2017 NFL Divisional Round Preview: Seattle Seahawks Vs. Atlanta Falcons

Four years ago the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Seattle Seahawks 30-28 in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. The core group of Seahawks will return to the ATL Saturday to face the Falcons in the same playoff round. This match-up consists of two top tier quarterbacks in Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson. Wilson is on a quest to capture his second Super Bowl title in his young five-year career, while Ryan is on a mission to get over the hump to capture his first title. Here’s the preview for yet another NFC playoff match-up between these two teams.

What To Know About Seattle

Only 13 players remain on that ‘Hawks team that was sent packing by the Falcons in the 2013 postseason. Since then these players have gotten older and have grown to appreciate their playoff opportunities as Seattle returns to the postseason for the fifth straight time. The nasty Seahawks defense is still intact, but it isn’t the brick wall it once was. The ‘Hawks D will go against the Falcons high-scoring offense with a quarterback performing as well any player in football now, Wilson won’t be able to rely on a running game or defensive turnovers. One way or another, he’s going to have to score a lot of points.

In last week’s Wild Card game against the Lions, Thomas Rawls set a postseason franchise record with 161 rushing yards on 27 carries, and 72 of those yards came after contact. Rawls was able to spin away from tacklers and gain positive yardage even though the blocking wasn’t perfect. If the Seahawks can get a similar effort Saturday, they can control the ball and keep Ryan and the Falcons’ high-powered offense off the field. It seems like an impossible mission for Wilson—keeping up with Ryan and a Falcons offense that scored 71 more points than any team in the league this season.

What To Know About Atlanta

The Falcons enter the postseason in a rhythm behind their MVP candidate quarterback. They finished the season on a four-game winning streak, securing the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a much-needed first-round playoff bye. During that winning streak, Ryan had 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. Playing turnover-free ball will be a key to postseason success for a Falcons team that tied the New England Patriots for a league-low 11 turnovers. And while the offense has taken care of the ball, coach Dan Quinn’s emphasis on ball hawking has led to the defense forcing more turnovers.

Julio Jones and Richard Sherman will once again go head to head after a memorable week six match-up. And although Jones seems likely to make his share of plays regardless of the coverage, he still hasn’t been the primary target for Ryan in red-zone situations. So offseason acquisition  Mohamed Sanu will see his role become much more important against the Seahawks.

 

Prediction

Earl Thomas was a huge factor in Seattle’s 26-24 victory over the Falcons in Week 6, but the Seahawks will be without him in this game. Offensively, pass protection is a question mark on a weekly basis, Wilson is still playing through a knee injury, and the run game has yet to prove that it can string multiple productive games together. The Seahawks were just 3-4-1 on the road during the regular season, and they go into the Georgia Dome, 4.5-point underdogs.

As long as the Falcons’ offensive line keeps Ryan upright against what can be a relentless Seahawks defensive front, and the combination of Jones and Sanu is unstoppable, the offense should be able to put up enough points to establish a little distance.

Falcons 35, Seahawks 31

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