Seattle Seahawks vs Atlanta Falcons: prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 14, 2017 at 3:58 PM
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KICKOFF: Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET, Georgia Dome. TV: FOX, Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver, Peter Schrager.

SERIES HISTORY: 17th all-time meeting, second in the postseason. The Seahawks lead the series, 10-6. Atlanta beat Seattle 30-28 in the divisional round of the 2012 NFC playoffs. The Seahawks rallied from a 20-0 deficit to take a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds remaining, only to have Matt Bryant kick a 49-yard field goal with eight seconds left. Russell Wilson's 385 yards passing in the playoff loss are still the most in his career. The Seahawks beat the Falcons 26-24 in October.

KEYS TO THE GAME:

This will be the second meeting this season after the Seahawks' controversial 26-24 victory at home in mid-October when cornerback Richard Sherman, who had imploded on the Seattle sideline earlier, wasn't called for a late pass interference on Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.

"We felt like we had a chance to win that game. Calls didn't go our way," said Falcons second-year outside linebacker Vic Beasley, who led the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks. "Things could've went a different route, so we're looking forward to this opportunity."

Not having to go back to Seattle is certainly an advantage for the Falcons, who went 4-0 down the stretch in winning the NFC South and got a first-round bye when the Seahawks lost three of their final six games.

The Seattle defense, which ranked third in the NFL in points allowed at 18.3 per game, suffered a major blow with the loss of safety Earl Thomas, and Matt Ryan and the Falcons led the NFL with 33.8 points per game.

The Seattle offense found its missing ground game in a 26-6 win over Detroit last week, with Thomas Rawls rushing 27 times for 161 yards -- a team playoff record.

Dan Quinn, in his second season as Falcons coach, was the defensive coordinator during Seattle's two trips to the Super Bowl. He has downplayed that storyline, though, and is thankful he already has faced the Seahawks.

"I'm glad that game got out of the way," Quinn said. "Let's hope through the years we battle a bunch of times against them. I sense that will be the case."

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Falcons WR Julio Jones vs. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman. Jones caught seven passes for 139 yards against Seattle in October. Atlanta managed to keep Jones away from Sherman by formation, but the Seahawks could elect to play more man-to-man defense this time around with Sherman on Jones often.

--Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham vs. Falcons linebackers. Graham had six catches for 89 yards in Seattle's first meeting with Atlanta. The Falcons' defense has been particularly susceptible for opposing tight ends all season and Graham could have another big day.

Saturday Injury Report

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

--Out: RB C.J. Prosise (shoulder)

ATLANTA FALCONS

No players listed

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT:

Seahawks RB C.J. Prosise. Prosise has missed seven games since suffering a fractured scapula in mid-November. Prosise accounted for 234 yards and a touchdown in his final six quarters before being injured and provides a dual threat that could come in handy if he is healthy.

FAST FACTS:

-- Seattle is in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, looking for its third Super Bowl appearance in the past four years. Seattle has won seven of its past nine postseason games and has won a playoff game in each of the past five years.

-- Coach Pete Carroll is 9-4 (.692) in the playoffs with Seattle.

-- Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has 64 career wins (including the postseason), the most by a quarterback in his first five seasons.

-- The Seahawks had four players selected to the Pro Bowl: DE Cliff Avril, DE Michael Bennett, CB Richard Sherman and LB Bobby Wagner.

-- The Falcons won the NFC South and advanced to the postseason for the first time since 2012. They are 4-3 at home in the playoffs in franchise history.

-- Atlanta coach Dan Quinn spent four seasons with Seattle (2009-10, 2013-14), including the 2013 and 2014 seasons as the team's defensive coordinator. The Seahawks advanced to the Super Bowl in both seasons, winning Super Bowl XLVIII.

-- Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan led the NFL with a 117.1 passer rating, the fifth-best mark in league history.

-- Atlanta had six players selected to the Pro Bowl: LB Vic Beasley Jr., K Matt Bryant, RB Devonta Freeman, WR Julio Jones, C Alex Mack and Ryan.

PREDICTION:

This game likely hinges on Seattle's ability to run the ball, something the Seahawks have not done well this season. Without that control factor, they seem likely to lose a shootout to Ryan and Co. -- at the end, of course.

OUR PICK: Falcons, 30-27.

--Chris Cluff

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