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Week 1 preview: Seahawks vs. Falcons

The season opener presents a tough test for the Falcons. Let’s break down the week one matchup.

Seattle Seahawks v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

For what felt like a lifetime, the NFL offseason dragged on, but it’s almost over. A busy offseason for the Atlanta Falcons surely molded the team considerably. A modified training camp and no preseason forced Atlanta to make several alterations but on the surface, it is a team that has a chip on their shoulder and is fairly overlooked in what is sure to be a very competitive NFC South division.

Week one of the season keeps the Falcons in the cozy confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Their opponent is a familiar one. Let’s place the Falcons week one battle against a very talented Seattle Seahawks team under the microscope.

About their opponent

The Seahawks were 11-5 last season and earned a Wild Card berth. Their 2019 success was largely based on the offensive success, as the unit was ninth in the league in scoring and eighth overall. Quarterback Russell Wilson is as elite as they come and much is expected from second-year receiver D.K. Metcalf, who posted 900 receiving yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie last season.

Key matchups

Julio Jones/Calvin Ridley vs. Seahawks passing defense - The passing defense for Seattle was at times a headache for the team last season, as they ended the season ranked 27th in passing yards per game allowed. In the Week 8 contest between Seattle and Atlanta, the Seahawks were gracious in the passing department by allowing 441 yards through the air to one Matt Schaub. The combination of Jones/Ridley combined for 14 reception and 222 yards in that same contest. Another big day from the duo is something Seattle will absolutely try in mitigate, but it’s not clear whether they’ll be able to.

Seattle Seahawks v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Falcons defensive line vs. Russell Wilson - That same contest saw the Falcons defense break a small streak within the season. The Falcons were able to sack Wilson twice, which broke a four-game streak of the defense not recording one. The Seahawks were fairly pedestrian in that department last season as they were 23rd on offense in sacks allowed per game. Corralling Wilson is never easy but keeping the agile quarterback from making plays with his legs handcuffs the Seahawks offense considerably.

A.J. Terrell/Isaiah Oliver vs. D.K. Metcalf - Metcalf’s rookie season was quite productive as he was second on the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns. The expectations have risen a bit for the former Ole Miss standout. In what may very well be a breakout season, Metcalf will be matched up against the rookie Terrell and Oliver, who is still trying to catch his footing as he enters his third season. Clamping down on him would be a nice confidence-booster for the young cornerbacks .

Analytical outlook

Overall team efficiency was a definite plus for the Seahawks last season as they were 12th in the NFL in total DVOA according to Football Outsiders. That overall ranking was largely in part a result of having a reliable offense that was ranked fifth in the NFL in offensive DVOA.

While highly regarded and rightfully so, Seahawks linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright were first and second in the NFL last season in yards after catch allowed. Wagner (428 yards) and Wright (424) also allowed 58 and 64 receptions respectively as well as a QB rating of 108.2 and 87.5, receptively, when targeted.

Final thought

Season openers have not been quite fond of the Falcons in recent seasons. Last year’s dud against Minnesota in week one set the table for an ugly 1-7 start to the season. Because of this year’s tough schedule, it is important for the Falcons to get off to a hot start. Especially in what will likely be a 17-week battle royale in the ultra-competitive NFC.