by Dallas fans (you know, the ones that’ll be home watching the Skins-Seattle playoff game on Sunday). The Seahawks don’t just believe they’ll win this game handily, they know they will. And that hubris is going to cost them on Sunday.

5. Karma – it’s a bitch. The Redskins have only been to the playoffs twice since Norv Turner was run out of DC on a rail. In both the 2005 and 2007 post-seasons, it was Seattle that crushed the Redskins Super Bowl hopes. Redskins fans, including this one, don’t care for Seattle fans. Those of us who made the trips to those 2 playoff road losses loved the beautiful city of Seattle, the beer and fresh salmon were wonderful, but were treated to nasty, disrespectful, and even threatening behavior from the mostly classless Seattle fan base. In 2007, Seattle fans even made light of the tragic death of beloved fan favorite Sean Taylor, who committed the unforgiveable sin of trying to protect his girlfriend and newborn daughter during a home break-in. Classless? That doesn’t even begin to describe Seattle fans who mocked Taylor as a 'criminal’ and 'thug’. Seattle fans? They don’t just deserve some heartbreak on Sunday, they’ve earned it. And the Redskins are going to deliver it.

So how do things go down on Sunday?

Seattle is about to get Munsoned :)

The Seahawks believe Griffin is hurt and that the Redskins hopes rest solely on the shoulders of Alfred Morris. They’ve prepared all week for a pounding, ball control, ground attack by Washington. That’s why Kyle Shanahan will unleash the passing attack this week. Alfred Morris and company will certainly do enough rushing to keep the Seahawks vaunted defense honest and guessing, but it will be RG3’s passing game, along with some designed Griffin runs mixed in, that will shock and defeat Seattle on Sunday. The Seahawks secondary may want to double up on their performance enhancing drugs before this one - they’re going to need them. Watch for Pierre Garcon, now seemingly all the way back from a nagging foot injury, to have a career day. Contrary to popular opinion, this one will be a high-scoring affair. Wilson can flat out ball, and the Seahawks will forget handing off to Lynch by the 2nd half, taking to the air out of necessity. But the much-maligned Redskins secondary will have its best game of the year, and pick off 2 Wilson passes on critical Seattle drives. Add in a sack and forced fumble deep in Seattle territory and the Redskins, in front of the loudest Fed Ex Field crowd in 20 years, will win this one convincingly.

Redskins 35
Seattle 24

Believe it.

For I. Am. Spartacus.

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