By: Eric Robinson
Well, well, well.
Every since the tough, 26-24 week six loss to the Seattle Seahawks occurred, many had the sense that the Atlanta Falcons would see them again. Well, here we are.
On Saturday, the Falcons will take on the Seahawks with a chance to advance to the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks are no stranger to the Falcons. From defeating Seattle four playoff seasons ago on a game-winning Matt Bryant field goal to hiring head coach Dan Quinn. Will the Falcons get redemption and continue on with their stellar season? Here is the preview for their playoff matchup with Seattle.
Atlanta Falcons Summary:
A season full of records on offense, the Falcons produced one of the best offensive units in NFL history. Quarterback Matt Ryan passed for a career-high 4,944 yards and also reached career-highs in touchdowns (38), completion percentage (69.9), and QB rating (117.1). The Falcons were second in the NFL in total offense because of Ryan and great seasons from receivers Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel, and Mohamed Sanu. In addition, running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 24 touchdowns.
The defense has made improvements over the course of the season. While not spectacular, the unit has seen considerable performances from key players. Edge rusher Vic Beasley Jr. led the league in sacks with 15.5. Rookie linebacker Deion Jones and rookie safety Keanu Neal were first and second on the team in tackles with 75 and 72 respectfully. Jones also led the team in interceptions with three (two of them returned for touchdowns). Cornerback Robert Alford leads the team in pass deflections with 19.
Seattle Seahawks Summary:
As a hard-nosed, physical team, the Seattle Seahawks are a constant Super Bowl contender, although this does seem like a team that has fought to get on the same page most of the season. Quarterback Russell Wilson played behind a below-average offensive line and still passed for 4,219 yards with 21 touchdowns. The run game has been iffy for most of the year but #1 back Thomas Rawls is healthy and will be key in this element. Receiver Doug Baldwin is the team leader in catches (94), yards (1,128) and touchdowns (7). The ever-so-crafty Jimmy Graham is a dangerous weapon, totaling 65 catches in the regular season. The tight end is an ideal safety valve for Wilson.
Seattle’s defense is the “star” of the show in the "Great Northwest". The group held the Detroit Lions to just 231 yards last week in their Wild Card round win. They are a menacing defense that is led by linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J Wright, who combined for 156 tackles this season. Cornerback Richard Sherman led the team in interceptions with four and is arguably the team’s best defender. Of course, a physical defense would not be complete without a bully at strong safety such as Kam Chancellor.
One thing is for sure, this is a matchup that served as one of the better games in 2016. The Falcons have a dynamic offense with a an abundance of weapons that led the league in scoring. What will be key for Atlanta is to get a wave of those weapons involved. Not just Jones, Freeman, and Coleman. Having production from Sanu, Gabriel, receiver Justin Hardy and rookie tight end Austin Hooper will lead to a great Seattle defense having plenty of problems.
Back in week six, Wilson was a magician and made plays with his ability to keep plays alive. If he does that again, the Seahawks will be able to dictate a lot on offense. What it will mainly come down to is who wins the ultimate battle between the league’s 2nd ranked offense against the league’s fifth ranked defense. Seattle allowed 362 total yards and 24 points to an offense that couldn't get the run game going. The Falcons are 100% healthy and have another shot a cracking the Seahawks. On Saturday, they'll get the job done.
Predicted Score - Atlanta 31 Seattle 21