Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
On top of that take a look at Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan’s stats for the season and those of his receivers and you start to grasp the challenge facing the Seahawks this weekend. Ryan, in his 5th season as a pro, completed nearly 69% of his passes (422 out of 615) for a staggering 4700 yards (1500 more than Seahawk QB Russell Wilson threw for) and 32 touchdowns (6 more than Wilson). The top 3 Falcon receivers were wide outs Roddy White and Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez. White and Jones caught 92 and 79 balls for 1351 and 1198 yards respectively while Gonzalez (possibly the greatest tight end in NFL history) hauled in 93 balls for 930 yards. By comparison the top two Seahawk receivers, Sydney Rice and Golden Tate caught 50 and 45 for 748 and 688 yards respectively. Based on these stats and the fact the game is in Atlanta you can now see why the Falcons are favored. Indeed, on the face of it, the game looks like a mismatch.
But, as I said, that is only on the face of it. Take a deeper look at ALL the stats and some other pertinent facts and you can start to see just how it is that the Seahawks could win this game. In fact…I think that it is very likely the Seahawks will win this game. My reasons are as follows:
1. Matt Ryan is 0-3 as the Falcon starting QB in the playoffs. This will be his 4th playoff start and he has yet to lead the Falcons to even one victory, let alone the Super Bowl. Because of this there is a great deal of pressure on him to win whereas Seattle’s Wilson is playing with “house money” so to speak. Expect Ryan and the Falcon team to be tight because of this. In addition, as I pointed out last week, the Seahawks have overcome their road allergies, winning their last 3 straight away from the friendly confines of “The Clink” (Century Link Stadium) and the 12th man, including last week’s first round playoff game against the Redskins.
2. The Seahawks compiled their 11-5 regular season record against a much tougher schedule than that played by the Falcons, who actually played the NFL’s easiest schedule this season. The Seahawks have beaten 7 teams with winning records this year while Atlanta only 2. In addition Ryan was inexplicably statistically worse at home this year than he was on the road. (Ryan has thrown for 2,566 yards on the road this season with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions, in addition to completing 72 percent of his passes. At home, Ryan has thrown for 2,153 yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions, completing 65.1 percent.)
3. The Falcons strength on offense is their passing game, as can be seen from the stats above. The Seahawks strength on defense is defending the pass. Seattle has the 6th ranked pass defense in the NFL and their 2 big corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman could potentially nullify the Falcons two productive wide receivers (White and Jones) with their physical play. In addition the Hawks have done a great job this season defending tight ends (Cam Chancellor’s devastating hit on 49er tight end Vernon Davis comes to mind) giving up only 3 touchdowns, second fewest in the league, potentially offsetting the impact of Gonzales.
4. On the other hand, the Seahawks strength on offense is their running game. Marshawn Lynch rushed for nearly 1600 yards this season, nearly twice the total of the Falcon’s top rusher Michael Turner. The Hawks as a team out rushed the Falcons 2579 yards to 1397. In addition rushing defense is a weakness of the Falcons finishing 21st in the 32 team NFL against the run, thus matching the Hawk strength against the Falcon weakness. The Hawks hung nearly 200 rushing yards on the league’s top rushing defense last week in the Redskins. It will be worse this week.
So…what’s it all mean?
The Seahawks will control this game with their running attack, feeding “the beast” (Lynch) augmented by Wilson “read option” runs and play action passes, while grinding out long, time consuming drives, thus keeping the ball away from Ryan and the high powered Falcons offense. When the Falcons do have the ball expect them to move it with their passing attack but offset to some degree by the Seahawk “legion of boom” and their hard hitting, ball hawking ways. I expect the Hawks to intercept Ryan at least twice as the Falcons will be rendered one dimensional and will be forced to take chances throwing the ball due to their weak running attack.
Meanwhile Russell Wilson will be playing his normal, heady and mistake free game. The Seahawks will not beat themselves in Atlanta and will win this game by something like a 28 to 17 score thus moving on to the NFC championship game against either San Francisco or Green Bay.
And…oh…what the hell…go ahead and bet the grocery money on it!
By Mark Arnold
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