Falcons at Seahawks
The surprising Atlanta Falcons (4-1) travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks (3-1) in a game that could have far reaching implications for the NFC. The winner will have the (early) inside track on a top playoff seed, while the loser is sent back to the middle of the pack. Gonna be a fun one.
Let’s start with the obvious part. The Falcons come to town with the number one scoring offense in football, while the Seahawks allow the fewest yards, and third fewest points per game. The Falcons have a dynamic passing attack lead by quarterback Matt Ryan and super stud wide receiver, Julio Jones. Ryan has been terrific all year. Jones seems to disappear off of the stat sheet one week, then puts up historically great stats the next. In addition, the Falcons have a pair of running backs they use as run and catch options, enabling them to run passing plays against stacked run defenses, and power run against lighter pass defense personnel.
Atlanta may be scary from a scheme standpoint, but the Seahawks defense has caused offenses nightmares for years. Unlike most teams, Seattle does very little adjusting to the personnel on the opposing team. They rely on their defensive players to create havoc, and force the offense to contend with them. As a result, the personnel they utilize are well suited to either the run or the pass. The linebackers are good run stuffers, but have the speed to excel against the sort of intermediate passing routes the Atlanta running backs apply. In addition, safety Kam Chancellor (who is questionable to play due to a groin injury) specializes in bringing big hits that dissuade players from running over the middle of the filed.
In addition, the Seahawks have perhaps the best corner in the game in Richard Sherman. He’s asked more in recent years to shadow a team’s top receivers, and I expect he will be glued to Julio Jones for much of this game. Sherman has never allowed one receiver to catch more than one hundred receiving yards against him in a game, and I don’t expect that to change. Add the last layer of defense in All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, who can cover passing routes deep or use his speed to make big hits on running backs, and you have a defense well suited to contain the strengths of the Falcons offense.
On the other side of the ball we are looking at what should be a total mismatch. The Seahawks offense is finally started to hit its stride. The return of rookie guard Germain Ifedi made a huge difference in the week 4 victory against a very good Jets defensive line. In addition, rookie tight end Nick Vannett makes his return. Vannett is a terrific blocker, and will have an immediate impact giving quarterback Russell Wilson time to throw. Wilson will likely use that time to find his new favorite target Jimmy Graham. Graham has looked like the best player on the field over the last two games, and the Falcons are one of the worst teams in the league at stopping tight ends. Expect a big day from the Seahawks passing game.
Atlanta is at a slight disadvantage when their offense is on the field. The Seahawks are at a huge advantage when their offense is on the field. Combine that with a decisive home field advantage, and this should be a definitive win for the Seahawks.