2013 NFL Playoffs: Seahawks at Falcons, the X-Factors

By Craig Ballard


The red hot Seattle Seahawks will travel to the Georgia Dome to take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. As the Rant Sports 2013 NFL Playoffs Insider I have my Seahawks at Falcons game preview HERE, and this article is a look at a few players who could be X-factors in helping their team reach the Championship game.

The Falcons want to excel through the air, but this Seahawks secondary is a different animal then they have faced. This will be a massive test for the Falcons passing game, unless the Falcons offensive line can give Matt Ryan extra time. Given enough time guys like Julio Jones and Roddy White are going to find a way to force/create separation. Seattle will be without their sack master Chris Clemons, which means rookie Bruce Irvin will get his first start.

With Clemons out (5.5 road sacks) that leaves Irvin as their best player when it comes to sacks on the road. Irvin has dropped the opposing quarterback three times on the road in his rookie campaign, including Robert Griffin III last weekend.

The Seahawks drafted Irvin #15 overall in the 2012 NFL draft, and many classified it as a “reach” and/or “surprise”. He heard all of it, and he is looking to prove people wrong. This is an amazing opportunity for Irvin to show his worthiness of Seattle’s love for him as he not only steps into a starting role with huge shoes to fill, but also he is from Atlanta. How about a homecoming where you play a part in eliminating the #1 seed thus propelling your team into the Championship game? It could happen…X-factor.

A phenomenal mismatch in this game (potentially anyway) is the Seahawks great running game vs the Falcons pedestrian run defense. The Seahawks will be looking to run north of 30 times with the combo of Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson vs the Falcons #21 overall rushing defense. The Falcons allow a whopping 4.8 yards per carry (only three teams worse in entire NFL) and part of the issue is the weak linebacker group for Hotlanta. My Falcons X-factor is their linebacker Stephen Nicholas.

Lynch runs very well up the middle, and to the left so Nicholas should be in position to make plays. His tackling will have to be on point, and he will have to have a nose for the ball as I really feel that the Falcons need to create turnovers to win this game. I am not a huge fan of the Falcons linebacker crew, but vs the run (which they will see a ton of on Sunday) I would say Nicholas is their best chance.

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For X-factors articles on the other games, plus all of my NFL Playoffs articles CLICK HERE

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