The Washington Redskins don't possess the defensive playmakers the Seattle Seahawks boast. However, they have an opportunistic unit, that makes its share of big plays.
The Redskins defensive priority has to be slowing down Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and bruising running back Marshawn Lynch. Here are the key matchups between Washington's ball hawking defense and the Seahawks' physical offense.
Breno Giacomini vs. Ryan Kerrigan
Ryan Kerrigan is the Redskins' best pass-rusher and he could dominate Seattle right tackle Breno Giacomini. Kerrigan is quick and powerful off the edge and could dip underneath the 6'7" Giacomini.
Kerrigan logged 8.5 sacks during the regular season and has a knack for forcing turnovers. He will need to consistently threaten the edges, in order to keep Wilson in the pocket.
Max Unger vs. Barry Cofield
Stopping the run has to be the Redskins primary objective. That means clogging up the inside rushing lanes. Nose tackle Barry Cofield can play a key role for a defense that has allowed a measly 95.8 yards per game on the ground.
The ex-New York Giant has developed into a fine 3-4 anchor. He is stout at the point of attack and possesses good initial quickness. Cofield can get into the backfield and stop running plays at their source.
Seattle center Max Unger will find it difficult to contain Cofield. The 26-year-old is the fulcrum of the Seahawks' zone-running game, as the pivot man who creates many openings for Lynch.
If Cofield wins this duel, the Redskins fifth-ranked rush defense will take the run away from Wilson.
Marshawn Lynch vs. London Fletcher
The battle between relentless power back Marshawn Lynch and stellar inside linebacker London Fletcher could settle this game. Fletcher's experience, instincts and knack for flying to the ball, are essential to the Redskins 3-4 defense.
Lynch battered his way to 1,590 yards during the regular season. Similar to Washington rookie runner Alfred Morris, Lynch is the platform for everything his team does on offense.
Shutting him down will require another typically active and intelligent performance from Fletcher. The 37-year-old again led the Redskins in tackles. He made 139 stops and if the Redskins defensive line keeps him free, Fletcher can keep Lynch under wraps.
The battle in the trenches will prove the most decisive between the Seahawks offense and the Redskins defense. If Washington's front wins the fight, they can shut down Lynch and pile the pressure on Wilson.