Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks
Chase Irle: This has the potential to become one of the best cross country rivalries in the NFL. Going all the way back to 2012, when the #1 seed Falcons squeaked by the up-and-coming Seattle Seahawks to got to the NFC Championship game. Of course, Seattle would win the next Super Bowl and appear in the next two. The two teams have appeared in four of the last five NFC Championships and three of the last five Super Bowls.
The teams met twice last season. The first took place at CenturyLink Field, where this game will be played. The Falcons lost to the Seahawks 26-24 on a controversial pass interference non-call that ended Atlanta’s final drive. Their playoff matchup, however, was a totally different story. The Falcons dominated in the Georgia Dome 36-20 on their way to the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance.
A night game in Seattle is the toughest atmosphere the Falcons will have to face this season. Their opponent is not much easier, but I think those same flaws that haunted the Seahawks in the playoffs will kill them in this one.
Seattle had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last season, and Atlanta killed Russell Wilson in their playoff matchup. Despite what Seahawks fans want to tell you, they did not get much better this offseason. Pro Football Focus still has Seattle’s line ranked last in the NFL coming into the 2017 season. Imagine if they suffer an injury or two? It could get ugly for the Seahawks.
The Falcons defensive line that dominated Seattle in the playoffs has only improved since as well. The additions of Takkarist McKinley and Dontari Poe will make it even more difficult for Russell Wilson to stay clean in this one. I don’t see Seattle scoring much and this one.
The Seahawks defense will be spectacular as always, but Atlanta sliced through it with ease the majority of last season. Matt Ryan will be able to lead enough drives in a hostile environment to get the job done as the Falcons improve to 8-2 in my way to early week by week predictions.
Prediction: Falcons 24, Seahawks 15
Falcons season record: 8-2
Michael Arkin: The Falcons came up just short in Seattle last season, and many believe the Seahawks got away with a penalty that would have changed the complexion of the entire game. They ended up beating Atlanta 26-24, but in reality Matt Ryan and the offense put themselves in too much of a hole to dig out of. The team was down 17-3 at halftime, and made a miraculous comeback to go back up, but then Seattle scored late to take the lead and eventually win. The Falcons would get the last laugh, beating the Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Round.
Going two straight weeks in primetime action shows how far the Falcons have become as a team. People nationwide want to see this team in action, and going to CenturyLink Field is a contest that will show if the Falcons have what it takes to be a top team in the league. Just like Week 10, Week 11 has the possibility to have two teams at the top of their divisions, and possibly the top two teams in the conference.
Earl Thomas will be back for the Seahawks this time, as Atlanta’s offense abused the Seattle defense in the playoffs. Thomas is one of the best free safeties in the game, as he and Kam Chancellor are highly-regarded as the top duo of safeties in the league. Seattle tends to reside to a Cover 3 scheme more often than not, so Falcons offensive coaches will gameplan on beating the zone.
Regardless how great the Seattle defense is, I still do not believe in their offense. Besides Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin, there is no one on that roster that sticks out to me. Besides, games are won in the trenches, and Seattle doesn’t have the offensive line to be a contender. Left tackle George Fant was diagnosed with a torn ACL, so the line is already suffering. With all of Atlanta’s disruptive defensive linemen, Wilson will be running all day. And if Seattle gameplans to get the ball out of his hands quickly with slants, drags, quick in/out routes, then the Atlanta secondary is athletic enough to force turnovers.
This game will be close at halftime, but I see Atlanta having a big third quarter on the way to their eighth win of the season.
Prediction: Falcons 27, Seahawks 20
Falcons season record: 8-2