After the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Packers on Saturday night, we knew the Falcons would play one of the Redskins or Seahawks. Neither matchup is truly ideal.
The Falcons have as much talent as they've ever had in Atlanta, and they went 13-3 by something less than an accident. They have one of the league's finest passing offenses and an extremely opportunistic defense. There's no team in the playoffs that the Falcons should truly fear, but plenty they should respect.
Enter the Seahawks. After an ugly game against the Redskins and a banged-up Robert Griffin III, the Seahawks have advanced to play the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. The game highlighted both the Seahawks' overwhelming strengths and their very real weaknesses.
What you saw from the Seahawks was a strong defense, an excellent performance from Marshawn Lynch and a largely mistake-free effort from Russell Wilson. This is how the Seahawks beat teams in the NFL: By running the ball effectively, keeping turnovers to a minimum and going hard after the quarterback.
The Seahawks also showed why they're not the same team on the road. Their offense was only so-so against a middling Redskins defense, and the passing game in particular is just decent. As good as their defense is, I noticed repeated instances yesterday where Redskins receivers changed direction quickly and left those touted cornerbacks behind. They're big and physical, but they're not necessarily the fastest or most agile guys. The Falcons can take advantage of that.
Ultimately, this game promises to be the toughest of the three potential matchups the Falcons could have faced. They don't stop the run well, of course, and the pass rush for the Seahawks is a major concern given the Falcons' weakness in the middle of the line. But the Falcons also have the passing game and the passing defense to cause issues for this team. It ought to be a fun game.
We'll have much more on the Seahawks and the Falcons in the week ahead. In the meantime, discuss the matchup here.