By Matthew Asher
It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks met in the NFC Divisional Playoffs for an instant classic that ended with Atlanta kicking the game-winning field goal as time expired. Seattle was considered the weaker of the two teams and Atlanta was expected to dominate the Seahawks in that game.
Less than 10 months later and the roles are completely reversed. This year Seattle is in the driver’s seat, currently 8-1 and leading the NFC. For the Falcons, the injury bug, along with other factors, have all but guaranteed that this will be the first season in the Mike Smith era that Atlanta does not post a winning record.
But with Seattle’s recent issues with putting away teams that they should have easily beaten, there is more than hope that Atlanta can leave the Georgia Dome with their third win of the season.
On offense, Seattle does a lot of things well. The 25.8 points scored a game is the 10th best in the league. The 347.8 total yards gained each game is in the top half of the league. And when it comes to running the ball, very few teams do it better. Thanks in large part to the duo of Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch and Russell Wilson, Seattle’s 147 rushing yards per game is the fourth best in the league.
The only part of their offense that isn’t spectacular is their passing attack. Averaging just 200.8 yards per game, Seattle ranks 27th in the league. If Atlanta wants to hand Seattle their second loss of the season, they need to make Russell Wilson try to beat them with his arm rather than his legs.
On the defensive side of the ball, Seattle is one of the best in the league in nearly every aspect: They don’t let you score and they don’t let you get lots of yards. Allowing just 16.6 points a game, only the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers are giving up fewer points so far.
Regarding yards allowed, the 296 yards surrendered by Seattle are second only to the Houston Texans (who Seattle beat earlier this season). Thanks to their secondary, Seattle doesn’t allow a lot of passing yards. The 179.8 yards through the air is also the second best in the league. Again only the Houston Texans have allowed fewer passing yards. The one weak spot in Seattle’s defense is their run prevention. The ‘Hawks give up 116.2 rushing yards per game, ranking them at 19th in the league.
Even with Seattle leading the NFC with an 8-1 record, it’s important to remember Seattle’s last two victories: a goal-line stand was needed to beat St. Louis and Tampa Bay had a 21-point lead in the first half against the ‘Hawks. What do both of those teams have in common? Atlanta was able to beat both of them and by more points than Seattle did.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST #RiseUp
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Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.