It’s official. I’m not allowed to utter the word “
playoffs” (postseason) any more this season after the Falcons dropped a semi-embarrassing defeat in Carolina last week. Now, the Falcons host one of the elite teams in the NFC (if not the NFL) in the Seattle Seahawks, and the prospects of a victory don’t seem great. Let’s glance at the particulars.
Opponent - Seattle Seahawks (8-1, 4-1 on road)
Time/TV - 1:00 PM ET, FOX (Regional)
Falcons Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
In the minds of most people, this looks like a bloodbath waiting to happen, but there are a few rays of positive light for the Falcons. First, the Seahawks can absolutely be defeated in the running game. Seattle is 20th in the NFL against the run, allowing over 116 yards per game, and last week, they allowed the Bucs to crack 200 yards on the ground thanks to a monster effort from Mike James. Of course, the ground game is the diagnosed weakness for the Falcons’ offense, but there were signs of life from Steven Jackson (13 carries for 57 yards) last week, and that is an area to focus on in this spot.
Through the air, Matt Ryan will likely have a tough time against the Seattle secondary. The Seahawks are 2nd in the NFL against the pass, allowing less than 180 yards per game, and they have what I consider to be the best secondary in the NFL. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are arguably the best in the league at the cornerback and safety positions, respectively, and their counterparts (Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor) are both above-average players.
On the bright side, Roddy White is expected to return for this game, and with apologies to Harry Douglas and Drew Davis, a healthy Roddy White would present an option that Matt Ryan hasn’t had available to him since Julio Jones went down. I wouldn’t expect a “breakout” game from White, but if he’s close to 100%, that should even things out a bit.
Falcons Defense vs. Seahawks Offense
Seattle hasn’t been fantastic on offense this season. Quarterback Russell Wilson (who I love) has been very solid, throwing for 1,845 yards and 15 touchdowns, but this is still a ground-and-pound offense in the absence of Percy Harvin. Marshawn Lynch and company account for the 6th-best rushing attack in the league, however, and the Falcons will be in trouble if Seattle gets a lead to protect.
Amid positive reports on the return of Sean Weatherspoon to practice this week, he is still unlikely to play here, and the short-handed Falcons front 7 will be in for a test. On the back-end, Atlanta actually matches up well against the Seattle receivers (as long as Harvin is sidelined), and containing Wilson in the pocket is probably the secret of success.
This isn’t exactly a “fair fight” when comparing it to last season’s playoff game, as Seattle is much, much healthier, and the Falcons are (obviously) in the tank a bit. However, this is simply a different team in the Georgia Dome, and Seattle has sleep-walked through their past two games (both wins) in epic fashion. I’m not calling my shot with a victory, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Matt Ryan have a bounce-back day and the Falcons to hang around for the better part of 4 quarters.
Stay tuned for a game thread on Sunday (posted in the morning), and be sure to join us in the comments throughout the day!