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What you need to know about Falcons - Seahawks in Week 1

The Falcons start the year off with a matchup against a team that is severely diminshed on defense, but has the talent on offense to test Atlanta sorely.

NFL: OCT 27 Seahawks at Falcons

Thanks to a combination of genuinely impressive coordination and discipline, plus a little luck, the NFL is kicking off this week. Our Falcons will play their first game this Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, which means it’s time for us to take a look ahead at the matchup and what we ought to expect.

Falcons - Seahawks 2019 head-to-head

In 2019, the Falcons were disappointing yet again, while the Seahawks went 11-5 and were one of the NFC’s better teams. What explains that disparity?

Falcons - Seahawks 2020 Comparison

Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Allowed
Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Allowed
Falcons 7-9 13 5 3 30 23 20 21 15 19 23
Seahawks 11-5 9 8 14 4 26 22 27 22 3 13

Seattle was much more successful running the ball, a product of effort (they had the 4th-highest number of yards in the league on the 3rd-most attempts) and were much better at both protecting the football and getting takeaways. Pair that with a great passing attack helmed by Russell Wilson and you can understand how the Seahawks overcame their very real defensive woes, which might have capsized a lesser team.

The Seahawks simply aren’t the Legion of Boom any longer, or anywhere close to it. We’ll get to this shortly, but their defense might actually be weaker on paper than it was a year ago, when they managed just 28 sacks and regularly got run over on the ground. They simply are not a good defense now, and their ongoing offensive excellence is what’s carrying the day. They’re essentially the 2012 Falcons with a greater emphasis on the ground game, and hell, it’s working.

The Falcons, meanwhile, are hoping to not be that team this year, though they’d love to win 11 games. Atlanta’s put time and energy into rebuilding the defense and are hopeful the offense can take a step forward after a superficially impressive but sort of hollow year, and they’ll hope the D holds up far better in 2020.

How the Seahawks have changed since the last time

The last time these two teams met, Matt Schaub was quarterbacking the Falcons, and there’s been an offseason of change to follow that. They’ll look very different than the team the Seahawks saw in 2019.

Seattle will look different, too. They may or may not have a fully healthy, effective Quinton Dunbar starting at cornerback, but he was one of their major offseason additions. They added Greg Olsen to the passing game and will hope he can stay healthy, picked up Cedric Ogbuehi to play tackle, and will have both Phillip Dorsett and Josh Gordon as part of a very talented group of pass catchers. They also have two new backs with Carlos Hyde and rookie DeeJay Dallas, which can only help the offense given their fondness for running the ball, and put intriguing pieces on the defense with rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks and pass rusher Darrell Taylor. That’s a bit of a hodgepodge, sure, but the net effect of those additions is youth and talent on defense and additional skill position pieces for an offense that can always use more.

You can’t talk about this Seahawks team without talking about what they’ve lost, though. Jadeveon Clowney is off to the Titans, as is underrated defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson, solid defensive tackle Al Woods, Ziggy Ansah, and Mychal Kendricks. Offensively, they let multiple offensive linemen walk, which isn’t the worst thing when your line is regularly a train wreck but does mean new players have to come in and improve upon the guys who left. The line is still a question mark for Seattle.

The biggest question mark remains the pass rush, though, where Bruce Irvin now has a credible case as the team’s top option. Seattle will hope that Taylor can be successful right away, but on paper this defense is not considerably better than it was a year ago, and it may even be worse. It’ll be a good opportunity for the Falcons to see just how much better they’ve gotten on offense.

What you need to know

This is a vitally important first matchup for Atlanta. Last year they narrowly lost with Schaub slinging against Seattle, but this year they badly need a win out of the gate against a team that should still be considered an NFC contender to start the season off right. The Falcons have the oldest team in football, one they’ve poured plenty of dollars into the year before the big cap crunch comes for teams across the NFL, and 2020 more or less has to be a winning season if they’re not going to blow things up a year from now.

Standing in the way is a Seahawks team that has squandered too many draft picks and done a laughably bad job of building a quality offensive line over the years, but remains a good team because they’re pretty well-coached, still have tremendous talent in pockets on the roster, and because Russell Wilson is magical and one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Seattle won’t put too much pressure on Matt Ryan—if they do, that’s a very bad sign—but they are eager to generate turnovers and will be a stellar test of this defense given their obvious talent on offense. It’s not the toughest game on paper the Falcons will face, but nor is it an early creampuff to lull Atlanta into a false sense of security, which is the last thing they need this year.

I’m excited for football, but more than that, I’m excited to see how they fare against a Seattle team that regularly plays them close. We’re just days away from finding out.