The Falcons and Seahawks have put together some excellent games since 2012. All Atlanta fans remember the thrilling 2012 playoff victory and the subsequent one in 2016. Yet, while the series is tied 3-3 in that time, Seattle has the regular season edge with 3 games to just 1 for Atlanta.
How do these teams match up now? Let’s take a look at whether Seattle’s defense can match up with the talent on the Falcons offense.
In the trenches
The Atlanta offensive line was bad last year, but there’s reason to hope they take a big step forward in 2020. Jake Matthews and Alex Mack are the two most reliable players in this unit, with both being Pro-Bowl capable players, even if Mack is in the last few years of his career. It’s the right side of the line, though, that could be the reason for hope. No longer rookies, many expect RG Chris Lindstrom and RT Kaleb McGary to improve dramatically in year 2. Both were first round picks in 2019 and both missed time in camp and in the regular season due to injuries. The left guard spot is still a question mark with James Carpenter currently listed as the starter while rookie Matt Hennessy recovers from an injury. If he recovers in time, the rookie could be an upgrade over the long term.
The Seahawks were not a good pass rushing team in 2019 and not much has changed this year, with the exception of losing Jadeveon Clowney. Jarran Reed can be disruptive inside and Poona Ford is a good run stopper. On the edge, though Rasheem Green and Bruce Irvin don’t exactly intimidate teams. This is easily the weakest unit on this Seahawks team and unless several guys step up substantially, Atlanta gets the edge here, even if just a slight one.
The skill positions
Matt Ryan had a down year (by his standards) in 2019, in part due to a horrid offensive line. If the unit improves even just a little bit, the former MVP should have a bounce back year. His weapons are some of the best in the league. Julio Jones is still the best receiver in the league and doesn’t need 5 yard routes to prove it. Calvin Ridley is now the true WR2 and could be ready for a true breakout season. Russell Gage surprised many with his emergence as a competent receiver last year and is poised to be the WR3 in 2020. While the team lost Austin Hooper, Hayden Hurst is showing enough potential that this is hopefully a wash. The big factor here is the addition of Todd Gurley and what he could do for a dismal running game. If he’s even just 80% of the player he was coming out, the Falcons could see a huge upgrade in the running game.
The Seahawks defense improves dramatically outside the trenches. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are still one of the best 1-2 linebacker duos in the league. The secondary is a very good one as well. Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams are a very, very good safety tandem. Quinton Dunbar is a very good CB1 and Shaquill Griffin is a growing outside corner as well. Tre Flowers took a step back in performance in 2019 and was regularly exposed by the Falcons in their 2019 match up.
The back-half of the Seahawks defense matches up well with the talent the Falcons have. There are few corners that can cover Julio 1-on-1, but the safeties here can help make up the difference. That said, Ridley and Gurley look like potential match-up issues so long as Ryan is protected, which should be doable. Slight edge to Atlanta here as well.
The Seahawks defense is not what they once were, but they’re not a bad unit either. Their secondary and linebackers could keep them in a lot of games, but the lack of a pass rush could be problematic against loaded offenses - like the Falcons. I’m not expecting complete dominance here, but the Falcons should be able to amass enough points in this game to keep it close.