The Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons clash at the Georgia dome in the divisional round of the playoffs. Its the first time since 2012 that the Falcons have hosted a playoff game (30-28 victory over the Seahawks) as they look to avenge a 26-24 defeat back in week six which many will argue came about thanks to a questionable call that wasn’t given.
As you’d expect Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson will be the main focal point leading into this Divisional matchup, either team can be devastating within their own respective passing game, but for myself I feel the key to victory lies within the ground game.
The Falcons have the edge in this backfield matchup from a personnel standpoint. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are like a running back version of a utility knife, (they have posses the tools/skill set to do it all) physical between the tackles, elusive in the open field, fast and will beat you to the edge, great in pass protection and lets not forget excellent in the passing game. The pair have amassed 1599 yards rushing, 19 touchdowns along with 883 yards receiving and 5 touchdowns. However a common oversight, (thanks to the dying nature on the fullback position) this backfield has a third cog in its wheelhouse in the form of fullback Patrick DiMarco. The 6ft 1″ 240lb DiMarco is one of the more underrated stars within the NFL. He’s not just a big body that opens up the A and B gaps, as he also posses the ability to seal the edge making light work of any outside linebackers or blitzing safeties that cross his path.
As I mentioned in last weeks Lions @ Seahawks preview, Seahawks football is synonymous with the ground attack when playoff football roles around and no more so than last week as Thomas Rawls made light work of the Lions defense, rushing for 161 yards (1 touchdown) off 27 carries. Whilst the Seahawks might lack the 1-2 punch of the Falcons, they do posses one of the best rushing quarterbacks to grace the game. Russell Wilson possess the rare combination of big Ben’s escapability intertwined with Aaron Rodgers ability to throw on the run. Wilson has averaged 5.6 yards per rush attempt during his last eleven playoff games. Outside of Rawls and Wilson expect a sprinkling of rookie Alex Collins and C.J Prosise (game time decision,shoulder).
Whilst the Falcons have the edge within the backfield the Seahawks hold the advantage when it comes to stopping the run as the Seahawks posses four of the most disruptive players within the NFL. Up front defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will be looking wreck havoc within the backfield, with linebackers Bobby Wagner K.J Wright awaiting in the wings should either Falcon back make it to the second level. The four have accounted for 25 of teams 40 sacks along with 200 of the teams 560 tackles, I’ll also be curious to see if they matchup safety Cam Chancellor with either back during any key third down situation that may arise.
Matt Ryan has put together an MVP type season recording career highs across the board (69.9% completion, 4944 yards passing, 38 touchdowns, 7 interceptions) despite being sacked for the second highest total during his nine years in the league (37). Wideout Julio Jones is expected to suit up despite suffering from turf toe. Should Jones struggle expect Mohamed Sanu to see the lions share of the targets along with Taylor Gabriel who has 630 yards from scrimmage.
Should the Seahawks struggle to establish the run the aerial threat of Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and Jermaine Kearse will be looked upon to take advantage of a Falcons defense minus standout corner Desmond Trufant (torn peck) that finds itself ranked 28th against the pass. Whatever shortcomings the Falcons feel they may have on the backend they make up for with the dominate presence of the leagues sack leader (15.5) linebacker Vic Beasley and lets not forget the ‘spin move’ extraordinaire Dwight Freeney will be looking for the123rd sack of his career.