It's been just a couple of days since the Seahawks dismantled the Redskins and Robert Griffin III, and the Seattle bandwagon is already at near-capacity. It's clear that Pete Carroll's boys are the "it" team right now, and given the way they've played of late, it's hard to argue against that sentiment.
Falcons Need to Blitz Wilson Often
Atlanta hasn't been a blitz-happy team this season, but something tells me that's going to change on Sunday. Given Mike Nolan's reputation and the vanilla defense he rolled out two weeks ago against Tampa Bay, there's reason to believe the veteran defensive coordinator has a few tricks up his sleeve.
The Falcons struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks earlier in the year—facing Cam Newton twice and Robert Griffin III once—but with a more aggressive approach, that figures to change.
Atlanta is one of the best teams in the NFL when they rush five or more defenders, as opposing quarterbacks only completed 50.3 percent of their passes in those scenarios. That figure puts the Falcons fifth in the NFL in that category.
Abraham Set to Practice
Of course, Atlanta's pass-rushing ability hinges greatly on John Abraham, who likely won't be 100 percent by Sunday after injuring his ankle against the Buccaneers. However, he will return to practice on Wednesday and is expected to suit up for the divisional round contest.
Abe is a veteran player who's used to missing practices and subsequently playing injured. He may not be as effective against the Seahawks as he's been most of the season, but he knows what it will take to get as healthy as possible prior to Sunday afternoon's game.
Falcons Have History on Their Side
Here's an interesting little nugget: the 1989 Los Angeles Rams are the only West Coast team in NFL history to win back-to-back playoff games on the East Coast.
While the Falcons have had the luxury of resting at home the last couple of weeks, the Seahawks have been doing quite a bit of traveling, and will make another long flight in the next few days.
Will this difference in rest dictate the result of the game? Probably not. Will it be a factor? Absolutely.
Inspiration Comes in Three
The Falcons are a team led by veterans, and for some of the organization's older players—namely Tony Gonzalez, Todd McClure and Mike Peterson—this season may be their last shot at winning the Super Bowl. Knowing this, the locker room has an extra bit of inspiration to go all the way this winter.
“I’ve gotta think about it. Me thinking about failure keeps me driving. If I didn’t think about not being successful, I’d be cutting myself short, not putting my all in,” Peterson said. “I think about, if I don’t make it, I don’t ever want to have that thought in the offseason: ‘I was so close.’ So I’m going to do everything I can now. Young guys, I’m going to tell them everything. This is it. This is my final swing, so to speak. I don’t want to say this is my last go-around, but that’s the way you’ve got to treat it when you’ve been in the league 14 years.”
Story Lines for Sunday
Of the major story lines heading into this game, the one I'd like to focus on today is the matchup between Atlanta's receivers and Seattle's secondary. With Julio Jones and Roddy White, the Falcons have one of the most formidable WR duos in the league—if not the absolute best. That said, the Seahawks' cornerback tandem of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner is arguably tops in the NFL.
The strength of Seattle's secondary makes screen passes and ball distribution more sensible. Don't be surprised if Harry Douglas gets a few more looks on Sunday than normal, and an end around or two—likely to Jones—is certainly a possibility.