By Zach Walker
Seattle Seahawks vs Dallas Cowboys
Saturday – January 5 – 7:15 p.m.
AT&T Stadium – Arlington, Texas
Records Before Kickoff
Seattle Seahawks (10-6, 4-4 Away)
Dallas Cowboys (10-6, 7-1 Home)
The two teams in this playoff game are unbelievably similar, in terms of roster makeup and general play on the field. They both have talent across both sides of the ball, but both seem to be hell-bent on playing each game as difficult as is possible. Both teams finished with a final regular season record of 10 wins and 6 losses, both got popped in the mouth out of the gate, both have questionable losses from this season (San Francisco for Seattle/Tennessee for Dallas) and when these teams met earlier this season, it was a big game.
Seattle was absolutely STRUGGLING to protect their quarterback, and the Cowboys were still finding themselves after taking the preseason even more off than most teams. The Seahawks won with a couple of timely daggers from Russell Wilson, who was VERY well protected in the game, and the one thing working for the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott, fumbled twice. This should be a very different game. This game on Saturday is about linebackers, running backs, the two quarterbacks, and the middle third of the field. There are four linebackers in this matchup, two per side, that could end up with double-digit tackle totals when the dust settles. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright for the Seahawks; Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch for the Cowboys. These aren’t players that get fooled, get burned, or get caught out of position. They’re responsible stopping the run and wrenching down the opposing team’s tight ends, and neither team has a “threatening” option from the tight end spot. So bottling up the opposing running back is the game. For the Seahawks, it’s pretty damn easy to figure out where the thunder is coming from. It’s Zeke Elliott. The Cowboys rested Elliott, Zack Martin, and Tyron Smith for the season finale, in order to get the freshest possible legs for the game against the Seahawks. It was a MOVE by the Cowboys to keep Dak Prescott in the game, all game, but I liked that move. With a fresher Zeke and a hotter Dak that almost seems like the best case scenario heading into Saturday.
The Seahawks have a committee approach to their running game, with Chris Carson usually taking the bulk of the carries throughout the game, but they have a pair of backs that they will give him a break with. Mike Davis, who has had a decent 2018, and their first round draft pick Rashaad Penny, who I can tell you from watching his final collegiate game in person, can break one ANY time he touches the ball. The Seahawks like to play a very horizontal game that pulls defenses in, then will open a door to something big downfield. It’s a lot of power handoffs, tight end outs, and wide receiver crossers. Russell Wilson is such a technique polished thrower, that juicing mistakes out of him requires a damn strong squeeze.
The Cowboys need that rest to have paid off and to return a strong Zack Martin to the lineup, and for the defense to show up starved for getting after Russell Wilson. The Seahawks need to stay after Dak Prescott and force the Cowboys’ quarterback to make a couple of big-time bad throws. Both of these teams are capable of playing a 31-30 game, and both are wanting to bruise out a 13-10 fight, but that’s the playoffs, nothing but grey area, and it’s going to be a great game.
I have a feeling things are likely to get weird in this game.
Dallas – 22
Seattle – 18