Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET
The Falcons enter the game after yet another great regular season, but with a lot of doubters. At 13-3 the had the best record in the NFC and hope to use their home field advantage unlike the last few years. Matt Ryan has a lot of pressure on him to get his first playoff win, and Tony Gonzalez, Mike Peterson, and Todd McClure all plan on retiring after this season so there is some added sentiment to this game for the three on them. Win this game, and go out after a great run, win the Superbowl, and go out heroes. Seattle on the other hand was probably the hottest team entering the playoffs and are currently on a 6 game winning streak. Rookie Russell Wilson is already looking for his second playoff road win, and looked very poised in his first.
I believe this game will be determined by two major matchups, the Seattle cornerbacks against the Atlanta wideouts, and the Atlanta front 7 against Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch.
The big and physical. The leagues two most physical cornerbacks, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner go up against the Falcons two most physical wide receivers in Julio Jones and Roddy White. The early indication as to who will win this matchup is who wins the battle at the line of scrimmage. Both Sherman and Browner like to jam their opponents and force the wide receivers to get off their route. This takes more time and effort to get open. If Jones and White can get open quickly I believe it will force Seattle to play much more conservatively and that’s not something they like to do. I think Sherman and Browner have the advantage in this matchup. That’s not to say they won’t give up a lot of catches to these two guys, because they will. The Falcons will throw a lot. But look for a lot of broken up passes, lack of long throws, and maybe an interception or two.
On the other side, watch out for Beast Mode. The Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch loves to lower his shoulders and hit people. Then they run play action and are able to roll out the very mobile Russell Wilson who has the option to throw or run himself. Their offense is the most balanced left in the playoffs. Yes, even including New England and Houston. On the other side is a very talented front 7. Although there aren’t really any stars, but their leader Sean Witherspoon is the best kept secret in football. Their defense has played great all year, and they must stop Lynch and then force Wilson to throw. I think this will be great to watch, but overall I think we will see a lot of what happened to Green Bay, the inability to stop both the running back and still account for a fast quarterback who can throw. Don’t expect 183 yards for Wilson though.
Lucky Guess of the Game:
I will predict two interceptions for the Seattle secondary.
I think this game will be close until the late 3rd quarter and I’m taking Seattle. I don’t think Ryan will be at fault. I think Seattle’s defense is that good. The only thing that worries me is the travel and an early game on the East coast (it’s a 10 a.m. start for them).
Seattle Wins. 27-24