Atlanta Falcons vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Atlanta Falcons host the Seattle Seahawks in a rematch of the 2012 divisional round, where the Falcons slid by the Seahawks on a game-winning 49-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. This is one of the most intriguing matchup of the playoffs, with several key matchups all over the field. Dan Quinn faces his former team in his first playoff game as a head coach, and the question looms if the established culture change under Quinn is enough to end the Falcons’ playoff woes.
These two teams met up in week 6 in one of the best NFL games of the season. Seattle dominated the first half behind their elite pass rush. They got after Matt Ryan, and the Atlanta offense was stalled for one of the few times all season. However, Atlanta made the necessary adjustments at half, and the offensive line began to give Matt Ryan time. Ryan threw for over 200 yards and 3 TDs in the third quarter, giving the Falcons a touchdown lead. A Seahawks touchdown seemed to tie the game late in the fourth, but a Hauschka missed extra point resulted in the Falcons getting in the ball with a one point lead. A tipped pass interception gave the Seahawks the ball with good field position. Atlanta was able to hold Seattle, but they still led 26-24. With one final shot, Matt Ryan threw a deep ball to Julio Jones that fell incomplete. Jones looked to be interfered with, but there was no call. Atlanta left Seattle feeling they had squandered the great opportunity.
Julio Jones vs. Richard Sherman
This is the marquee matchup in this game. Two of the best at their respective positions going head-to-head. Sherman has had a tendency to shadow the primary receiver the last couple of years, so expect Sherman to be following Jones all over the field in this matchup. Jones has recently come off of a foot injury, but looked a lot more like himself in week 17. Following the bye, expect Jones to healthy and at his most dangerous on Saturday. Richard Sherman is one of the most competitive corners in the league and loves a challenge He had success on Jones in the first matchup, but Jones still posted 7 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. There is no doubt these two players will play key roles in Saturday’s result.
Atlanta Falcons offensive line vs. Seattle Seahawks defensive line
Games are won in the trenches in the most football games, but especially in the playoffs. The previous matchup was heavily determined by the amount of time Matt Ryan was given. If the Falcons give Matt Ryan time, the Seahawks secondary, which is missing Earl Thomas, has no chance against the numerous numbers of receivers the Falcons have. Michael Bennett is one of the best pass rushers and overall defensive players in the league. He had a huge impact in the first meeting between, and it’s up to Kyle Shanahan and this Falcons’ offensive line to find a way to limit his impact on Saturday.
Dan Quinn vs. Pete Carroll
Another interesting storyline to this game is between the coaches. Quinn coached under Carroll in Seattle, during some of the Seahawks most successful years in franchise history. Together, they led the team to winning the Super Bowl in 2014. Carroll has become one of the best and well-respected coaches in the league. Seattle may not have the talent that they have had in years past, but Carroll always has has his guys ready to play. Meanwhile, this is Dan Quinn’s first playoff experiences as a head coach, but he had been up to the task in all other aspects so far. Under former coach Mike Smith, Atlanta struggled in the playoffs, but Quinn can erase that from the memories of fans with a win Saturday.
Chase Irle– The Falcons offense has been spectacular to watch, but people will continue to question them until they show it in the playoffs. In the first matchup, the Falcons were a mess in the first half, but they seemed to figure Seattle out in the second half and move the ball at will. The Falcons offense have had a ton of time to prepare for this one and should be prepared come Saturday. I expect the Falcons to move the ball pretty much at will. The 2014 Seattle defense might have been able to stop this offense, but this one has some holes and Kyle Shanahan will be able to exploit it.
The Atlanta defense should also have better luck in stopping Russell Wilson than previous years. in the 2012 matchup, Wilson made a ton of plays with this legs. But this Falcons defense, while young and inexperienced, is fast and physical. They will do a better job of limiting Wilson’s ability to extend plays with his legs and force the Seahawks off the field. I am feeling a little bold, but I am confident the Falcons can win this matchup by double digits at home. Falcons roll 34-23.
Harrison Coburn- I really think the NFC is fair game this postseason, and this matchup is no different. Yes, Russell Wilson has not been 100% this year, and the offensive line has been bad. With that being said, the Seahawks are still a dangerous team. This will be a good game but I think the Falcons win at home against a great team that is having a down season. A lot of people are talking about the matchup between the Falcons’ offense and the Seahawks’ defense. However, it will be up to the defense to win this game for Atlanta. I think the offense shows up, but although the Falcons’ defense has been improved, I still have my reservations based on years past. I am going to go with an optimistic approach and say the unit does its job and the Falcons win 28-24. Either way, I think this game is close.