NFL Playoffs Divisional Round Preview – Seahawks vs Falcons

Seahawks vs Falcons
When: Saturday, January 14th; 4:35pm
Where: Georgia Dome; Atlanta, Georgia
Line: Atlanta -3.5
Total: 51.5

The 2017 NFL Playoffs got off to an underwhelming start with only one game (Packers-Giants) being somewhat competitive, and even that game finished as a 25 point spread. The Divisional Round looks far more promising in terms of competitive games, with only one team (New England) being a heavy favorite.

The weekend is sure to start off with a bang as the 3-seed Seattle Seahawks travel to Atlanta to take on the 2-seed Falcons. The Seahawks come in with a record of 11-5-1 (including playoffs) but just 3-2 in their last 5.

The Seahawks advanced to the divisional round behind a strong performance from running back Thomas Rawls. Rawls gained 161 yards on 27 carries and found the end zone once. The dominant ground game wore down a Lions defense that could not come up with stops in the 2nd half.

The Seahawks win allows them the opportunity to take on one of the hottest teams in the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons earned a first-round bye with a record of 11-5. The Falcons are winners of their last 4 and 5 of their last 6.

With potential MVP-winner Matt Ryan at quarterback, the Falcons have been wreaking havoc on opposing secondaries. The Falcons rank 1st in DVOA passing offense and Matt Ryan is having the best year of his career. He’s completing almost 70% of his passes, thrown for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions, and is throwing for an absurd 9.3 yards per attempt.

If this game is anything like their 2013 matchup when the Falcons defeated the Seahawks 30-28, we will all be winners.

Keys to the game: This game is going to come down to whether or not the Seahawks can slow down the vaunted offensive attack of the Falcons. The Seahawks took a big blow when they lost safety Earl Thomas Week 13 due to injury.

The Falcons, who rank 1st DVOA in overall offense and 1st DVOA in passing offense present a bit of a matchup option for the Seahawks. The Seahawks rank 13th DVOA in overall defense. While they are good at containing receiving running backs (4th DVOA) they struggle a bit against #1 wide receivers. Seattle ranks 15th DVOA against opposing teams #1 option, giving up 75 yards per game. And unfortunately for the Seahawks, the Falcons have one of the best #1 options in the league in Julio Jones.

If the Seahawks can contain that passing attack, they may be able to find some success. The Atlanta defense is not the glue of this team, and if the Seahawks can come up with stops, they should be able to control possession.

The Falcons rank 22nd overall in DVOA defense and more importantly, 29th in rushing DVOA defense. With Thomas Rawls finally looking like he’s returning to form after an injury sidelined him a majority of this year, and Russell Wilson regaining most of his mobility, Seattle’s rushing attack is a significant concern for the Falcons.

Prediction: Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan puts the ball in Matt Ryan’s hands and lets him sling it all over the field. The absence of Earl Thomas becomes prominent as Ryan leads the Falcons to the NFC Championship game, 28-20.