Seattle Post-Intelligencer – May 6, 2008 – Jim Moore – IF I WERE the Seahawks, I’d rather face the false-starting Giants because they’re mental midgets at Qwest Field, always flustered by the nonstop noise.

I’d also prefer my playoff opener to be against any other NFC contender, including Dallas and Green Bay, the top two seeds, even if they’re on the road.

And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? I’d take them, too, ahead of what actually confronts the Seahawks, the lowest-seeded but scariest team in the field.

The Washington Redskins appear to be the least-vulnerable of the NFC’s Suspect Six, masking their deficiencies by coming together in memory of their deceased teammate, Sean Taylor.

Statistical analysis says the Seahawks should win. They’re at home, where the 12th Man will be so loud that he might be mistaken for the 13th Man. Record-wise, the Seahawks are a better team and they’re playoff tested and offer a lot to like, but none of it is good enough to stop a mystical power at work with the Redskins.

How do you lose your best player — which Taylor was — and other key starters to injuries and use a rusty quarterback and manage to win four in a row to qualify for the playoffs without something woo-woo going on?

Explain how a guy like Todd Collins, who sounds more like a cocktail than a quarterback and hasn’t been good enough to start for 10 years, comes in and fails to throw an interception in four games.

Explain how a second-year player and sixth-round draft choice like Reed Doughty replaces an All-Pro in the secondary, and the defense is still one of the best in the conference.

I spoke to Doughty the other day and had never heard of him, but now know that hands down he will be the smartest player on the field on Saturday. I also know if he were 50 and had gone to Washington State instead of 25 and gone to Northern Colorado, we would never have crossed paths — bar hounds and bookworms rarely mix.

Get this — since middle school, Doughty has gotten an A in every class, including all four years at Northern Colorado, where he majored in sports and exercise science. He was married in college and his wife got all A’s for four years, too.

“I didn’t miss assignments, didn’t skip quizzes, didn’t do stupid stuff,” Doughty said.

And I’d say there’s something else he didn’t do — have fun.

Before Doughty’s arrival as a Redskins starter, the biggest thing to happen in Northern Colorado football was Tonya Harding II — it’s the school where the backup punter stabbed the starting punter.

“I knew the punter who got stabbed but not the other guy,” Doughty said. “Obviously it was pretty ridiculous.”

Brilliance only goes so far; Doughty knows he’s not as good as Taylor, and yet the Redskins have thrived with him in the lineup anyway.

Las Vegas can’t figure out the Redskins either. Robert Walker sets the football odds at the Mirage, and he posted the Seahawks as 4 1/2-point favorites in his opening line, mostly because of their success at home.

Bets have poured in on the Redskins, lowering the line to 3. As of Thursday afternoon, Walker said 10 times as much money was being bet on the Redskins as the Seahawks.

“Washington’s the hot team, the popular pick right now. We’re just getting crushed on the Redskins,” Walker said. “A lot of people think the Redskins are a given. Seattle’s been under the radar, not a real popular team, and I’m not sure why.”

Walker said professional gamblers loaded up on the Redskins when the line was at 3 1/2 in another ominous sign for the Seahawks — professional gamblers usually win or they’re not called professional gamblers anymore; they’re called degenerate gamblers or losers or me.

Maybe the bettors see this supernatural phenomenon with the Redskins, too, or maybe it’s just poppycock. The Seahawks hope so.

“You can’t say they’re a team of destiny,” Deon Grant said. “People keep saying Sean Taylor pulled them together, but they’ve got talent over there.”

Said Deion Branch: “I don’t think as professionals we look at it like it’s automatic we’re going to lose because they’re fighting for Sean. The best team that day is going to win.”

And this from Julian Peterson: “That mystical stuff carries weight, but not to the point that it gets you victories. You’ve still got to go out there and perform.”

I also consulted an expert in these matters, John Murray, a licensed clinical and sport performance psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla., who said none of this should be dismissed.

“When somebody passes, it can have the effect of focusing the players,” Murray said. “Now they’re playing for Sean, they’re playing for a reason. You have to have a mission, and it has to be complete dedication to achieve something.

“Personal issues are put aside. When something like that happens, it has the potential to catalyze the team.”

And anything in that team’s way, such as the Seahawks, could be in season-ending trouble.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.