The Seattle Seahawks head to Atlanta on Saturday afternoon to face off with the Falcons in this NFC Divisional round matchup. The Seahawks are coming off a convincing 26-6 win over the Detroit Lions in the Wild Card round. The Atlanta Falcons should be well rested as they are coming off of a first round bye they earned with their 11-5 record and NFC South Division Championship.
Atlanta opened up as a 3.5-point favorite and as of press time the line had moved to 5. This shows that most of the early action has been on the Falcons. The Falcons are at home where they went 5-3 during the regular season. The Falcons lost the teams lone regular season matchup 26 -24 in Seattle, which is one of the toughest stadiums to play in as the opposing team in the league. The offense should benefit greatly from the friendly confines of the home field. Quarterback Matt Ryan had an MVP caliber regular season with 38 touchdown passes against only 7 interceptions. The offense as a whole produced 69 pass plays of over 20 plus yards and 17 passing plays of over 40 yards that led the league. Ryan will be going up against a secondary without its leader Earl Thomas who is out for the season. Wide receiver Julio Jones had a monster game in the week 7 matchup with 7 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. The Atlanta running game will be led by Devonte Freeman who ran for 1,079 yards in the regular season. Atlanta will have a tough time running the ball as the Seahawks led the NFL in opponent’s yards per carry. The Atlanta defense ranked near the bottom of most statistical measures and will need a strong performance against the Seahawks and their playoff veteran quarterback Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks got back to basics on offense and relied heavily on running back Thomas Rawls in the Wild Card round. Rawls carried 27 times for 161 yards and a touchdown including 72 rushing yards after contact. Seattle would like to have similar production out of its running game against Atlanta as it will keep Ryan and the dangerous Falcons offense off the field for longer stretches. The Lions were only able to have 9 possessions last week as the Seattle running game killed the clock. The running game makes a playoff veteran like Wilson significantly more difficult to defend as both a passer and a runner himself. Wilson has proven to be healthy in the second half of the year and has proven he steps up in the biggest of moments.
This game could go any number of ways depending on who imposes their will on the other. If Seattle is able to grind the game out with the run it will be to their advantage. Atlanta will need to show they can make the big plays in the passing game with the pressure of the playoffs as a factor. Either way this may be the most competitive game of the weekend.
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