#302 Atlanta Falconsvs.#301 Seattle Seahawks
Written by Benjamin Hayes
Seattle Seahawks (11-5-1 SU, 9-8 ATS, 9-8 O/U) at Atlanta Falcons (11-5 SU, 10-6 ATS, 13-2-1 O/U)
When and Where: Saturday, Jan. 14, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga., 4:35pmET
Line: Atlanta -5
The Atlanta Falcons are set to host the Seattle Seahawks in this NFC divisional round matchup. These teams met on Oct. 26, with Seattle coming out on top at home, 26-24. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson led the way with 270 yards passing, while Christine Michael (now with Green Bay) had two rushing TDs. Matt Ryan completed 27 of 42 for 335 yards and three TDs with one pick for the Falcons. Last week, Atlanta had a bye, while Seattle ripped apart Detroit at home, 26-6.
In the first matchup, Seattle allowed 362 total yards against Atlanta but did force two turnovers. The Seahawks’ defense stepped up at home against the Lions and held them to just 231 total yards, including just 49 rushing yards on 15 carries. On the offensive end, Thomas Rawls had a career game with 161 yards on 27 carries with one score. He missed the first game against Atlanta with a fractured leg. Wilson threw for 224 yards and hit Doug Baldwin 11 times for 104 yards and a score. Baldwin now has 50 career postseason catches and five TDs in his last seven playoff games. Tight end Jimmy Graham, who struggled late in the season, caught six passes for 89 yards in the first game against the Falcons. Against Detroit, he caught three passes for 37 yards.
On the season, Seattle ranks 12th in total offense with 357.2 yards per game and 10th in passing (257.8 yards per game). The key is the running game, which averaged just 99.4 yards per game this season. Rawls ran for 445 yards and three TDs in the regular season. The defense is elite as they allow just 318.7 yards per game (5th), 225.8 passing yards per game (8th) and 92.9 rushing yards per game (8th) with just 18.2 points per game allowed (3rd).
Ryan had an MVP-type of season, but none of that matters if he can’t produce in the playoffs. The 31-year old completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards, 38 TDs and just seven picks (117.1 QB rating). But in the postseason, Ryan has a record of 1-4. His lone postseason win came at Seattle in January of 2013, when he threw for three touchdowns. In the first game this season against Seattle, star wide receiver Julio Jones caught seven passes for 139 yards and a TD. Jones played in 14 games due to a toe injury and wound up with 83 catches for 1,409 yards and six TDs (17.0ypc). He had two complimentary receivers on Mohamed Sanu (59 for 653 yards, 4 TDs) and speedster Taylor Gabriel (35 for 579 yards, six TDs). Running back Devonta Freeman had a strong season with 1,079 yards and 11 TDs with a 4.8 yards per carry average.
Atlanta ended the season winning four straight games over New Orleans, Carolina, San Francisco and the LA Rams. The Falcons ranked second in the NFL in total yards per game (415.8ypg), third in passing yards per game (295.3ypg) and fifth in rushing yards per game (120.5ypg). Defensively, they allow 371.2 yards per game (25th) and 266.7 passing yards per game (28th).
Atlanta’s defense is a big worry when you have to lay that many points against a Seattle team that knows how to win in the playoffs. Looking at Atlanta’s schedule, they weren’t exactly beating up on strong teams. They lost at home to San Diego and beat Green Bay by just one at home. The also lost to the Chiefs at home, another playoff team. Seahawks can certainly win this one outright with their running game against a mediocre run defense.
Atlanta is certainly an over team, though Seattle is an under team. The Seahawks will try to run the football and control the clock. But the Falcons have so many weapons, they are tough to shut down. Wilson is a weapon himself with his feet and arm. Seattle is 6-2 Over their last 8 playoff road games and Atlanta is 10-1-1 Over their last 12 vs. the NFC. This game will go over.
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Ben has been a sports writer for over 30 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for over 25 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13!