As it’s been said for the past couple of weeks, for the Falcons, the playoffs have all but already started. Trailing the Saints and Panthers in the race for the NFC South crown, Atlanta’s best chance for the dance is most likely going to be through one of the two wild card spots.
With that said, in front of the Falcons lies a great opportunity. Losing against Carolina could come back to bite them in the end, but the Falcons took care of business against Dallas, one of the teams also fighting for a wild card spot. The other, Seattle, is the next opponent in the way.
The Falcons lucked out by not having to face Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith, and once again, Lady Luck is with Atlanta as Seattle will be without both Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, two of the best defensive backs in the league.
We’ve seen the Falcons occasionally take advantage of these fortunate situations, but in order to beat Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll (10-1 in home primetime games), it will take a collective team effort from top to bottom.
Tevin Coleman vs. Seahawks’ linebackers
With Devonta Freeman ruled out with a concussion, Tevin Coleman steps in as the starting running back, something he hasn’t done since his rookie year in 2015. With Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright still playing at an elite level, Coleman will have to be at his very best if the Falcons want to get the run game going.
Coleman is a supremely talented running back. He has the long speed that Freeman doesn’t have and is a nightmare to defend in coverage. Coleman is at his best on outside runs and when splitting out wide, something Steve Sarkisian did more of after Freeman got hurt last week.
The biggest concern with Coleman is whether or not he is durable enough to handle the bulk of carries. If he gets banged up early against this physical defense, the Falcons will be in trouble if they have to rely solely on Terron Ward on the ground.
Falcons’ pass rush vs. Seahawks’ offensive line
Everyone saw what Adrian Clayborn did to Chaz Green and the Cowboys last week. Six sacks in one day is something NFL fans may not see again for a long time. Coincidentally, Clayborn and the Falcons could be seeing another backup left tackle this week in Matt Tobin with Duane Brown likely out with an injury.
As a whole, the Seahawks’ offensive line doesn’t impress, and Wilson is often left to create something out nothing far more than most quarterbacks. The thing is, Wilson is really good when things break down, so Clayborn, Vic Beasley, and the rest of the Falcons’ pass rush will have to be relentless in chasing him down.
This is they type of game where Takkarist McKinley could easily break out. McKinley has the type of motor that every coach wants out of their defensive linemen. With Wilson all but guaranteed to extend plays with his legs, letting someone as unrelenting as McKinley chase him all day long could play right into the Falcons’ hands.
Falcons’ receivers vs. Seahawks’ secondary
As you know, Sherman and Chancellor are ruled out of this one, with Sherman hitting IR and Kam likely to do the same. The Seahawks do get Earl Thomas back after two games missed with a hamstring injury, but the Legion of Boom is hardly itself without Kam and Sherman.
Seattle did bring back an original member of the Legion in Byron Maxwell, who the Falcons worked out before he signed with the Seahawks. If Maxwell plays, Julio Jones has be thrilled thinking back to what he did to Maxwell in 2015 when he was with the Eagles. It could be the monster day that’s been coming for Jones.
Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, and Austin Hooper all find themselves in favorable matchups this week thanks to Seattle’s bad injury luck. Rookie Shaquill Griffin is expected to play despite a shoulder injury, and the mediocre Jeremy Lane will likely start on the outside. With Chancellor out, Hooper could find himself in coverage against rookie Delano Hill.
Which matchups will you be watching?