Matchups to Watch  

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Redskins' Springs key to slowing Hasselbeck

Here is my key matchup for Saturday's first-round playoff matchup between Washington and Seattle:

Shawn Springs, CB, Washington

 
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seattle



The last time these teams played was Jan. 14, 2006 in a 2005 divisional playoff game. The home Seahawks won, 20-10, after losing running back Shaun Alexander on the first play of the game. Matt Hasselbeck became the focus of that game for Seattle because of the injury to Alexander; Hasselbeck is the focus of the Seattle offense this year because simply hasn't been the same since that injury two years ago.

The matchup behind the matchup is really Seattle head coach Mike Holgren against Washingron defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Even though Seattle's running game has struggled all year anyway, Williams will make sure it doesn't get revived here -- forcing Seattle to beat them through the air. The Redskins held Dallas to 1 yard rushing in 16 attempts -- lowest total in Dallas history.

Holmgren one of the NFC's best play-callers. I doubt he will call many running plays. The Seahawks passed 57 percent of the time in 2007 -- an even greater percentage in the second half of the season. Hasselbeck is having a Pro Bowl season, with 28 TD passes against 12 interceptions. He's been operating out of the shotgun more this season than ever before, and the new formation has been very kind to him.

Springs, who was originally drafted by Seattle in 1997 with the third overall pick, is Washington's shut-down corner. Sometimes he line up against the other team's top receiver, sometimes he'll just stay on the left side. Springs is a very physical player with very good ball skills. He battled injuries early in the season and continues to play with a heavy heart, with his father, former Dallas running back Ron Springs, in a coma back in Texas.

Team comparisons

Here's how these teams stacked up this season in some critical statisitcal categories:

  Washington Seattle
Point differential: plus-24 plus-104
Sack differential: plus 4 plus-9
Turnover margin: minus-5 plus-10
3rd-down conversion pct.: 39.3 34.3

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