On Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins will meet for the second NFC wildcard matchup, with both teams epitomizing the "underdog" role for this year's playoffs. Seattle is a team that hasn't garnered much respect at all, and continually surprise those who happen to catch a glance at their final record. Washington is a team riding a considerable amount of hype, thanks of course to quarterback Robert Griffin III.
But if Griffin is the catalyst for Washington's success, then Russell Wilson is the buoy that brought the Seahawks out of obscurity and into the limelight. Sure, their defense has been absolutely fantastic, but Wilson's play gave their fans and, I think, the players the drive and determination to plug on.
Wilson and Griffin will dominate the headlines for this one, and for good reason. It's only the second time in NFL history that rookie quarterbacks have started playoff games against one another. The first was last season, when T.J. Yates and Andy Dalton squared off.
Where They Come From: Redskins
Washington punched their ticket into the playoffs in Week 17 with a win over the Dallas Cowboys. The NFC East always comes down to the wire, and once again, it was due more to general mediocrity than a few great teams competing for the title. The Giants and Cowboys both weren't very good this season, and the Redskins rose to the challenge.
Unlike past winners, though, the Redskins actually look like a good team. Most of that comes from Griffin, who has instantly lent credibility to a struggling franchise. It's the first time in 13 years that they've even hosted a playoff game. Griffin has a 102.4 passer rating, the highest ever by a rookie, and third-best in the NFL this season. If it seems like he's all I'm talking about ... that's for good reason.
Where They Come From: Seahawks
The Seahawks lost to start the season, and then they were instantly discredited. They're just "the other team in the NFC West," and regardless of their strong play, they weren't noticed. Then again, they did have some bad losses, falling to the Dolphins, Lions, Rams and Cardinals.
Still, five-straight wins to end their season, including wins over the Chicago Bears and our own San Francisco 49ers, vaulted them into the playoffs and almost into an NFC West crown. Like the 49ers, they have one of the best defenses in the NFL, but their offense has absolutely blown up of late, with two-straight games of at least 50 points.
Something Extra: Redskins
So, about the Redskins and all this Griffin talk ... Alfred Morris is kind of awesome. He finished second in the NFL with 1,613 rushing yards, helping the Redskins to a league-high 2,709 rushing yards. Morris had 200 yards and three scores in the playoff-clinching win over the Cowboys in Week 17.
Something Extra: Seahawks
Not being able to secure the NFC West hurt the Seahawks in a big way, because they lost any potential homefield advantage. They come on strong near the end of the season, and you could almost feel that they were playing specifically to earn that advantage at some point in the playoffs. Just look at the betting lines: that stadium accounts for more a homefield swing than any other in the NFL.
The rooting interest for this matchup is pretty interesting. San Francisco has already drawn the Green Bay Packers for the divisional round, which means the winner of this game will travel to Atlanta to take on the top-seeded Falcons. I previously said that Griffin scares me the most and that I'd rather play the Seahawks again, but I also think the Falcons are better than both of them.
But I do feel like the Seahawks might have a better shot at beating the Falcons. I think their defense can cause Atlanta fits, and if it comes down to Seattle or Atlanta, I'd rather take on Seattle. So let's root for Seattle, yeah?
Something silly is going to happen. One team is going to come out and completely lay an egg and I really feel like that team is going to be the Seahawks. I bet they score early in the first quarter and then not again until the second half.
The pick: 24-10, Redskins