The Atlanta Falcons will face the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round. Who are the five most important players for an Atlanta win?
The Atlanta football Falcons host a Divisional NFL Playoff game Saturday at the Georgia Dome. This is not news, what also is not news is that Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, and Vic Beasley will have to play well in order for the Falcons to emerge victorious, and advance to the NFC Championship game.
This has been well documented over the last few days. In fact, the entire team is going to have to play well and execute for these upstart NFC South Champion Falcons to win against a very good and physical Seattle Seahawks team. There are however, a few players who will share the spotlight with the stars, and in doing so, will help tell the tale of whether this season ends, or whether dreams of dropping confetti continue in Atlanta. Here are five key players to a Falcon’s victory:
Tevin Coleman- One of the things lost in the story of the 2016-17 aerial assault that is the Atlanta Falcons is the prodigious and irreplaceable ground game. Further, it is Devonta Freeman who gets most of the love and the public attention.
Tevin Coleman, though, is the wild card. Coleman’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, and to split defenders mid-range, has been the difference between a good run game last year, and a great one this year. Freeman is a great back, and a difference maker, but when Coleman is healthy, there are few defenses in the league that can match personnel. Atlanta needs him to score in order to win
Jake Matthews- The number 6 overall pick in the 2014 Draft has been a good Left Tackle to date. Matthews has battled through injuries early, and showed toughness by playing with those injuries. No one, with any sense, can argue that he hasn’t been a boon for an offensive line that was atrocious in the years preceding his addition. But he hasn’t been lights out. Steady, sturdy, fundamental, but not magnificent.
He gets his chance to change that narrative this Saturday. Seattle’s front 7 (Bennett, Reed, Avril, Wagner) are arguably the best in the business, and Matt Ryan’s protection starts from Left Tackle. Expect Ryan to use hard counts to disrupt any pass rush from the Seahawks, and that means Matthews can’t afford penalties (False starts, holding, etc.). Jake Matthews needs a penalty free game and to keep Ryan’s jersey clean.
Mohamed Sanu- Let me be the first to admit that I was one of those tongue-waggers on sports talk radio who banged on Atlanta for paying Sanu what they paid him. Guess what? I was wrong. Sanu isn’t going to make any Pro-Bowls, or challenge Julio Jones for any receiving records, but what he has done is irrefutable. His ability to help convert long 3rd downs, and fight for yards after catch has been energizing for a team that, sometimes, panics when it stalls. Simply, Atlanta needs Sanu to catch the ball and continue to use that big frame to convert 3rd downs, and take pressure off of Jones and Freeman.
Matt Bosher- Bosher is one of the unheralded players who absolutely helps make Atlanta steam roll on Sundays. Football is a three phase game, and in the rare event that the ATL offense does stall, Bosher helps flip the field and keeps pressure on the opposing offense. This will be huge for a very young Atlanta defense going against a wily and experienced Seattle offense lead by Russell Wilson. If Bosher can average 45+ yards per punt, and keep Seattle from having good field position, Atlanta’s chances of winning improve dramatically.
Jalen Collins- Losing Trufant to injury was eyebrow raising. Most defenses as young as Atlanta’s would not be able to do so without serious disruption. In steps Mr. Collins, who just recorded his first INT in week 17 against New Orleans, that saved a TD no less. A long, rangy, and freakishly athletic Corner from LSU, Collins will have to play close to mistake free to give time for Atlanta’s front 7 to chase the ambulatory Russell Wilson. His ability to lock that side of the field down, allowing Neal and Allen to play physical in the middle, will be a clear key of winning football. Championship football.
Saturday’s game will kick of at 4:35 EST on FOX.