Of all of the games this weekend, this might be the hardest one for me to write because I think it’s going to be the best game of the lot. On one hand you have the hottest team in the NFC right now fresh off of an upset win in Washington. On the other, the team with the best record in football and a quarterback with an amazing track record at home. Something has to give as the upstart Seahwaks bring their fifth seed into the Georgia Dome to take on the top seeded Atlanta Falcons.
Seattle Seahawks (5) @ Atlanta Falcons (1)
All that we’ve heard this season was that the Atlanta Falcons are a paper tiger. We’ve been told that they can’t beat anyone good, their schedule has been light and they have a quarterback who always plays poorly once the postseason lights come on. So the one thing Atlanta has going for them is that no one is taking them seriously.
To think that Matt Ryan and the Falcons haven’t heard all of the negative things said about them would be foolish. I’m not real big on “bulletin board material” making a difference in a game, but it received that kind of recognition for a reason and this ball club has plenty of it to sift through.
When the Falcons were 8-0 and lost in the final moments to the Saints in the Superdome, everyone immediately said “see, they can’t beat anyone when it’s important.” When they were 10-1 and faced the Saints again, every national pundit picked them to lose. They then forced Drew Brees into having one of the worst games of his career. And even when the Atlanta Falcons were 12-1 and had the defending champs in their house, everyone said they couldn’t win. They responded with an ass kicking that essentially ended the Giants season.
In short; keep telling Mike Smith and the Atlanta Falcons that they can’t beat anyone. Keep telling them that they’re winning their games “too close.” Keep reminding Matt Ryan that he’s never won a playoff game. If they aren’t ready for this one, then they’ll really hear it.
On the other side, the Seahawks have been playing incredible ball as of late. This has been led by a stud defense and the outstanding play of rookie quarterback sensation Russell Wilson. The big story out of their game last week has been the controversy over the leg injury to Robert Griffin III, but the play of Wilson and the Seahawks shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Seattle has kept a pretty simple formula all season to win games; play sound defense and don’t turn the ball over on offense. This resulted in a plus thirteen in the turnover column and has been the recipe for their success. This defense isn’t a joke; they can stop anyone on any given day. Their pass rush has been electric and their secondary flat out makes plays.
On offense, the key to this game for Seattle is to run, run, run the ball. The Falcons allowed almost five yards per carry against the run and they’ll have their hands full trying to account for Marshawn Lynch and being cautious of Wilson taking off with the ball. The Atlanta secondary has some soft spots, but they’ll need to avoid the temptation and control this game on the ground to keep the Falcons pass attack on the sidelines.
Atlanta can kill you if they start getting time to throw the ball to their amazing duo of Julio Jones and Roddy White. They also have some guy who just happens to be maybe the greatest tight end in the history of the game in Tony Gonzalez, too. What Atlanta lacks in the running game, they more than make up for in the air. If they can give Ryan significant time in the pocket to make smart decisions, it could be a long day for the young Seahawks.
Seattle seems to be the sexy pick right now in this game and while I would be tempted to do the same, I just can’t; for a multitude of reasons. First I think the Falcons are due. If they blow yet another number one seed, serious changes could be coming. I expect to see Matt Ryan play more determined than he ever has to get this playoff monkey off his back.
But the biggest factor is the key injury to Chris Clemons for the Seahawks. He was such a big part of what that Seattle pass rush does and Bruce Irvin fed off that. When he went down with a torn ACL, I pretty much made my mind up that the Atlanta offense would be able to do some damage in this game. It won’t be a comfortable margin or anything like that, but I like my preseason pick for the NFC title game to be realized.
Falcons 21 Seahawks 17
Tagged with: Atlanta Falcons, Bruce Irvin, Chris Clemons, Drew Brees, Julio Jones, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Ryan, Mike Smith, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, NFC, NFC Divisional Playoff, NFC South, NFC West, Robert Griffin III, Roddy White, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, Tony Gonzalez