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Falcons and Seahawks Should Be a Classic

Russell Wilson

Can Wilson take the Seahawks past Atlanta and to the NFC Title game today?

In one corner, you’ve got a team desperate to prove it can handle the pressure of the playoffs. The pressure of home-field advantage which has not been kind to them in the past or other teams in similar situations over the past 7-8 years. The other team appears to be battle-tested after fighting back from 14 points down on the road in the nation’s captiol to advance. They’ve got a rookie QB who is fearless and can beat you in the air or on the ground.

The Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks should be a great game today although it will be hard to top the two high-scoring affairs we saw in Denver and San Francisco last night. The game may indeed come down to the play of quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson, but I would also suggest the game could ride on the weary ankle of Atlanta defensive end John Abraham. His ability to rush and contain Wilson in the pocket will be a valuable asset but if he isn’t near 100% that could spell trouble for the Falcons.

Tony Gonzalez

I like Gonzalez to be a major factor today for Atlanta.

When Atlanta Has the Ball – Matt Ryan threw for over 4,700 yards, completed nearly 70% of his passes and had 32 touchdowns. Great numbers, but today the Falcons actually might rely more on the running of Michael Turner (800 yards, 10TDs) and Jacquizz Rodgers (362 yards 1TD). Even though Seattle is without leading sacking Chris Clemons who was lost last week with a torn ACL, the Seahawks will still get after Matt Ryan.

The matchup of the day will be the battle on the edges. Wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones both had over 1,000 yards receiving and are big, fast and physical pass-catchers. They’ll be up against Seattle’s equally big, fast and physical corners in Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman in what will ultimately be a huge matchup. I look for the veteran Tony Gonzalez to play a significant tole in this game today.

When Seattle Has the Ball – Lost in the great season of Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson was the 1,500 yard season of Marshawn Lynch. He tacked on 11 TDs while Wilson had 4 of his own in rushing for almost 500 yards on the season. That running game will be important in order to set up play-action and give Wilson time to throw in the pocket. This is where the Falcons have to be careful.

Wilson’s ability to scramble and extend plays is excellent and he is very good against the blitz in terms of not turning the ball over, but can be sacked a lot. I can see the Falcons trying to get pressure with just their front four and occasionally a fifth rusher but they will want to stop the run first and then keep Wilson in the pocket to limit his athleticism.

Seattle (+3) at Atlanta – The Falcons have lost four straight playoff games and are 0-3 under Mike Smith who otherwise had a glowing recording in Northern Georgia. Atlanta just hasn’t been beat in those games though as they’ve been beaten badly both on the scoreboard and in the yardage department.

The Seahawks are extremely hot right now having won six straight games. Although Atlanta plays in a dome, it isn’t often thought as one of the tougher places to play so the crowd must make it difficult for the Seahawks early and often. No one has completed passes at a higher percentage than Matt Ryan in the final two minutes of each half this season and I believe that will come into play today. Getting Ryan off to a good start will be paramount for his and the team’s confidence.

This game will come down to a final drive and either way I like the Seahawks because I just can’t trust Matt Ryan until he proves it to me and the nation. His 14 interceptions this year is a concern too. Take Seattle and if you are playing the over/under which is 46 I recommend the over.

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