After a dominant performance against a banged-up RG3 and the Washington Redskins last week, the red-hot Seahawks will travel East again to take on the NFC’s top team, the Atlanta Falcons. Nobody expected Seattle to be this talented in 2012, especially with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm, but here they are, travelling to the hostile Georgia Dome to keep their run going. The Falcons have had some playoff issues of their own the past few seasons and many look to this time around being the defining moment for this group of players and coaches.
The Seahawks enter this contest looking to be the first West Coast team since the 1989 Los Angeles Rams to win back-to-back post-season games on the East coast. Seattle’s experiences this season on the road are well-documented however, and they have tended to struggle when away from the friendly confines of their home stadium. Though Russell Wilson is a rookie, he is loaded with poise and the fact that he and his teammates have travelled over 8,200 miles in the past seven days won’t be used as an excuse for this contest. The Seahawks are the hottest team in the NFL right now and should worry a fragile Falcons group that knows they need to win this contest. Seattle does have some troubling injuries however, and look for the Falcons to exploit their absences. Key defensive end Chris Clemons suffered a season-ending injury against Washington. He and his 11.5 sacks will need to be replaced somehow. Add in the fact that the Seahawks’ starting kicker Steven Hauschka will be out as well and kicking situations could be problematic for Seattle. Hauschka has been excellent on the season, and will be replaced by the veteran Ryan Longwell.
Meanwhile for the Falcons, all the pressure in the world would seem to be on their team. After years of regular season dominance, too often Atlanta has bowed out of post-season play far too early. This season it’s clear things need to change, and it starts with their starting quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan has endured his fair share of post-season struggles and he knows that all of his regular season accomplishments are now a thing of the past. The time to perform is now for Atlanta, and whether that scares them or propels them to greater heights, remains to be seen. Coach Mike Smith has vowed for his team to be a more mature and prepared group for Sunday’s encounter and believes the Falcons can take advantage of getting Seattle to play at an early 1:00 P.M. eastern start time. The only notable injury for Atlanta is their star defensive end, John Abraham. Abraham is a huge part of the Atlanta d-line and though he should suit up, his effectiveness with an ankle injury could be limited.
Seahawks vs. Falcons Betting Odds:
Seattle Seahawks +2.5 (-105)
@ Atlanta Falcons -2.5 (-115)
Over 46 (-110)
Under 46 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Seahawks vs. Falcons Pick:
Entering this contest it would seem that oddsmakers are too focused on the past deficiencies of Atlanta in January, and the recent surge of the Seahawks. For the Falcons only to be laying 2.5 points in the hostile Georgia Dome against a rookie quarterback seems a tad puzzling. Sure the Seahawks are red-hot right now, but Atlanta is a rested, motivated, and determined group, primed to end their string of playoff futility.
Expect the Falcons to be more than tired of all the chatter leading up to Sunday’s game about whether or not they can cut it in the post-season. Atlanta will be playing in front of one of the league’s loudest buildings, and the fact that they play in a dome should be intimidating for the Seahawks and their rookie quarterback. Another point that can’t be forgotten is the start time, which could impact Seattle’s first quarter. The contest is slated to get underway at 10:00 A.M. Pacific time, something that could trouble the Seahawks and the body-clocks of their players.
I fully expect the Falcons to come out flying, get an early lead, and never look back. Matt Ryan is one of the sport’s top quarterbacks and he knows this is the stage to finally prove it. Matty “Ice” is 33-6 straight up all-time at home and is on a streak of throwing 11 touchdowns with only 1 interception. Ryan is in a zone right now and should be able to find success against the Seahawks’ defense that will be devoid of their top pass-rusher in Chris Clemons. This should allow Ryan a lot of time and space in the pocket to hit his talented arsenal of receivers for deep passes. Even though the Seattle secondary is a solid unit, they looked abysmal in the opening quarter against Washington, and Matt Ryan can make them look equally as silly. Tony Gonzalez has had an illustrious career but the fact that the big man has never won a playoff game surely haunts him. He’ll do everything to try and change that come Sunday afternoon.
All week the talk has been about how Atlanta is likely to endure another “choke” performance. Seattle is rolling right now, but the fact is that the Falcons were the best team in a competitive NFC. They have an explosive offense that will give Seattle fits, and you can bet they have a large chip on their shoulder given all the disrespect their team has been given this season. Atlanta knows the time is now for playoff success, and they’re past the point for excuses. It’s now or never for the Falcons, and look for Atlanta to get over the hump in convincing fashion on Sunday.
PICK = Falcons -2.5 (-115)