After just missing out on a top seed as well as the NFC West title, the (11-5) Seattle Seahawks, winners of five in a row, travel to FedEx Field to take on equally impressive (10-6) Washington Redskins, winners of their last seven (4.30pm ET, Sunday).
On paper, the match-up looks to favor Washington as Seattle has won but one road playoff game in nine attempts. The betting says otherwise with the Seahawks at 12/1 to win the Super Bowl, while Washington is longer at 20/1. Seattle is also the three point road favorite in this wild card contest.
Battle of the Rookie Quarterbacks: (SEA) Russell Wilson vs. (WAS) Robert Griffin III
When the season began, the common belief was that the rookie of the year race would be between two rival quarterbacks. On the list was Robert Griffin III (pictured), Heisman trophy extraordinaire out of Baylor and second overall draft pick. Also on the list was Andrew Luck, who had been the undisputed first overall pick since day one of his senior season at Stanford. Not on that list was Russell Wilson out of Wisconsin. Ironically however, it is Wilson who could look to surpass the first and second draft picks with a great game on Sunday.
Wilson, who wasn’t even expected to be the starter in Seattle, earned the job after putting together a stellar preseason effort and training camp performance. While he did stumble early in the season, it can be likened to growing pains. In fact, it didn’t take long for Wilson to get adjusted to life in the NFL as he led the Seahawks to a very improbable win over the Green Bay Packers. Although he followed up that game with two subpar performances against the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams, Wilson went on a tear that started with yet another improbable victory, this time against the second seed in the AFC, the New England Patriots.
Including the New England game, Wilson helped the Seahawks to two close and competitive games. Although both came in a losing effort, Wilson went from having five touchdowns and six interceptions in the team’s first five games to 21 touchdowns and four interceptions in the final eleven contests. During that time, Wilson had no games where he threw more than one interception and only one game in which he threw more interceptions than touchdowns. In the process, it was Wilson and not Griffin or Luck that broke Peyton Manning’s rookie record of most touchdowns in a player’s first season (26).
In addition to that record, Wilson finished among the top ten of not just rookies, but all NFL quarterbacks. He ranked ninth among players in the position with 26 touchdowns, eighth in completion percentage with 64.1 and fourth in QB rating with an even 100. He tied Luck to lead all rookie quarterbacks with eleven wins and with a 4-1 record against playoff teams, has the most impressive victory list entering into the postseason.
Griffin meanwhile has been just as spectacular in Washington. After the Redskins fell to 3-6 on the season, the rookie took it upon himself to lead his team to a winning record and consequently, to not losing a game since their week ten bye. Overall, Griffin has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in all of the NFL this season. Unlike Wilson and Luck, RG III doesn’t really have any bad games on the season. He threw just five touchdowns, never once having more than one a game and never once having a game with more interceptions than touchdowns. For any quarterback, that is an incredibly impressive stat and one that might put him over the edge in rookie of the year voting.
Griffin missed just one game, proving to be not only one of the smartest signal callers, but one of the toughest as well. He rushed for over 800 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, breaking the rookie record Cam Newton set last year. Griffin’s legs however weren’t his best asset as he also passed for 3,200 yards through the air, nearly 800 more than Wilson. Griffin also ranked fourth among quarterbacks in completion percentage (65.6) and third in QB rating (102.4).
Defense Wins Championships
While the performance of the rookies will be a huge and defining factor in the outcome of the game, the most important element will come down to the defenses. Most importantly, the rushing defenses as this match-up pits the league’s best rushing attack against the league’s third best rushing attack.
Washington’s success as the best rushing team in the NFL has hinged mainly on Griffin and fellow rookie, running back Alfred Morris. On the season, the two have combined for 2,428 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns.
Seattle’s success as the league’s third best rushing team also comes via the ground efforts of the rookie quarterback and the running back. The Seahawks however boast a veteran at the position in Marshawn Lynch. Lynch recorded 1,590 yards on the ground as well as 11 touchdowns. Adding Wilson’s numbers to this and the Seahawks had 2079 rushing yards with 15 touchdowns.
While both teams clearly have great rushing numbers, both teams also boast top ten rushing defenses. Once again, Washington’s fifth best defense slightly beats Seattle’s tenth best defense. Both defenses have played well as of late but the biggest stat of note is that Washington has not beaten a top ten defense at all this season. Seattle meanwhile has beaten several. They also bring to the match a much more physical defense than any Washington has seen this season and one that stands a very good chance at being able to stop the dual threat of Griffin.
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins Picks Verdict
Rookie quarterbacks are prone to mistakes, especially in high pressure situations. That said, both Griffin and Wilson have managed to avoid these mistakes and for that reason, have their teams in the playoffs.
The defenses will play a role, but the real x-factor of this game will be in which quarterback outperforms the other. The expectation should be Griffin, but he is still not 100% and therefore could struggle against the strong and physical Seattle defense. For this reason, take Seattle -3pts @ +105 with BetOnline (for Americans) or -3pts @ 21/20 with Bet365 or SkyBet for non-Americans.