This Sunday's NFC Wild Card clash between the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins, pits the NFL's stingiest scoring defense against the league's best rushing attack.
The Redskins will rely on their prolific ground game to dominate a Seahawks defensive front that has only allowed 15.3 points per game. Here are the key matchups between Washington's run-first offense and the Seahawks' powerful defense.
Red Bryant vs. Tyler Polumbus and Chris Chester
The Seahawks best hope of slowing down Washington's zone-based running game, is a dominant performance from Red Bryant. At 6'4" and 323 pounds, Bryant routinely occupies double teams.
The hulking defensive tackle actually lines up as a 2-gap defensive end in Seattle's hybrid fronts. That means the pressure will be on the right side of the Redskins offensive line.
Right tackle Tyler Polumbus and guard Chris Chester are both mobile, athletic blockers. However, they are undersized and could struggle to cope with Bryant's brute force and power.
If Bryant closes down one side of the line of scrimmage, the Seahawks will be able to stack the other side and stop the Redskins zone-stretch runs.
Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright vs. Alfred Morris
Stout and active inside linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner will both be busy attempting to subdue Washington's rookie runner Alfred Morris. The sixth-round pick has thrived in head coach Mike Shanahan's famed, zone-rushing scheme.
Morris rushed for 1,613 yards and set three franchise records in 2012. He is decisive and intelligent in the backfield. The former Florida Atlantic prospect makes the quick and precise cuts the Shanahan system is built on.
He also has the power to consistently make yards after first contact. If Morris controls the clock, dual-threat quarterback Robert Griffin III can run the read-option and play-action passing that makes the Redskins offense so tough to stop.
The Seahawks rely on Wagner and Wright attacking downhill to disrupt a running game. The aggressive pair will need to get to Morris before he makes his initial cut.
Richard Sherman vs. Pierre Garcon
Perhaps the most intriguing matchup might be between Seattle's best cornerback, Richard Sherman and Washington's most dynamic wide receiver, Pierre Garcon.
Sherman keys the press coverage style the Seahawks secondary favours. Head coach Pete Carroll encourages his defensive backs to utilise physical, bump and run techniques.
The Redskins will need Garcon to use his size and speed to defeat this aggressive man coverage scheme. The 6'0", 212-pounder is the Redskins best big play threat.
In 10 starts in 2012, Garcon caught 44 passes for 633 yards. He averaged 14.4 yards per reception and caught two touchdowns of over 50 yards.
If Garcon can beat Sherman at the line, the Redskins play-action schemes could set him free for some huge gains.
Washington's offense has carried the team to the playoffs and defense has been the driving force behind the Seahawks success. It will be a titanic struggle between these dominant units and the winner will determine this Wild Card encounter.954010