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• X-factor: For a second consecutive week, Washington's regular cycle will be disrupted, since the Redskins play a second straight Saturday contest. Plus, the Redskins will have to make a long flight to the Pacific Northwest, never an easy trip. Seattle won all eight games this season at Qwest Field, and the Seahawks are now 24-10 at home since the stadium opened in 2002. The home field, from a scoring standpoint, has been worth about a touchdown more per game for the Seahawks. Seattle lost its only playoff game at Qwest Field (last year to the Rams).
• X-and-O factor: The play of each team's defensive tackles figures to be a key to the outcome of the game. Not many people watch the interior line play in any game, let alone a postseason contest, but keep an eye on the trench battles in this game. The Washington tandem of Cornelius Griffin and Joe Salave'a played with great intensity in the Redskins' wild-card victory at Tampa Bay, and will face a terrific Seattle interior trio of center Robbie Tobeck and guards Steve Hutchinson and Chris Gray. The Seattle tackles are a bit more active, but Rocky Bernard, the best penetrator of the bunch, has now gone six games without a sack.
• Rx factor (health): Washington -- Lost starting left defensive end Renaldo Wynn to a broken right forearm on Saturday and his steadiness as an excellent two-way player will be missed. Cornerback Shawn Springs missed the wild-card game with a hamstring strain and might still be gimpy. The Redskins, of course, will be without right guard Randy Thomas, who suffered a broken leg last month.
• Numbers cruncher: Matt Hasselbeck's completion rate for December, 76.1 percent, was the highest in league history for the month. In his last four games, Hasselbeck threw only 16 incompletions and had nine touchdown passes. In that stretch, his passer rating was 104.2 or better every week, and three times he had a rating of 127.0 or better. The seven-year veteran, who operates what is arguably the purest version of the "West Coast" style offense in the NFL, has been uncannily accurate down the stretch and unflappable. The Redskins are going to have to come up with something to disrupt his rhythm.
• The Redskins will win if: They gain more than the 120 yards on offense they managed last week. OK, seriously, Washington needs to control the clock with Clinton Portis, keep Mark Brunell's attempts at about 20, and avoid third-and-long situations, where their veteran quarterback tends to get happy feet and his lack of arm strength is more obvious. A few takeaways wouldn't hurt, either.
• The Seahawks will win if: They continue to move the ball offensively with the kind of peak efficiency they have demonstrated much of the season. Seattle is a unique offense, one that leads the NFL in scoring drives of 80 yards or more and is also near the top of the statistics in so-called "explosive" plays. Oh, yeah, the Seattle defense definitely must limit the big plays by Washington wide receiver Santana Moss, the Redskins' one notable home-run hitter on offense. Moss had six catches for 87 yards in the regular-season game.
• X-factor: Despite a 9.1-yard average (tied for ninth in the league) and one return for a touchdown, the Chicago punt-return game has been a source of concern all season. Bobby Wade was released because he couldn't even handle punts, let alone make a big play. The Panthers have no such woes, with the electrifying Steve Smith moonlighting as their return man. Smith is nearly as dangerous fielding punts as he is frolicking through secondaries, and he averaged 10.6 yards in the regular season. In a game where field position could make a huge difference, and where the weather conditions could play a role, Smith gives the Panthers a notable edge in the return game. Brendon Ayanbadejo, the Chicago special-teams ace, will need a solid game.
• X-and-O factor: The game features the No. 2- (Chicago) and No. 3-rated (Carolina) defenses in the league, so which side of the ball figures to dominate? The winner might be determined by which offense makes more than its usual quota of plays. These are two very smart staffs, though, coaches who know that you dance with what got you into the playoffs. Don't expect either staff to stray too far out of character.
• Rx factor (health): Carolina -- Perhaps the biggest concerns are the toe injury with which tailback DeShaun Foster has played the last two weeks and the shoulder injury that has forced middle linebacker Dan Morgan to wear a harness. Foster has taken a painkiller injection the last two outings. Morgan still flies to the ball but he is somewhat limited in his ability to square up and strike a blow. Strong-side linebacker Brandon Short is playing with a knee strain.
• Numbers cruncher: The Chicago defense allowed opponents to convert just 31.9 percent of their third-down plays, one of the best marks in the league over the course of the year. But in the last four games, opponents converted 24 of 55 third-down plays, 43.6 percent, and that kind of generosity is a concern to the Bears' defensive coaches. Two of the last four opponents converted 50 percent or more on third down. One explanation: The small but quick Chicago defense wore down as the season progressed, missed considerably more tackles collectively, and surrendered too many yards after initial contact. That's one reason the Bears were thrilled to have a bye in the opening week of the postseason. They are hoping the time off allowed some players to recharge their batteries.
• The Panthers will win if: Smith runs wild through the Chicago secondary, causing all kinds of coverage problems, and Foster breaks off one of his long, winding runs. It won't take a lot of points to defeat the offensively challenged Bears, and the Panthers certainly have the potential to make more plays on offense.
• The Bears will win if: The defense harasses quarterback Jake Delhomme the way it did in the regular-season game, forces him into bad throws, and provides field position for the dubious offense.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .