Seattle Seahawks (10-6) at Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
Saturday, January 5 th, 8:15 pm EST.
Slobber knocker: Noun. A violent collision or confrontation. I think that’s what we can all expect to see on Saturday evening when these two defensively- minded squads match up at Jerry World. Seattle won the early season matchup at home, but that was before the Raiders decided that they had too much talent and sent Amari Cooper to the Cowboys, where his effects on the Dallas offense have been well documented. No Cooper, no playoffs for the Cowboys. Period. Seattle has been surprisingly consistent this year after struggling mightily last season, even clinching the wildcard slot with a few weeks to play. Seattle leads the league with its rushing attack, averaging 160 yards per game on the ground. It’s notable that, like Baltimore, the Seahawks feature an unusual 1-2 punch, their running back and their quarterback. Chris Carson and the always elusive Russell Wilson have been hard to handle, but the much-improved offensive line has been overlooked. I’ve mentioned that Pete Carroll should be considered for Coach of the Year, based primarily on the performance of his defense, which has somehow blossomed into a stingy unit, ranking eleventh in points allowed over the past few months. What gets missed in the mix is that the Seahawks score points. Plenty of them. They’re sixth in the league in scoring offense, and they outdueled Kansas City in week sixteen, 38-31. Dallas was very much two teams this season, offensively at least. The Amari Cooper trade, as I have noted, transformed this offense from a sub-par unit that relied too heavily on Ezekiel Elliot to move the ball into a balanced squad that can hang in games and capitalize on the strength of their defense. The threat of Cooper downfield has revitalized their running game, and Elliot finished the year as the league’s top rusher. That being said, the reason for this year’s playoff run is the defense, specifically the front seven. The Cowboys allowed fewer than 95 YPG on the ground this season and have been routinely pressuring opposing quarterbacks into bad looks. Rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has capitalized on the potential he flashed in the combine, finishing the year as the league’s third-leading tackler. Sideline point, two of the top three tacklers in the league were rookie linebackers who play sideline to sideline. Draft junkies take a note
Prediction: It’s going to be unstoppable force versus immovable object in this one, but I just see Seattle coming out on top. I don’t foresee a super-high scoring game, but I do see Seattle’s offense creating some broken plays that lead to big gains and Dak Prescott struggling to move the ball in the fourth quarter.
Seattle 21, Dallas 17
EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out Tom’s other playoff previews here
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