Washington Football Team Week 15 Preview: vs. Seahawks
Washington followed up its upset victory over Pittsburgh with a remarkable defensive effort over the reigning NFC champion 49ers. Washington has now won four straight to turn a sad 2-7 record into a respectable 6-7.
The Football Team controls its destiny going into the final three weeks of the season. Winning out would guarantee them the NFC East crown. This week, Washington hosts Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, which is a better matchup than many would predict. Here is how Washington can kick cookin’ Russ out of the kitchen.
Week 15 Preview: vs. Seahawks
Three Things to Watch For:
1. Keeping Russell Wilson in the pocket. Wilson may be fading from the MVP conversation, but make no mistake, he is the most dangerous quarterback Washington will face this season. His beautiful deep ball stretches defenses vertically and his scrambling ability picks up many first downs. The defensive line will need to play disciplined contain to keep Wilson in the pocket and make him feel the pressure. If he can regularly escape and improvise, the Seattle offense will be tough to stop. Fortunately, the Seahawks offensive line is a mediocre pass-blocking unit, and Washington’s pass-rushing talents should be able to exploit their matchups.
2. Sustaining drives on offense. Two defensive scores against San Francisco covered up Washington’s worst offensive performance this season. They never found the endzone and mustered just three field goals. Smith and Haskins combined for only 108 yards passing as the offense constantly punted. They will need to do more to keep up with the high-powered Seahawks. Long, methodical drives will keep Wilson on the bench and give the defense time to rest. As of writing is it unclear if Smith or Haskins will get the start, but whoever plays will get a good matchup against a poor Seattle pass defense.
3. Having more big plays than the Seahawks. The Seahawks rely on explosive players on both sides of the ball. Wilson, Metcalf, and Lockett keep their offense moving while Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams make splashes on defense. Washington’s path to victory requires limiting the impact of those players. If Washington makes this game messy by taking away Wilson’s deep ball and grinding away on offense, they might be able to win with one or two big impact plays of their own. It might help to get McLaurin more involved – the star receiver only has 4 catches on 12 targets in the last two games.
S Deshazor Everett vs. WR DK Metcalf.
Seattle receiver DK Metcalf is a beast of a man. He possesses the size, speed, and agility to bully any cornerback in one-on-one matchups, and he is particularly threatening on vertical routes. Washington’s secondary will need to provide help over the top. Safety Deshazor Everett gets a huge challenge this week. If he can help cover Metcalf and stop big gains, Wilson will be forced to look towards other players, where Washington has better matchups. The journeyman Everett will have a chance to prove himself as a starting safety.
Injuries to Monitor:
QB Alex Smith, RB Antonio Gibson, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, and LB Thomas Davis attended Wednesday’s practice but did not participate. All other players practiced.
Smith suffered a calf strain on Sunday that kept him out of the second half. Reports suggest it is not terribly serious (and it is not related to his previous leg injury), but he will need to rest all week to have a chance to play Sunday. Otherwise, Haskins will get the start. Gibson is out for at least one more week with his turf toe injury. Pierre-Louis’ ailment is uncertain but probably not serious, while Davis simply got a veteran’s day off. Beyond offensive starters Smith and Gibson, the team remains in good health.
Game in Summary:
Most pundits did not give Washington good chances against either Pittsburgh or San Francisco. I suspect most will pick against the Football Team again this week. Not that I blame them; this is a game centered on quarterbacks and Seattle will start a superstar, while Washington might have to start the guy they benched after week four.
But I believe this matchup favors Washington. The Giants provided a blueprint for how to contain Wilson: shifty zone coverage and consistent pressure in his face. Washington excels at that. Their offense should be able to get back on track against a leaky Seattle unit even if Haskins starts. It might get ugly, but I think Washington extends their winning streak to five games in a contest that comes down to the final minutes.