Atlanta locked in the NFC #1 seed in Week 16, guaranteeing them home field advantage and a first round bye. Now after two weeks of rest and preparation they will be putting their #1 status on the line against Seattle at 1pmET on Sunday. The Seahawks are no strangers to success, they are on a 6 game win streak and most recently dominated Washington on the road to move through the wild card round. Road games had been a clear problem for the Seahawks through the first half of the season; they were 4-5 on the road this season. Meanwhile Atlanta was 7-1 at home this year. But, Seattle won their last three road games by a combined score of 97-48.
When you talk about stats and averages, the Falcons are not really an impressive team. Offensively Atlanta is ranked 6th for pass production and 29th for run production. Defensively they are ranked 23rd against the pass and 21st against the run. Just looking at those numbers would make one wonder how in the world this team got the #1 seed in the NFC. The bottom line is they get the job done, especially outside of their division. In their division they traded games with every other team, ending up 1-1 against each divisional rival. Out of division they are perfect 10-0; they have beaten top teams like Dallas, Washington and Denver. On average, the Falcons scored 24.5 points at home and allowed 17 points.
A curious aspect of Atlanta’s play this season was their performance at home. If you take out their 34-0 defeat of the Giants, Atlanta’s average final score difference at home was 4.5 points. On the road, the average was 11 points.
Seattle was an on and off team this season; winning one then losing two, then winning two then losing two again, and so on. But since their December 2nd OT win in Chicago, the offense and the defense of the Seahawks has been outstanding. Since that Chicago game they have scored an average of 38.8 points and allowed an astounding average of 11.4 points. Their defense is 6th against the pass and 10th against the run. On offense they are 27th in the pass and 3rd in the run. Perhaps what should scare the Falcons the most is that last week, after the first quarter, Seattle kept Washington scoreless for the remainder of the game.
Of importance, Seattle’s place kicker Steven Hauschka sustained a strained calf muscle last week and it is still unknown whether he will be able to play this weekend. Seattle has signed 15-year NFL PK Ryan Longwell as insurance for this week. Keep updated on this situation as a game with a 3 point spread might come down to a FG. Atlanta PK Matt Bryant is the team’s top scorer, making 86.8% of his field goals this season and has a season long of 55 yards.
The odds give a score of about 24-21 for Atlanta. The 3 point spread seems about right considering how consistent Atlanta is at winning narrow games at home. Seattle is hot right now, very hot, but the onus is still on the Seattle to prove they can beat the #1 team. As for the over/under it seems like a tough bet. Seattle’s defense has been outstanding but they are noticeably weaker against pass orientated offenses; and Atlanta is a pass oriented team who is at home and inside of a dome. Defense could be the deciding factor of this game.
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