Here is my preview http://news.profootballspot.com/_/nfl/n ... atch-r1097
The rematch that nobody is clamoring for takes place this Sunday. After last year’s incredible playoff game, this game was expected to be a showdown. Now it’s hard to promote this as a game that non-Atlanta or non-Seattle fans should watch. This year has been a complete debacle for Atlanta, while Seattle is consistently winning. I can only say consistently winning because Seattle has looked vulnerable the past two weeks. The offensive line issues are glaring and Russell Wilson doesn’t really have any dependable options to throw to.
That might be the only appealing part to this game is that Seattle has looked vulnerable these past two weeks and Atlanta will be home. Could we see Seattle finally crack? They will be playing against a top quarterback, which they haven’t seen in the past few weeks. Matt Ryan has been heavily criticized for the past two weeks, but it’s hard to win when you only have two players in Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas making plays. The difference between Wilson protecting the ball over Ryan is not only his scrambling ability, but having the benefit of a consistent running game. Wilson isn’t being pressed to throw over 30 times a game like Ryan has in recent weeks.
Thankfully for Ryan, he’ll be getting one of his favorite receivers back in Roddy White. For the first time all year, we will hopefully get to see a healthy Roddy White. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s utilized since Seattle has the best secondary in the league. I’ll get more into that topic later in the article. As crazy as it sounds, Atlanta could give Seattle problems and push them to the brink in this one. The score in the loss to Carolina was inflated; due to Ryan’s pick six near the end. The game was competitive for the majority of the game and Atlanta actually played pretty well. For their sake, they better bring it for 60 minutes and not 45 minutes.
Force third and longs
The best way to beat a team that is struggling to throw the football is by forcing them to complete third and longs. In those situations, Russell Wilson will most likely have to throw to one of his receivers which will bode well for Atlanta. It will also benefit Atlanta because Seattle’s offensive line has allowed 27 sacks this year. Even though Atlanta’s pass rush has been non-existent at times, Mike Nolan has enough blitz schemes that can give quarterbacks nightmares. They didn’t use that enough against them last year and I’m sure Nolan regrets that very much.
The big task in forcing these third and longs will be stopping Marshawn Lynch. That could be an even bigger task, if Corey Peters isn’t able to play. He went down with a knee injury against Carolina, after having another productive game. After going through some issues with injuries and not getting enough of a consistent push earlier in his career, he has really shined this year for Atlanta. He’s become one of the few consistent defensive players on their young defense.
Peria Jerry has improved this year, but he isn’t someone you want to see having 30 to 35 snaps a game. Peters would be a big loss for Atlanta, especially going up against a top rushing attack like Seattle. Star linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is back to practice, but he won’t be available to play until next week. Atlanta’s front seven will need to keep Lynch from getting to the second level in order to force these third and longs.
I don’t expect Wilson to have the same success like he had last year in the playoffs against Atlanta. John Abraham was injured and there weren’t many options at defensive end. This year the line is relatively healthy minus Peters, while Seattle won’t have top left tackle Russell Okung. Atlanta’s secondary has also improved with rookies Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford making strides every week. They aren’t the liability that Dunta Robinson was in coverage. This is a different Atlanta defense and fans should have much more faith in stopping the pass than stopping the run in this one. If they can contain Lynch, then that should create better opportunities to either get off the field or force turnovers on third down.
White vs. Sherman II
This is quietly one of the most exciting individual rivalries in football. When a team you watch on a weekly basis is at 2-6, you need to find some storyline to look into. Who can forget the trash talk between both players before and after the playoff game? It’s hard to choose a side because both players are top level players. It’s a shame that Sherman has to be somewhat delusional when it comes to talking about White. I’m a fan of Sherman’s trash talk, because he’s right most of the time. He is the best cornerback in football and one of the top contenders for defensive player of the year.
What I don’t agree with is how he completely discounts White’s talent and says things like that “they have to hide him in order for him to make plays”. I don’t think you can have 1200 receiving yards in the NFL for six straight years by being a decoy. Sherman hasn’t been in the league very long, but he needs to do some research and realize White carried the passing attack for the most part from 2007 to 2010. Besides last year, White was the clear number one receiver in Atlanta. Even when Julio Jones came in 2011, he went through tough phases of drops and injuries. There were games where White had to carry the load, which includes 2012 as well. How Sherman says he doesn’t see him as a challenge makes me believe that he’s either bitter about last year or somewhat delusional.
As for the touchdown catch White had last year in the playoffs, you can make the argument that Kam Chancellor was late in picking up his assignment. In the end, Sherman fell and was equally responsible for allowing that touchdown. He fell on his face and played his part in why Seattle didn’t play in the NFC championship. That’s only a slight knock, because Sherman was just about flawless in that game. He made Ryan pay almost every time they threw his way.
I’m not expecting White to have a big game by any means. Sherman will probably win the one on one matchup for the most part. It just seems wrong to discredit what White has done in the NFL. He may not be the imposing athletic freak that Jones is, but he makes plays when called upon.
Sherman is playing on an elite level right now, while White may start to decline. This is still a fun matchup regardless of what anyone’s opinion is of both players. We will see physical play between both players and will see if Sherman can back up his talk. Even though they might move White around a bit, you’ll see plenty of snaps featuring those two players battling each other.
A possible revival in the running game
Speaking of matchups that favor Atlanta, we could see Atlanta push Steven Jackson for more carries. Jackson actually had a solid game against Carolina averaging over four yards per carry through 13 attempts for 57 yards. He showed some burst, along with making Mike Mitchell pay a couple of times for trying to shoulder tackle him. Jackson is still a load to tackle and you need to tackle low using your arm, if you want bring him down in the open field alone.
Seattle is 19th against the run, which could mean a possible breakout game. We saw last year in the playoffs how much success Atlanta had in running the ball. That was partially because Chris Clemons wasn’t playing due to a torn ACL. With Michael Bennett being added, you would expect better-run defense. So far it hasn’t been the case and Seattle’s defense has look fatigued at times. If the offense were more effective, then the defense would be on the field so much.
The best way to run on Seattle is by pounding it through the middle. They are too athletic and cover too much space on the outside. Bobby Wagner is usually all over the field, while they play Bruce Irvin in the SAM role. If they can pound the ball with Jackson and mix it up with Rodgers, they’ll avoid getting into the dreaded third and longs against Seattle’s defense. You want to avoid throwing in a must-pass situation as much as possible against a defense of this caliber. That’s why it’ll be so essential to run the ball effectively. These are the games, where Steven Jackson will earn his money.
What makes them so special?
This is a new element to the preview, where I break down something that isn’t getting enough praise and has really impressed me. When people talk about Seattle, they obviously talk about Russell Wilson, the running game, and how their secondary is easily the best unit in the league. I’m still waiting to see when the pass rush will get more praise. I’m not sure if they can invest in both Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in 2014, but they’ve made this unit almost impossible to stop.
Bennett is so versatile and reminds me of a young Justin Tuck. He’s just as good as a pass rusher as Tuck once was, along with being able to move into the interior on passing downs and be just as effective. When Bennett is paired next to Red Bryant on early downs, it’s best for teams to run to the opposite side. Avril is an athletic freak similar to Bruce Irvin, except he’s more of a natural defensive end. Avril has one of the quickest jumps off the line in the NFL and can give offensive line fits, when he times his jumps correctly. Seattle needs someone as explosive as Avril, but also someone that is big enough to play on early downs. With Avril’s arrival, they can take Bruce Irvin off the line due to being too undersized.
With the emergence of Clinton McDonald on the interior, it has given the defensive line even more depth. This is a deep talented unit full of players, who have proven to be a handful for offensive lineman.
They provide so much for speed on the edges, along with effective stunt schemes. They get players like Avril fresh on third downs, where they know that the quarterback won’t be back there for long. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has each lineman playing the right amount of snaps and has kept opposing offenses guessing.
Roddy White’s health played a major factor into this prediction. If he wasn’t going to play, it be hard pressed for the Falcons to even score a touchdown in this game. Their receivers would be overmatched against Seattle’s secondary. With White playing, it gives Ryan one of his top weapons back and someone that he can rely on. They like to move him around a lot, so we could see him matched with Brandon Browner if he isn’t having success on “Sherman Island”.
I’m expecting to be much closer than some expect. Until Percy Harvin and Russell Okung are healthy, Seattle’s offense is going to go struggle like it has at times this year. The offense isn’t as explosive as it once was, due to protection issues and the lack of playmakers at the wide receiver position. Also this is a game, where Seattle is playing at east coast time, which could lead to a slow start. In the end, Seattle’s defense is too good and they will give Seattle’s offensive enough chances to win. I’m expecting this to be a repeat of last year’s playoff game, except that the Seahawks will win by a game winning field goal by the score of 23-20.
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