Feel confident the Falcons will have success through the air
A year ago, even though the Falcons didn’t win the game, Matt Schaub absolutely eviscerated the Seattle secondary, throwing for 460 yards and completing 75% of his passes. That was more passing yards in a single game than Matthew Rutledge Schaub had managed in a season since 2015, and he was only 80 yards off from matching his best season total since 2013. It was the kind of performance you wouldn’t have thought a 38-year-old Schaub could manage, and it was both a credit to the quarterback and a damning indictment of the Seahawks defense.
That defense has, as we noted elsewhere, not gotten much better on paper over the offseason, and the pass rush might even be worse. The Falcons also are bringing a healthy Matt Ryan to bear against Seattle this time, and for all the question marks with new tight end Hayden Hurst, this team has Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, and Todd Gurley to throw to. It would be the surprise of the young year if the Seahawks truly stymie this offense, especially because I expect the line to be pretty solid minus my ongoing concerns with James Carpenter and Kaleb McGary.
That’s borne out by Ryan’s history against the team, too. In five games, Ryan’s completed 64% of his passes for 1,167 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, while being sacked an average of twice per game. He’s also averaged three of those fun-to-describe Ryan scrambles per game for 3.5 yards a pop, so while the numbers are unlikely to be Schaubesque, they’re extremely likely to be good enough to win.
If, that is, the defense can do their part.
Worry about stopping Russell Wilson
If Ryan’s been mighty successful against the Seahawks, Wilson has been very good against the Falcons, too. We’re not talking about weird, Jameis Winston-y dominance, but there’s no point in denying that the lethal quarterback is Atlanta’s biggest problem in this game.
In four career games, Wilson has completed 67% of his passes for 997 yards, 6 touchdowns, and just 1 interception, scrambling 20 times for 117 yards and another score. The Falcons have managed to sack him 7 times and his numbers don’t necessarily pop off the page at you, but Wilson’s efficiency has been good enough to give him a 3-1 regular season record against Atlanta.
They need to do a good job keeping him in the pocket, as they did a year ago when he rushed just four times for 4 yards, but they also need to do a far better job in the secondary, where miscommunication and plain old terrible play allowed Wilson to throw just 20 times for 182 yards and 2 scores. That was enough for the win.
The positive note is that it’s unlikely to be good enough this Sunday again, given that the offense ought to fare a bit better for Atlanta, but with A.J. Terrell looking iffy to play and Kendall Sheffield out, there’s plenty of reason to worry that Wilson will once again play the clean sort of game that has won so many contests for Seattle over the years.