The defending Super Bowl champions’ title defense tour makes a stop in our nation’s capital, as Seattle will take on Washington on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The Seahawks (2-1) are coming off of their bye still riding high following their overtime victory over Denver two weeks ago. The Redskins (1-3) meanwhile are back in the primetime spotlight a little more than a week after an embarrassing 45-14 home loss to the Giants.
This will be the first meeting between these two teams since the NFC Wild Card game following the 2012 season. In that game, NFC East champion Washington jumped out to a 14-0 lead before Seattle scored the final 24 points to advance. Robert Griffin III injured his knee in the disappointing loss and he hasn’t been the same player since. The Redskins tumbled to 3-13 last season, resulting in a head-coaching change. On the other side, this comeback win was Russell Wilson’s first playoff victory, a total he added to during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run last season.
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Seattle -7.5
Three Things to Watch
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1. Kirk Cousins’ Learning Curve
Following an impressive first start against Philadelphia two weeks ago, Kirk Cousins came crashing back to earth against the Giants. Filling in for an injured Robert Griffin III, Cousins nearly led his team to a road victory in Week 3 against the defending NFC East champions, throwing for 427 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception. His next start didn’t go near as well, however, as the Giants’ defense harassed Cousins all night long, picking him off four times and limiting him to just 257 yards and a touchdown on 19-of-33 passing. A lost fumble put the finishing touches on a horrendous all-around performance, as Cousins and the Redskins lost by 31 points at home. Cousins will get the opportunity to demonstrate his toughness and show that’s he learned from last week’s debacle with a solid showing against Seattle’s vaunted defense. It’s still early, but the Seahawks have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete nearly 70 percent of their passes with six touchdowns compared to just two interceptions. Then again, the quarterbacks this unit has faced so far are pretty good – Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning. No one’s mistaking Cousins for the second coming of any from this trio, but first-year head coach Jay Gruden (not to mention Redskins fans) is certainly hoping for better results from his young signal-caller tonight compared to last week’s stat line.
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2. Seattle’s Road Woes
“Woes” may not be the right word considering Pete Carroll’s team is the defending Super Bowl champion and all. However, it’s perfectly accurate to describe the Seahawks as near unbeatable at home and closer to average on the road. Two of their three losses last season came away from CenturyLink Field, and Seattle didn’t play a true road game in the playoffs either. And beyond the win-loss column, the difference on the scoreboard is pretty clear too. Last season, the Seahawks averaged nearly 30 points per game at home, outscoring opponents by 15.8 points per contest. On the road, they scored about a touchdown less per game (23 ppg) while outscoring the opposition by a similar margin (7.9 ppg). This trend stayed true three weeks ago in San Diego where Carroll’s team fell behind 20-7 before eventually losing 30-21. The Chargers dominated time of possession (42:15 to 17:45) and outgained the Seahawks handily (377-288), as the visitors wilted in the Southern California heat. The temperature shouldn’t be much of a factor tonight, not for an early fall evening in our nation’s capital, but Seattle needs to find a way to produce better results on the road. Especially against a team it should have little trouble beating. Sorry, Washington fans.
3. Backfield Battle Royal?
Last season, Alfred Morris and Marshawn Lynch finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the NFL in rushing. Both ran for more than 1,250 yards and the duo combined for 19 rushing touchdowns. This season, Morris enters Week 5 fifth in the league with 316 yards on the ground while Lynch is matching his 4.5 yards per carry (with one less game played). Both backs are critical to their respective offense’s success, and containing each will be one of the focal points of the defenses tonight. Seattle is doing its customary job against the run, holding opponents to just 72.3 yards rushing per game, while Washington also has been a pleasant surprise in this department (87 ypg) early on. Not only have yards been hard to come by (2.8 ypc allowed by Seattle, 3.3 by Washington) against these defenses, they also have combined to yield just three rushing touchdowns in a total of seven games. So will we see Beast Mode unleashed tonight or a big game from the Redskins’ top ball-carrier? Or will both defenses continue to hold their ground against the run?
Seattle’s the defending Super Bowl champion, coming off a bye, while Washington is still smarting from a sloppy, 31-point drubbing at home last week. Even though the Seahawks are not as fearsome on the road (see Week 2 in San Diego), as they are at home, Pete Carroll’s team is too talented and too proud to overlook any opponent. The Redskins bounce back by keeping this one closer than last week’s debacle against the Giants, but their losing streak stretches to three with another setback at FedEx Field.