Jan 022013
 

Seahawks - RedskinsThe Seattle Seahawks can take solace in the fact that the road to the Lombardi Trophy for the past two Super bowl winners—Green Bay and New York—came less a home game for either team. Thankfully, for the rest of the NFC playoff field, the unfriendly confines of CenturyLink Field will remain out of play this post season barring a Vikings-Seahawks matchup. In 2012, Seattle defeated only one team—the Chicago Bears—with a winning record on the road. Nonetheless, other than their opponent, no team heads into the post season hotter. While Washington has won its last 7 starts, Seattle has put together wins in 7 of 8 games during a stretch that has seen them give up more than 17 points only once and score 58, 50, and 42 points in succession.

For Washington, they can look no further than the Seahawks themselves for a prime example of how a home game wild card weekend can prove to be a tremendous advantage against a team that may either match or exceed them in virtually all aspects of the game. While home cooking has not correlated to championship success in recent seasons, it did help a 7-9 Seattle team upend the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints that traveled to Seattle sporting an 11-5 record in 2010. This game is more evenly matched than that game was. Washington, the only playoff team in either conference with 3 home losses, has reversed their early season home misfortunes by winning their last 4 home games—all virtual must win occurrences.

The Keys for Seattle
Seattle’s defense relies heavily on strict gap assignment football—they will need to stay disciplined to stop the league’s number one rushing attack. Assuming they are able to contain Alfred Morris and a physically limited Robert Griffin III, Washington will attempt to exploit man coverage from the Seattle secondary. CB Brandon Browner is back from suspension and Richard Sherman had his overturned. Additionally, Safety’s Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas have been adept at stopping both the run and pass all season. Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton, the top two running QB’s to face Seattle this season, collectively scored 25 points against Seattle. Limiting the cutback lanes for Alfred Morris and Griffin and winning the one-on-one battles against the Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon, and Leonard Hankerson will be paramount factors if Seattle is to win on the road.

Washington’s three interceptions against Dallas in their division title clinching performance in Week 17 were more story of Tony Romo’s ineptitude than Washington’s prowess. Offensively, Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle rushing attack has allowed Russell Wilson to exploit the opposition all season long with the play action and to compensate for a lack of talent amongst Seahawk receivers. This will have to continue for Seattle to move on to the divisional round. Washington gave up 281.9 yards per game through the air this season which is more indicative of who they are as a defense than the three pick performance and the 18 points they held Dallas to.

The Keys for Washington
Washington held opponents to 96 yards per game rushing throughout the season. In order to win they must limit a Seattle rushing attack that averaged 161 yards per game and limit the ability of Russell Wilson to feed off the play action. While Washington’s secondary is weak, Seattle’s Achilles heel is its lack of talent at WR—limiting Seattle’s running game and taking away the play action should ground the Seattle passing attack and compensate for Washington’s inadequacy in the secondary.

Offensively, Alfred Morris will need to continue on the course of success he has been on. The rookie rushed for 1613 yards and, more importantly, he came up with a 200 yard 3 touchdown performance in Week 17 with Griffin’s ground game being limited due to injury. If Morris’ cutback game can exploit the league’s 10th ranked rushing defense—and the condition of RG III’s knee improves, the Redskins will be better equipped to deal with the Seattle blitz and physical nature of their pass defense.

The Outcome
The two quarterbacks would easily be the Rookie of the Year in virtually any season had they not come out in the same year. The feature backs are separated by 23 yards on the season. The hot streak that both teams are on is equally incredible and all things point to this game being a pick ‘em type affair. In such cases it’s easy to side with the home team. However, there is one area where these teams are not at least close to even: The Seattle defense is better, particularly against the pass, and has fared well against moving quarterbacks. Seattle 28 – Washington 20

Update: Please note this article was first published with an incorrect note that Seattle was 10-5-1. This has since been corrected.

Dec 142012
 

Rob ParkerI’ve recently foregone the comfort of cable television in my quest to leap as far off the grid as humanly possible, so when a colleague shared with me a text snippet of Rob Parker’s comments, I was totally unaware. As I went online to view the actual clips I was floored. Parker, in his role on ESPNs First Take, was asked to comment on statements made by RG3 on December 12th. At a press conference RG3 said:

“You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That’s what I strive [for]. I am an African American, in America, and that will never change. But I don’t have to be defined by that.”

Parker, when asked his view on those comments, openly shared his thoughts:

Parker’s comments, as asinine as I believe them to be, reflect a perspective that is unfortunately common to many people and sadly many of the African-Americans who are most damaged by this belief. The idea of there being a “real” African-American experience, was born out of a culture of subjugation, popularized by media and perpetuated by those who view it as a badge of honor. In this view male Blackness is about a hyper-masculinity that dictates how one should dress, what music you like, who you should socialize and date, how you wear your hair (because braids are so urban!) how you speak and how you engage in the political process (or if you should engage at all). That fact that these ideas are out there didn’t surprise me and given Parker’s history of dumbassery, the messenger was also not a surprise.

To me the comments of Stephen A. Smith are the more telling. Normally bombastic, incendiary and often stupid, Stephen A. is not known for restraint, but he almost eloquently stated a very simple yet profound concept; how RG3 lives his life is none of our business. Now with that said, I found it interesting that Stephen A. did not take a more aggressive stance (in line with the nature of the show) in repudiating what Parker had just said. I believe that Stephen A. was: A) a stunned that Parker just screwed up so badly and B) unsure of how to respond because as unpopular as it is, he knew Parker was speaking to something that many folks think. Smith was clear to state:

” …he can live his life. I don’t judge someone’s blackness based on those kinds of things. I just don’t do that. I’m not that kind of guy.”

With the unsaid implication being that I know there are those folks out there but I’m not one of them. A smart move, because I have to believe Parker will be radioactive for a while.

What I hope happens is that athletes, media personalities and other journalists line up and verbally eviscerate Parker. He needs to be an example of what happens when any one person sets him/herself up as the arbiter of any race/culture/ethnicity, especially when that person is coming from a place of pure, uninformed opinion. I am interested to watch the response from the worldwide leader. They have the power to make this issue go away partially by ignoring it. For better or worse ESPN makes sports news and if they don’t give it air then it might fall quickly out of prominence. If nothing else hopefully pieces like this will keep the discussion alive. And remind Parker that he does not speak for anyone but himself.

May 222012
 

 

Washington Redskins

Head Coach: Mike Shanahan

Projected Starting Quarterback: Robert Griffin III

2011 Record:  5 wins, 11 losses (4th in NFC East)

No postseason appearance

16th in Total Offense, 13th in Total Defense

2002-2011 10 year record: 65 wins, 95 losses (T-25th in NFL)

1 wins, 2 losses in postseason

No Super Bowl appearances

3-2 All-time in Super Bowl