Game time: Sunday, Jan. 6, 4:30 p.m. ET, FedEx Field
Weather: low 40s, partly cloudy possible
Records: Seahawks (11-5) at Redskins (10-6)
1. How will Robert Griffin III's knee respond?
Well, the rookie quarterback told the media Wednesday that the knee is "pretty close" to 100 percent, which is what team doctors told Mike Shanahan. So while RGIII will likely have to wear the brace against the Seahawks, the biggest obstacle to him returning to his freewheelin', gunslingin' ways will be more mental than physical.
Specifically: will the thought of re-injuring his knee keep Griffin from going all out? To hear him tell it, that doesn't seem like an issue.
“The injury has shown me a lot, just from a quarterback perspective,” Griffin told reporters Wednesday. “This game is not easy, but (the injury) did show me some things I can do to make the game easier for myself, easier on my body. Ironically, I’ve done a better job of protecting myself since the injury -- sliding, getting down, getting all the possible yards I can and getting out of bounds. Sometimes, things have to happen like that for you to really, really grasp that. It’s shown me a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever rushed for 10 yards a carry in a game and I did that in this past game.”
It's a good point. Griffin's rushing totals against the Cowboys were unaffected by his brace (6 rushes, 63 yards); his passing totals, meanwhile (9 of 18 for 100 yards), were well below his season average. Given that he's as close to full health as he's been since suffering the injury in Week 14, we expect that to change too.
2. Will the Redskins be able to run on the Seahawks' 4th-ranked defense?
Because the Seahawks play in the pacific northwest, a lot of people -- especially on the east coast -- don't know much about them. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has gotten a lot of the publicity (deservedly so -- see below) but the defense has done much of the heavy lifting this season. Still, despite the No. 4 overall ranking behind the Bears, 49ers and Texans (according to Football Outsiders), the Seahawks rank just 12th against the run (they're 3rd against the pass).
This is good news for the 'Skins, which feature a varied running attack that starts with Griffin's read-option and more times than not ends up with rookie running back Alfred Morris treading would-be tacklers. And Washington's unique approach to running the ball should make it easier to throw when the time comes.
3. Bigger concern: QB Russell Wilson or RB Marshawn Lynch?
Wilson's been swell this season and we're being sincere. He's thrown for 26 touchdowns (vs. RGIII's 20) and he ranks sixth in Football Outsiders' total QB value metric, two spots ahead of Griffin. But at the end of the day, the key to slowing down Seattle's offense starts with Lynch.
FO's Andy Benoit explains: "The real key to beating Seattle is stopping Lynch. Defensively, that means playing basic, fundamentally sound football and not giving up big momentum-shifting runs." Benoit also notes that "the most impressive story coming into this game is the job Jim Haslett has done with Washington’s defense."
Those are words most folks -- us included -- never figured to see in print.
4. So who wins?
Vegas has the 'Skins as home underdogs (+3.5 points) but never mind covering, we like Washington to win. RGIII and Morris will be too much for Seattle's run defense, and that will open things up in the passing game. If the 'Skins control the time of possession, that'll mean fewer opportunities for Wilson or Lynch to make big plays, and that points to a postseason win. Imagine that.