This is the first “easy” matchup on Atlanta’s schedule, at least according to what we were expecting from this slate coming into the season, but chances are the battle in Seattle will be anything but. The Seahawks gave the Broncos hell in the first game and ultimately won before getting ground to dust against the 49ers, but they’re clearly at least operating a step above abysmal.
To win, the Falcons will have to put together a complete game, but how well does their defense matchup against Seattle’s offense? Let’s discuss.
In the trenches
The Falcons should’ve had a bit of a tough time with the Saints, but until late they were basically teeing off on Jameis WInston. They should have been able to take advantage of a depleted Rams offensive line, but they really didn’t. New Orleans took too long to adjust and the Rams came out with a successful gameplan, but it went beyond personnel.
It will for the Seahawks, too, but personnel is a major factor here. Seattle has bookend rookie tackles, and while Charles Cross has “one of the best tackles in football” upside, he and almost everyone else along the Seawhawks’ offensive line has struggled in pass protection thus far. Pro Football Focus gives poor grades for run blocking, as well, and Rashaad Penny has one of the worst yards before contact marks in the entire NFL.
The Falcons, meanwhile, obviously have talent up front but need to find some consistency. Grady Jarrett is going to be a handful for the interior of Seattle’s line no matter what, but for Atlanta to truly shine on Sunday, it will help a great deal if Lorenzo Carter, Arnold Ebiketie, and Adetokunbo Ogundeji in particular can win their matchups against Cross and fellow rookie Abraham Lucas.
Advantage: Falcons, slightly
Seattle isn’t in great shape here, either. Tyler Lockett has been pretty effective as always and D.K. Metcalf is a rare talent, but thus far the latter is off to a quiet start. Will Dissly and Noah Fant have enough talent to be major factors at tight end, particularly Fant, but have only been factors in the passing game in spurts thus far. There just aren’t a ton of proven high-end weapons here for Geno Smith, himself a solid but not high-end starting quarterback, to work with.
They’re matching up against a Falcons group looking to prove themselves. Mykal Walker has authored some huge plays and Rashaan Evans is still a big-time thumper against the runs, but both linebackers are still making strides in terms of their consistency. The secondary has been up-and-down, with Casey Hayward playing well outside of a couple of glaring mishaps, A.J. Terrell showing better in run support than coverage thus far, and Jaylinn Hawkins coming off a shaky game that saw him cede significant time to Dean Marlowe. The nickel has featured a heavy rotation between Mike Ford, Dee Alford, and Erik Harris, leaving Richie Grant as the sole full-time, consistently solid defender thus far in the secondary.
Metcalf and Lockett could pop up, and after Tyler Higbee just ate against Atlanta, you do have to worry about Fant and Dissly. I still think the Falcons’ defense matches up well against this rebuilding group.
From a talent perspective, I truly believe the Falcons’ defense matches up well against the Seahawks offense, as you probably do as well. Metcalf and Lockett are dangerous, Geno Smith has shown himself to be someone who deserved more shots at starting years ago, and Rashaad Penny and Kenneth Walker can be dangerous runners. With a so-so offensive line, Metcalf having not gotten going yet, and fairly limited weapons otherwise, there’s a reason the Seahawks have only scored 24 combined points and under 500 yards in two games thus far.
Atlanta will have to play a complete game to take advantage of this matchup, but they have the talent and smarts to once again hold Seattle to under 20 points and leave them with another forgettable afternoon on that side of the ball, which should put them in an excellent position to win. What they can’t afford to do is allow Seattle to pick them apart underneath all day long the way the Rams just did.