Seahawks at Falcons: 2013 NFL Playoff Game Preview
Seahawks at Falcons
(12-5) Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
The Seahawks are 4-5 on the road, while the Falcons are 7-1 at home. Seattle averages 21 points per game on the road, while Atlanta averages 25 points per game at home. This game has eight Pro Bowl players.
The Seahawks had a remarkable second half of the season, winning seven of eight games, while the Falcons were 5-3 over that same stretch. Add in Atlanta's 8-0 first half and we see why the Falcons are the top seed in the NFC. Having this red-hot Seahawks team as your first opponent hardily seems like a fair reward for No. 1.
The only playoff teams that the Falcons faced this season were the Denver Broncos and the Washington Redskins in Weeks 2 and 5. Neither of those teams were the playoff-caliber teams they are now back then. I think this game is a major test for the Falcons, and surely their toughest of the season.
The Falcons have done well owning the football in the first half of games, while the Seahawks dominate the second half for time of possession (Seahawks own the fourth quarter as far as holding on to the football). Both teams are pretty balanced as far as scoring in the first half and second half.
One #RML to watch will be penalties. The Falcons have been wonderful all season; they are the least penalized team in the NFL. The Seahawks are all the way down the list as they are the 24th-most penalized team.
Pete Carroll is 61-57 in his career, including 3-3 in the playoffs. His tenure with Seattle has been 7-9, 7-9 and then this season at 11-5. He is 2-1 at the helm for Seattle in the playoffs. The Falcons are 56-27 under head coach Mike Smith (including 0-3 in playoffs) and at home they are an impressive 33-7 in his era.
This slide show article will look at the running games for each team and the passing games for each team. We will also look at these defenses. On the last page there are links to the other NFL divisional round games.
Falcons Passing Attack
The Falcons have the No. 6 overall passing attack, but it is worth noting that the majority of their damage was done on the road. Matt Ryan has a gaudy 33-5 record at home, but he tossed just 11 touchdowns vs a whopping nine interceptions at the Georgia Dome this season.
In his career Ryan is 0-3 in the playoffs (0-1 at home) with three touchdowns and four interceptions. This is his second time at the helm of the NFC's top seed and much is expected of him this time around. If he were to drop to 0-4, including 0-2 as the No. 1 seed, then his rep would surely suffer.
Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez have a combined 25 touchdown catches (wow) but just nine of those were at the Dome. Jones only has two of those nine, and both of those came in one game.
Interesting to note that Russell Wilson's quarterback rating on the road is 83.1, while Ryan's at the Georgia Dome is just 86.2.
One #RML issue will be the Seahawks's ability to put pressure on Ryan. Chris Clemons is OUT which leaves Bruce Irvin as their top sacker on the road this season with three (including one in Wild Card weekend). This is not a pass rush that has excelled away from the 12th man.
A key in this game will be that the Falcons are used to getting into the red zone (top-three team for that) but the Seahawks are great at keeping teams out of the red zone (top-five for that). Even in the red zone teams have to contend with Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor, who are all 6'3". Plus, by the way, Earl Thomas is awesome.
Falcons pass game vs Seahawks pass defense has to be a match-up that Atlanta wins. In the next page we will look at Atlanta's running game, but the Falcons need to have a big day through the air on Sunday.
Falcons Ground Game
The Falcons running game is not that good, although it can be effective at home. My issue with their running game is the lack of a big-play threat. Neither Michael Turner nor Jacquizz Rodgers are home run hitters. Turner had just five rushes this season that went for 20+ yards and Rodgers had just a pair of big runs.
It is worth noting that Turner has been much better at home. He averages 4.4 yards per carry at the Georgia Dome, and seven of his 11 touchdowns have come at home (six rushing and one receiving). Rodgers is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry at home.
The Falcons are not going to be a team that relies on their running game. They added Tony Gonzalez, and later on traded up to add Julio Jones as they wanted to throw the football. In victories the Falcons average just 96 rushing yards, and they have only five rushing touchdowns in their 13 wins. In their three losses they averaged 49 yards and had a total of two rushing touchdowns.
The Seahawks are No. 10 overall vs the run, but they do yield a whopping 4.5 yards per carry. This is a run defense that will bend, but it rarely breaks. Only four teams allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Seahawks this season.
Seahawks Air Attack
On the surface we see a passing game that is ranked No. 27 overall through the air, and Russell Wilson had just 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the road, but the calendar turned to November the Seahawks have been extremely effective through the air.
Sidney Rice and Golden Tate are the scorers with seven touchdowns each. It is worth noting that only five of their combined 14 touchdowns came on the road. Tate and Doug Baldwin are third-down threats.
Over the past two games Wilson-to-Zach Miller is heating up. Miller has seven catches on nine targets with a touchdown the last two weeks. In Seattle's Wild Card round road win, Miller was Wilson's top target. If that continues we could see Miller cancel out what should be an advantage at tight end for the Falcons (production-wise).
The Falcons are No. 23 overall vs the pass. At the Georgia Dome they earned a dozen interceptions, but recorded just 15 sacks. John Abraham is dealing with a wonky ankle, and I would see he has to play well in this game. #RML question: Can Abraham get pressure on Wilson as seven of his 10 sacks came at the Georgia Dome this season. For the most part Abraham is an equal opportunity sacker in that he gets home and road sacks, but this season in particular he enjoyed home cooking. Hotlanta is 7-0 in games in which Abraham gets at least one sack. The 13-year veteran had zero sacks in December, and that was a factor in the Falcons limping to the finish line at 2-2 (including their only home loss of the season).
The secondary for Hotlanta creates turnovers in the Georgia Dome. Overall Thomas DeCoud has six interceptions, Asante Samuel fives, and William Moore four. All three guys have three picks in the Dome.
Seahawks Ground Game
In Week 17 the Falcons suffered their only loss at the Georgia Dome all season. They were burned by a team that had a steady run game. Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had 102 yards on 27 carries, but the persistence paid off as we can add his 40-yard touchdown scamper which put his total at 142 yards. The news hardily gets better for this rush defense as the No. 3 overall running game of the Seahawks comes to town on Sunday.
The only top-10 rushing team that the Falcons played at home this season was the Carolina Panthers, and they went off for 199 rushing yards. Cam Newton rolled up the rushing yards, and we should look for Wilson to get his rushing opportunities in this game. The Falcons beat that Panthers team 30-28, but this is a Seahawks team with a superior rushing attack - plus a whole lot more too.
Atlanta yields a whopping 4.8 yards per carry (yikes...only three teams worse). Marshawn Lynch and the running game is on fire. In September, October, and November they had a total of four rushing plays that went for 20+ yards. In December they had 10. In Sep/Oct/Nov they had five rushing touchdowns combined. In December they had 11. Wild Card weekend Lynch went for 132 ground yards on 20 carries (6.6 yards per carry) plus a touchdown. Overall vs the No. 5-ranked Washington Redskins defense Seattle romped for 224 yards, and on Sunday they face the No. 21 overall rush defense.
The offense is rolling these days. Even if Matt Ryan and they Falcons passing offense can turn the game into a shootout they would still feel confident, but I would think that the best case scenario for Seattle is they run the football 35-plus times on Sunday. Lynch is the type of running back that can take the physicality to the Falcons. This Seahawks run game vs the Falcons run defense is one area of the match-up that could be the story of the game (#RML).
NFC Divisional Game - Seahawks at Falcons
In this game I think the Seahawks ground attack has a chance to dominate. Lynch and Wilson have the skill sets that can give this particular Falcons defense fits, and impose the will of their running game. The Seahawks had 34:20 of possession on Wild Card weekend, and I would think this game will provide a chance to to 35-plus for Seattle.
It is a certain concern for me to wonder where Seattle will get a pass-rush from (especially with no Clemons) so I think the Seahawks secondary will have to bring their "A" game. Interesting thing there is that secondary has a really good A-game that could help get them to the NFC Championship game next weekend.
For the Falcons to win this game I think they will need three touchdowns combined from Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner. The Falcons are not going to get into the red-zone as often as they are used to this weekend so they need those guys adding six to the scoreboard when they are in scoring position.
The Seattle Seahawks will win this football game.
Here are links to my game previews of the other divisional weekend games...
Green Bay at San Francisco...CLICK HERE
Baltimore at Denver...CLICK HERE
Houston at New England...CLICK HERE
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