The Falcons will face another big test this Sunday, when the square-off with the well-rested 3-1 Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is coming off their bye week, which should give them a slight edge in health. Additionally, the forecast in Seattle is currently calling for rain, which could impact the Falcons offense by limiting the effectiveness of the passing game (though the same can be said for both teams). Without a doubt, this is another major test for this Falcons offense, as Seattle has talent at all three levels. Let’s see how the Falcons offense matches up to the Seahawks defense.
In the Trenches
The Falcons offensive line has to be considered one of the top 5 lines in the league right now. This line, anchored by key free agent signing Alex Mack, has given Ryan time to go through his progressions (and be an early MVP candidate) while also leading the way in a top-10 rushing attack. Tackles Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder are one of the best duos in the league, coming through mostly unscathed against a fierce Denver Broncos pass rush. Andy Levitre has bounced back from a rough 2015 and is having a great season, while Chris Chester may be the lone weak link in this otherwise good offensive line.
On the other side, the Seahawks will bring the heat with Michael Bennett, who is still a force on the defensive line. Tony McDaniel has been a decent player in his time in Seattle, but his best days are behind him. Ahtyba Rubin is in the same boat, with his performance dropping off in recent years. Cliff Avril has been a consistently good player through most of his career, with 2015 being a pretty darn good one. His 2016 season has been solid, but not as spectacular. In nickel sets, Cassius Marsh comes in one the edge, though he’s not going to scare many offensive tackles. Frank Clark is a legitimate pass rusher who the Falcons will have to be careful for, but a recent hamstring injury may keep him out of the game.
This is another tough match up for this Falcons offensive line. However, the game against the Broncos was arguably the harder of the match-ups, with Von Miller and Shane Ray posing a more intimidating pass rush threat overall. The Seattle line will be better at run-stopping, however. Given the recent success the Falcons offensive line has had, I’ll give them the slight edge, especially if Frank Clark ends up missing the game.
The Skill Positions
The Falcons bring in a variety of weapons that - so far - no team has been able to shutdown all at once. If you shut down Julio Jones, our running backs can torch you. The Broncos did a good job of keeping Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu quiet, but they had no answer for Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The Falcons also have considerable depth past these four. Jacob Tamme is a reliable pass catcher, while rookie TE Austin Hooper has impressed early. Taylor Gabriel and Aldrick Robinson offer tremendous speed and could be factors if they see single coverage. Even fullback Patrick DiMarco has been a factor in the passing game. All of them are lead by Matt Ryan, who is having the best season of his career so far and is an early MVP candidate.
The Seahawks feature a secondary and linebacker corps that may be one of the best in the league. Richard Sherman is still one of the best corners in the league. Deshawn Shead hasn’t been a great corner, but is having a solid 2016 so far, though one could argue he hasn’t been truly tested yet. Jeremy Lane steps in for nickel sets, and is also having a good season early on. Faster receivers may have some success against Lane, though. Safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are arguably the best safety duo in the league, and will make life tough in the middle of the field. Linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are a formidable pairing as well, and could be the difference in this game.
To be honest, the back-end of this Seahawks defense may be just as good, if not slightly better than what Denver put on the field. Julio vs Sherman is a top-tier match-up. Sanu vs Shead could go either way. Devonta and Tevin vs Wright and Wagner is too tough to call. The difference in this match-up will have to be made by guys down the roster. As it stands, this is one heck of a match-up, and just too close to call.
Despite the Falcons success against the Broncos amazing defense, one can’t just assume the same will be true against Seattle. This Seahawks defense is right up there, and may even be the better of the two. This is a very tough match-up for the Falcons offense, who will need to be at their very best on Sunday. I want to give the Falcons the edge here, but this feels way too close to make a call either way.