The Seahawks will visit the Cowboys on Saturday (8:15 p.m., Fox) for an NFL Wild Card matchup. Here are three keys to the game:
Russell “Mr. Clutch” Wilson
This will be Russell Wilson’s 13th playoff game of his seven-year career and no moment is ever too big for him. But Wilson was sacked 51 times this year and the Cowboys feature a blitz-happy pass rush headed by DeMarcus Lawrence, who posted 9.5 sacks this season. But blitzing comes with the risk of flushing Wilson out of the pocket, where he can do damage with his legs. Wilson will need all of his experience to contend with the crowd noise supporting the Cowboys, who are 7-1 at home.
The Seahawks and Cowboys met in Week 3 in Seattle. The Seahawks’ defense forced three turnovers in a 24-13 win, but both teams have changed so much since then that the initial meeting is hardly relevant. Seattle safety Earl Thomas intercepted two Dak Prescott passes that day, but was injured in November and is out for the season. The loss of Thomas and the Cowboys’ addition of wide receiver Amari Cooper could work in Dallas’ favor.
The two teams are mirror images, built around smash-mouth principles. Both have offenses based on their running game and defenses built to stop the run. The Cowboys might have the league’s leading rusher in Ezekiel Elliott, but the Seahawks have the best rushing team in the league, headed by Chris Carson, who has rushed for 100 yards or more in each of his past three games. Seattle’s run game is a model of consistency, rushing for at least 150 yards in nine of its last 10 games. It meets the Cowboys’ fifth-ranked run defense that has improved with the emergence of young linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith.