The Seattle Seahawks impressed the football world last week with their comeback victory in Washington. As a reward for their efforts they earned themselves a trip to Atlanta to take on the top-seeded Falcons with a trip to the NFC championship game on the line. Despite the Falcons’ inability to win in the playoffs with Matt Ryan at quarterback, the Seattle Seahawks will still have their work cut out for them Sunday afternoon.
It has been well documented this season that the Seahawks don’t enjoy playing games without their 12th man cheering them on. They were able to go on the road to get a win last week, but this week’s game has different circumstances surrounding it. The Seahawks have been traveling across the country the past week, and at some point it is possible that some sort of jet-lag will settle in by game-time on Sunday. If this is the case, Seattle may come out of the gates a little sluggish and the Falcons could get ahead and never look back. Also, the Atlanta crowd is known to be one of the loudest in the NFL, and the dome just makes them that much louder. The Seahawks, especially Russell Wilson, will have to be extremely focused and clear-headed on Sunday if they want to have a chance of overcoming the rowdy Atlanta crowd.
The Seattle Seahawks need to make sure that they do not allow Roddy White and Julio Jones to make explosive plays down the field. One way for Seattle to limit Atlanta’s big plays is to get pressure on Matt Ryan. Since the Seahawks lost their top pass rusher, Chris Clemons, last week to a torn ACL they will rely more heavily on rookie Bruce Irvin to disrupt the Atlanta passing game. Irvin has been a role player for most of the season, so he will have to adjust quickly to playing every down come Sunday.
Another important match-up to watch in this game is the Atlanta Falcons’ rush defense against Marshawn Lynch. Lynch should be licking his chops going into this game as the Falcons have given up more than 120 yards per game on the ground this season. Lynch should have his way with the Atlanta defense like he has against most defenses this season, to the tune of 1590 rushing yards on the year. The only thing that could stop Marshawn Lynch on Sunday is the Seahawks defense. If Seattle digs itself into a hole early on they will be forced to get away from the run and therefore have to put the game into their rookie quarterback’s hands instead of Lynch’s. This is bad news for Seattle because the Seahawks offense is most efficient when it can establish a running game and use play-action to generate their passing game.
The Seattle Seahawks are going into the game on Sunday as the hottest team in the league right now, but they have not had as much experience as Atlanta on the big stage. The crowd will be a huge factor on Sunday, and if the Falcons get out to a quick start the Seahawks could be in trouble. This game could be decided on the first few possessions, so it is vital to the Seahawks that they come out with energy and quiet the crowd early if they hope to pull off the upset.