Divisional Round: Seattle Seahawks At Atlanta Falcons
- QuarterbackIn the year of the rookie quarterback, it’s third-round draft pick Russell Wilson who remains alive while Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have completed their seasons. Wilson is an outstanding athlete who throws the ball well and has great recognition. However, his most outstanding characteristic may be his confidence. He won’t be afraid taking on the NFC’s best regular-season team on the road.Matt Ryan has been waiting for this opportunity since last year’s postseason loss to the Giants. The Falcons got taken to the woodshed in that game and never gave New York a battle. Ryan has had a sensational year, completing 68.6 percent of his passes for 4,719 yards with 32 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
- OffenseThe Seahawks are a tough, physical team on offense and their first priority will be to establish running back Marshawn Lynch and the power running game. Wilson likes wide receivers Sidney Rice and Golden Tate. Rice caught 50 passes for 748 yards and seven touchdowns, while the hard-nosed Tate also caught seven scoring passes. TE Zach Miller has good hands on third-down plays.The Falcons have superior receivers who can dominate the game with their big-play ability. Roddy White caught 92 passes for 1,351 yards and 7 touchdowns, while explosive Julio Jones (79-1,198-10) has the speed to break plays from anywhere on the field. Tight end Tony Gonzalez has been playing his entire career to get to the Super Bowl and this represents his best chance.
- DefenseThe Seahawks got hit with a big blow when defensive end Chris Clemons suffered a torn ACL in the Wild-Card win over the Redskins. Clemons was the Seahawks’ best pass rusher. DE Bruce Irvin (8.0 sacks) must respond with a huge effort. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is the Seahawks’ leading tackler and he has the speed to range all over the field. CB Richard Sherman had a team-high eight interceptions.The Falcons attack with speed and quickness on defense, but they can be vulnerable to the power game and that’s what Seattle will bring. The Falcons ranked 24th in total defense during the regular season. Defensive end John Abraham used his quickness and moves to register 10.0 sacks this year. Safety Thomas DeCoud had 76 tackles and six interceptions for the Falcons.
- Special TeamsThe Seahawks are in a bit of trouble with their kicking game as placekicker Steven Hauschka sprained left (plant) ankle and he may not be at his best for this game. Head coach Pete Carroll is looking at placekickers who can fill in for Hauschka. Veteran return specialist Leon Washington has speed and excels at finding the creases to exploit.Matt Bryant had an excellent showing in the regular season, making 33-of-38 FG attempts. He was 4-of-4 on attempts of 50 yards or longer. Matt Bosher has a strong leg. He averaged 47.5 yards per punt and he dropped 22-of-63 punts inside the 20.
Both sides have intangibles working for them. The Seahawks are riding the underdog wave and are fearless when it comes to playing on the road with Wilson under center. The uncertainty in the Seahawks kicking game may hurt badly. The Falcons have been waiting for a chance at playoff redemption for over a year. Ryan gets his first postseason victory.