The mistake too many are making with the Seahawks, I think, is assuming the Falcons are going to win this game handily. Seattle is too tough to let that happen, though I obviously believe the Falcons will win. It’s just that they still have a reasonably potent offense, one of the best defenses in the NFL, and a wily coach who may or may not believe in debunked conspiracy theories. That’s a lot to tackle.
The Seahawks do have one massive weakness—two if you count the loss of Earl Thomas, which has weakened the secondary significantly—and it comes in the form of their beleaguered offensive line. Their starters are panned by the likes of Pro Football Focus and really any analyst with two eyes and a heart, and the reason for that is obvious. This is a terrible line, particularly in pass protection.
Per Football Outsiders’ offensive line rankings, the Seahawks rank 26th in overall run blocking efficiency and production, and 25th in pass protection. Their left tackle, George Fant, is still learning the game, having only played one year of college football, and while this is a young unit with potential to grow, they’ve struggled badly to keep Russell Wilson’s pocket clean. Wilson is a wizard on the move, which helps a great deal, but he’s taken more abuse than usual this season because of the quality of the blocking in front of him.
The Detroit game was not a great representation of what this line typically does. The Falcons are not considerably better defensively than Detroit, but the Lions legitimately have one of the worst defenses in football, with even less talent than Atlanta, and Vic Beasley and the Falcons’ secondary puts them out ahead in terms of slowing Wilson down. Beasley was one of the NFL’s most productive pass rushers, Grady Jarrett is a force to be reckoned with on the interior of the line, and the likes of Adrian Clayborn, Brooks Reed, Courtney Upshaw, and Dwight Freeney can all bring pressure as well. It should be enough to ensure that Wilson can’t operate from a clean pocket all day, which will be key
My expectation is that this will be a hard-fought win for the Falcons, and one that could turn on how well the Seattle line holds up versus the Atlanta defense. Let’s just say I’m bullish on the team’s chances of rattling Russell Wilson (and maybe even stopping the run) than I normally would be. That could very well be a difference-maker for a team that seems likely to put up 30-plus points.