Congratulations Atlanta fans, as the clock hit zero in fourth quarter of the wildcard game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Detroit Lions, you got your wish. On Saturday we will witness the long awaited rematch between two powerhouses in the NFC, the first matchup ended with a highly questionable no call of pass interference on Richard Sherman. This is good for the NFL too. After slightly underwhelming games to begin the postseason, we get to start the next round with what should be a fantastic game. The Seahawks returned to their playoff form last week with great plays from the receiving core and shut down defense on Matt Stafford, on the flip side the Falcons have been on an offensive mission unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years, but that won’t be their only key to victory.
Matt Ryan: Without the superior play of Ryan this season, the Falcons would not be sitting in the number two seed in the conference getting to play Seattle in the Georgia Dome instead of having to travel to the thunderous CenturyLink Field in January. If he continues his MVP caliber season and can keep the ball out of harms way against a tough Seattle pass rush and secondary then Atlanta will give them all they can handle on the offensive side of the ball.
The Gun Show: Number 44 Vic Beasley, 45 Deion Jones, and 22 Keanu Neal have been the bright spots of the struggling Falcons defense. But doing just enough to hang on to the win isn’t going to cut it anymore. In the playoffs you need stops to give your offense opportunities and these three players are the keys to getting those stops. If Vic Beasley can get pressure on Russell Wilson and create quick throws it gives the secondary a better chance to stay with Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson. If Neal, the hard hitter that he is, can create a few turnovers it gives the best offense in football a huge opportunity to put the game away.
Time to Shine: Since making the playoffs in 2012, the Atlanta Falcons have struggled mightily and built their roster up to what it is now through lots of young talent. Along with Neal, Beasley and Jones, Austin Hooper, Tevin Coleman, Justin Hardy, Devonta Freeman, Taylor Gabriel and plenty of others have yet to see the playoffs. This is their time to shine and prove the stage isn’t too big for them. Every player listed above has either contributed to big defensive plays, shredded defensive fronts, or been one of the many reliable targets for Matt Ryan. If the Falcons want to continue this streak it can’t all be on Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, the young talent on the Falcons needs to step up more than they already have.
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