What to look for in the battle of the birds
Seattle is red hot. After finishing the regular season on a promising winning streak, the Seattle Seahawks rolled into the nation’s capital and pushed around the Redskins en route to their first road playoff victory since 1983.
Now it’s time to take their show on the road once again and head to HotLanta for a date with the dirty birds.
It’s well documented that Atlanta is both a great regular season team and a very disappointing playoff team. We’ve certainly all heard analysts this year, and in years past, say this is finally their time to shine.
I’m not so sure about that.
There is a lot to be said for momentum in football, and Seattle has all of that coming into the game. Atlanta has been resting, and while that helps with injuries, they definitely won’t come out as well-oiled as the Hawks.
Here are the key matchups to watch for:
Russell Wilson vs. Matt Ryan
Last week was a battle of amazing rookie QBs. This week, Russell Wilson goes up against a very accurate five-year veteran in Matt Ryan.
Ryan is big, and he is cool. He’s got a great arm and a handful of great targets at WR. Wilson is much smaller, but just as calm and collected. It will be great to watch these two field generals leading their teams.
Ryan may have an advantage in weapons, but Wilson surely has more mobility, and the Seahawks have a stronger running game right now. But as it often goes, the team that makes the least mistakes wins.
The winner of this head-to-head matchup will certainly give his team the best chance to win. Look for Ryan to go deep a few times, and Wilson to make things happen with his feet.
Beastmode vs. Michael Turner
Michael Turner has been a solid force in the Atlanta backfield for some time now. This season he’s been a bit less productive, but that comes with the territory when Matt Ryan is guns blazing.
Marshawn Lynch has been simply sensational this year. If it weren’t for AP’s big 2,0000-yard season, Lynch would be touted as the best running back in the league.
Lately he’s been getting less carries, but doing more with them. His per-carry average is spectacular, and that’s what keeps the Hawks on long, sustained drives. Racking up big first and second down gains sets up third down conversions and eventually leads to points.
The back that has the higher yards-per-carry average Sunday will be the head-to-head winner, and both backs have a great QB in front of them to add to their attack. Look for Marshawn Lynch to get more catches out of the backfield, and keep an eye on Turner’s pass-blocking abilities when Ryan is in a deep drop.
Seahawk DBs vs. Atlanta WRs
I mentioned before that the Falcons have some great receiving talent, but Seattle has the hottest defensive secondary in the league.
It all starts with Richard Sherman. He is the intense, ball-hawking, hard-hitting leader of the fierce Seahawks defense. Combine him with Brandon Browner, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas and you’ve got a secondary that smashes offenses in the face and creates a lot of chaos and turnovers.
They will need to be in top form to keep Roddy White, Julio Jones and the ageless Tony Gonzalez all in check. And they better keep an eye on Jacquizz Rodgers out of the backfield.
Realistically, some big plays may happen, but if Seattle can limit how many of those big plays actually take place, they really give their offense a chance to control the time of possession and pace of the game.
This game is sure to be a good one. The Georgia Dome will be rocking (far less noisily than CenturyLink, though).