This game hearkens back to the Buccaneers test, with a team clinging to its playoff life facing off against the 11-2 Atlanta Falcons. The similarities break down pretty quickly from there.
The Seahawks aren't as good as the Buccaneers. They have a rapidly aging quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck, who can't consistently get the ball to an underrated corps of wide receivers. They have a middling ground game and a largely immobile offensive line. Their defense mixes a handful of standout performers with the detritus of its glory days, and the secondary is consistently miserable. It's a team that probably should be making a stronger push toward its future, but contention happens when you're in the NFC West.
On paper, the Falcons should crush the Seahawks, but unless we're filming an A-Ha inspired version of the game, it's not going to work out that way. The Falcons are in strange territory against an extremely desperate team, and they've shown themselves incapable of putting that last bullet in their opponent until the end of the game on numerous occasions in 2010.
All this is to say expect the Falcons to win, but not easily. After the jump, you'll find four key matchups to watch as you go about your viewing.
Roddy White vs. Seahawks Secondary
We're overdue for another big game from Roddy, who has been putting up solid numbers and kicking ass in a low-key kind of way for several weeks. It's been more than good enough to win, but I certainly enjoy watching him take over the game.
If he's ever going to do it again this season, it'll be against the Seahawks, who provide about as much coverage as a G-string on Meatloaf (the singer, not the delicious meat-based dinner). Roddy's clearly struggling to get over his earlier injuries to some degree, but that shouldn't stop him from putting up 100 yards on the 'Hawks in this one.
Of course, if Roddy's doing well, Matt Ryan's doing well, and it opens up the passing game for everyone else. Hopefully, #84 will be a catalyst for the Falcons' offense.
Falcons Defense vs. Seattle Offense
I would be more specific, but it's kind of hard to tell what the hell the Seahawks will throw at the Falcons. There's not really a standout aspect of their O that we have to worry about.
But they are unpredictable. Sure, Matt Hasselbeck has been mediocre all season, but he's got plenty of threats. The rejuvenated Mike Williams, the back-from-the-dead Brandon Stokley, deep threat Ben Obamanu and tight end John Carlson are all effective weapons in the right hands. And just because Marshawn Lynch is truly abysmal this season doesn't mean he won't flip on a switch.
Under the theory that Murphy's Law is alive and well, the Falcons will struggle at least somewhat to contain the terrible, mewling scourge of the Seahawks' offense. It remains to be seen what part.
Michael Turner vs. Seattle Defense
If I have to explain this one to you, you've been living in a concrete bunker that's safe from Turner's rumblings. Dude is dangerous. Period.
Leon Washington vs. Eric Weems
The battle of wildcards. Washington is one of the league's most dangerous return men, and Weems is blossoming into competition right in front of ours eyes. Both teams have merely decent coverage teams, so these guys are a threat to break one.
Weems is arguably more dangerous on kick returns and is certainly the more dangerous tackler on special teams—you rarely see a 5'9" guy causing so much damage on special teams—but Washington is perhaps the league's most electric punt returner. Hopefully the Falcons can muster up some effective ways to stop him, or we could be looking at another Michael Spurlock. And I really didn't enjoy that.