Warpath Preview: Breaking it Down

Warpath Preview 01.14.06--The Redskins' spirit is willing, but is the collective body able?

Different atmosphere: On the plane ride to Seattle, going through Chicago, there weren't as many Redskins fans, as could be expected. In fact, on the first leg from Baltimore to Chicago, there were only a two or three Redskins hats spotted and a couple others wearing Redskins gear. No Hail to the Redskins was sung upon landing, as happened on numerous planes bound for Tampa. Such is what happens when playing nearly 3,000 miles away.

Big assignment: Defensive end Demetric Evans is smaller than injured Renaldo Wynn and don't be surprised if the Seahawks test him early with right tackle Sean Locklear. Seattle actually hurt Washington more running to its right than behind its powerful left side in the first meeting. Evans has played well as a reserve and has not embarrassed himself when he's started in the past.

Bonus: The Redskins have a healthier secondary and that should be a bonus. If the conditions are wet, that doesn't mean both teams will automatically run the ball. Remember what Washington did in Denver when it rained? The Redskins threw a ton -- and threw it well. Why? On a sloppy field, the receivers are better able to maneuver than the defensive backs because they know where they're going. So don't assume it'll be a groundfest if it rains. Seattle's secondary is not that great and has injuries. Besides, it's hard to imagine the Redskins pulling off a road upset without receiver Santana Moss making a few big plays. It just won't happen otherwise.

Can the Redskins win: Absolutely. Did anyone miss the game in October? Washington controlled the ball for more than 35 minutes; the game should not have been close by the end. Yes, the Seahawks are good and they're balanced, but the Redskins are more tested. They've played more games against winning teams (11 vs. Seattle's five) and have won their last four games on the road. Granted, not all those games were pretty, but they all ended the same way. Dallas and New York should have won at Seattle earlier this year; why can't the Redskins?

Remember this:
Washington went 4-0 against the NFC West, which had only one good team in the division.

Is Seattle better: Absolutely. The Seahawks are more balanced and consistent offensively than anyone Washington has played during their winning streak. Seattle's potent offense likely will figure out ways to score. The Seahawks might get only 17 points, an off day for them. But that also might be enough the way Washington's offense has looked the past two games. So, yes, it's a challenge. Oh, and the Seahawks are 21-4 at home in the past 25 games -- which is the NFL's best record during that stretch.

Area of concern: Seattle's front seven on defense. The Seahawks will blitz often, testing the Redskins' passing game. That means a long day of pass blocking for Clinton Portis with his banged-up shoulder. Those stingers have a way of returning for a few weeks. Seattle's 50 sacks have come from a variety of players because they do blitz a lot. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu has four sacks and three interceptions and has been terrific as a rookie.

Weapons: Seattle's slot receiver Joe Jurevicous is dangerous because it can be easy to overlook him with fellow wideouts Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram. They'll also throw to tight end Jeremy Stevens.

Dynamic duo: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is having his best season because Shaun Alexander is having his best year. It's no coincidence. Defenses must honor Seattle's passing game. But they must stop Alexander. It's hard to do both. And, perhaps, the best two players on offense are left guard Steve Hutchinson and left tackle Walter Jones. Often, Alexander starts right and cuts back left to huge holes. So end Phillip Daniels must maintain the point of attack. He did a good job against his former teammate in the first meeting.

Offensive key: No stupid mistakes. Sounds simple, but if the Redskins want to win, they can't turn the ball over; It's the No. 1 reason they lost in Denver and in Kansas City and in Tampa Bay (OK, along with that nasty call). Seattle is not Tampa; it will capitalize on mistakes; and it won't turn the ball over much at all. Another problem is the noise, which is why visitors have been flagged for more false starts at Qwest than at any other stadium. The Redskins aren't good enough to overcome those second- and third-and-long situations. Of course, that's precisely how they beat them the first time, converting six of eight times on third and nine or longer. But that's not a good thing to do on the road. Another thing is to get tight end Chris Cooley more involved than he's been the past two weeks. Some quick-hitting underneath passes to him over the middle would work well.

Done: A big question is how much does Mark Brunell have left? If he has anything, the Redskins can win. If that sprained right knee still bothers him -- we might not find out until months later -- then it'll be another day of overthrows. Brunell looks worn down, which isn't surprising given when the Redskins last had a week off (Sept. 25) and his age (35). He's been a good leader this season and is a big reason why they made the playoffs.

Prediction: I really like this Redskins team, because of its chemistry and hunger and willingness to do whatever is asked. But they almost seem to be running on fumes at this point. Seattle is a big banged up, but at least coming off a bye and is playing at home. The Seahawks, too, have greatly improved chemistry and that matters. The Redskins will have a chance, but in tight games you have to go with the more consistent quarterback. Seattle has that in Hasselbeck. Seahawks 17, Redskins 14.

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