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Four Critical Matchups In The Falcons-Seahawks Game

I'll start this one off with a programming note.

Due to the development of the brief breakdowns and question posts about opposing teams, this was beginning to feel a bit redundant to me. To make it a little more vital, we're now limiting our matchups only to player versus player. For example, Chris Clemons against Matt Ryan, which you'll find in the list after the jump. I figure you guys probably would prefer I didn't repeat myself.

As I noted yesterday, the Seahawks are the easiest matchup the Falcons have through the first four weeks, and potentially the easiest they'll have all year. That the Seahawks are a decent team in their own right tells you how brutal this schedule is. Even in a game the Falcons are widely expected to win, there's matchups worth profiling.

So yeah, enough of that. Let's hit the jump.

Julio Jones vs. Brandon Browner

This is a great matchup for any number of reasons.

True, Browner 's a big fella at 6'4, 221 pounds. On those merits, he's a nice physical matchup for Jones, who is eighty miles tall and weighs six stone. But after that, this matchup begins to heavily favor Jones.

Browner's getting his first game action at the age of 27 in Seattle, and he's struggled a bit in coverage so far. With his wheels, his acrobatic ability and his burgeoning route-running, Jones is going to be a problem for him all day long. Ryan could use a guy who doesn't struggle to get open in the second-and-a-half he has to get the ball off, so Jones could be heavily targeted, too.

Chris Clemons vs. Tyson Clabo

Speaking of Ryan not having much Chris Clemons.

Before coming to Seattle in 2010, Clemons was a middling defender with the Eagles, Redskins and Raiders. He had one eight sack season and was otherwise a pretty solid all-around kind of guy.

With the Seahawks, though, Clemons broke out for 11 sacks last season. Lest you think that was a complete aberration, note he's gotten two already. He's by far the team's most dangerous pass rusher, and that means the Falcons will have to keep him in check.

That task will likely fall to Tyson Clabo, who has struggled thus far in 2011. To be fair, he's hardly alone. Clabo has been one of the team's most consistent linemen over the last few years, but for whatever reason he's been more or less a turnstile this season, and it's costing Ryan dearly.

Clabo will have to step up his game or get some help to hold off Clemons, who is the single biggest threat Ryan will face in this game. Let's hope he's up to the task.

Michael Turner vs. Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant

The Atlanta Falcons love running Michael Turner up the gut. They love bouncing him ever so slightly outside. The Seahawks have some stellar run stoppers at both positions.

Red Bryant has come into his own as a run-stopping end. A big guy who began his career as a defensive tackle, Bryant is a brick wall off the edge. The Falcons would be smart to run away from him, but Turner's also tanky enough to get by him if he gets a hole and hits it with speed.

Mebane might be even better. He's twice been listed among Football Outsiders' top ten or so run-stopping tackles, and he's a huge guy with sure tackling skills. Turner will have to overcome both these guys and The Struggling Offensive Line (TM) in order to have the kind of day we all love from our own Touchdown Nosferatu.

Matt Bosher vs. Leon Washington

Washington is not quite the speed demon he once was, but he's still a dangerous returner. He's averaging a decent 21.5 yards per kick return and 7.7 yards per punt return thus far in 2011.

At this point, any competent punt returner is a concern for Bosher, as we've chronicled endlessly in recent weeks. If Bosher suddenly turns up with the leg of a kangaroo, then this matchup is moot. Somehow, I don't think that will happen.