The Falcons defense has not been great. Like, in a long time. The Seahawks have one of the best QBs in the league and a potent backfield and some weapons for All-Star Russell Wilson. On paper, Seattle should dominate, but is that an accurate depiction? Let’s take a look at how these teams truly match up and who should come out on top.
In the trenches
The Seahawks offensive line should be an improved unit, but there are still some glaring holes or question marks. Duane Brown has helped stabilize the left side of the line along with Mike Iupati at LG - though Iupati is not the same player he was early in his career. At center, Ethan Pocic is sub-par and rookie Damien Lewis is a complete unknown at right guard. Right tackle Brandon Shell is decent in pass blocking but only mediocre as a run blocker. This unit should be better than past Seahawks OL units, but that’s a very low bar.
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but the Falcons front four could give Seattle some trouble. It all starts with the amazing Grady Jarrett, who might tear apart the C/RG positions on Sunday. Takk McKinley gets an upgrade on the other side of the line with Dante Fowler Jr., who should be a substantial upgrade over Vic Beasley. Tyeler Davison is a good run defender and in nickel sets all eyes will be on John Cominsky, who coaches and players have raved about in camp. This unit might (crosses fingers) finally be able to generate a pass rush.
The Falcons have a distinct advantage with Jarrett going up against a sub-par center and a rookie right guard. That alone could open up opportunities for guys like Cominsky, Fowler and McKinley. The Falcons get the nod here.
The skill positions
Russell Wilson is one of the best QBs in the league right now. He’s a great deep ball thrower, incredibly hard to bring down and he has a penchant for always keeping his team in the game. His backfield of Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde is a good one. His receiving corps is intriguing with second year player D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Phillip Dorsett is a good option in the slot as well. The tight ends are the big story here with the criminally underrated Will Dissly and free agent signing Greg Olsen, who Falcons fans are very familiar with. This is a group that should be able to put a lot of points on the board.
The Falcons, on the other hand, have a lot of question marks in the back half of the defense. Deion Jones is a stud at linebacker. Foye Oluokun is decent, but the team needs him to take a big leap forward or they may be looking for a replacement early in the 2021 draft. There’s no telling what kind of player Mykal Walker will be, but don’t expect him to see a ton of snaps early in the season. At safety, Ricardo Allen is a good all around player though he had a rough 2019. Keanu Neal is coming back from two devastating injuries, so his status is a complete unknown. The corner position, though, has the most question marks. Hopes are high for first rounder A.J. Terrell, but this is a tough first game match up. Isaiah Oliver improved down the stretch last year, but was still mediocre at best overall. Darqueze Dennard was a great signing for that nickel corner slot.
I want to believe in this Falcons unit, but there are just too many questions. These guys could end up being very good, but the floor is also really low. That variance will become clearer as the season progresses, but betting on them in their first game would not be wise. Strong advantage to the Seahawks here.
I fully expect Grady Jarrett to do some damage in this game. I also believe Dante Fowler, Takk McKinley and even John Cominsky can get some opportunities as well. However, Russell Wilson is a master of buying time even with cardboard cutouts blocking for him. He, alone, evens out this match up. Given the numerous question marks in the back half of the defense for the Falcons, I’m going to give Seattle an overall edge, even if it’s just a slight one. I hope Atlanta proves me wrong.