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Seattle tough but Falcons have some advantages (updated)
8:34 pm January 6, 2013, by Jeff Schultz
(Updated: 8:50 p.m. with opening odds.)
The Falcons last won a playoff game eight years ago (47-17 over St. Louis, Jan. 15, 2005). The have lost four straight since.
For that trend to change, they are going to have to beat a Seattle team that possesses: 1) a mobile quarterback (Russell Wilson); 2) a physical defense that held Washington to only 203 yards in offense (69 after the first two possessions); and 3) a powerful running game.
So you expected easy?
But after three playoff losses in the last four years, there are several positives for the Falcons going into their match-up against Seattle, which advanced after beating the Redskins 24-14 Sunday.
UPDATE: The Falcons have opened as only a two-point favorite over the Seahawks at LVH Superbook. Since home teams generally get three points, the line effectively means Seattle is considered one point “better” than Atlanta.
• 1.) Beat-up factor: The Seahawks are a tough team, as evidenced by them going 7-1 in the second half of the season after being only 4-4 at the turn, and then winning a road playoff game. But the question is: What do they have left in the tank after winning an emotional and physical game over the Redskins? The win in Washington did not come easy.
• 2.) Home field factor: The Falcons will be at home, where they’ve generally dominated: 7-1 this season and 33-7 in five regular seasons. (Then again, there was that lopsided playoff loss to Green Bay in 2010.) Seattle will be making its second East Coast trip in as many weeks from the upper left corner of the U.S. There’s a potential fatigue factor there.
• 3.) Mobile quarterback factor: The Falcons didn’t face Wilson this season. But they have played and beaten three noted mobile quarterbacks this year: Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Michael Vick (as well as Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford). So as impressive a season as Wilson has had, he doesn’t present a challenge the Falcons haven’t seen.
• 4.) Julio and Roddy factor: As effective as Seattle’s defense was against the Redskins, it’s worth noting Washington moved the ball effectively early, before Griffin became too beat up to run and function in the pocket. The Falcons’ primary receiving trio of Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez still gives them an advantage that any defense is going to have difficulty dealing with.
• 5) Running game factor: This is Falcons’ biggest concern. Seattle can pound it with Marshawn Lynch (who rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown Sunday). Wilson gives the running game another dimension.If the Seahawks can run, they can control the clock and keep Matt Ryan and the offense on the sideline. The Falcons’ defense struggled against the run much of this season. They improved down the stretch, but then allowed 142 yards to Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin in the season finale. (We can debate how pumped the Falcons were for that meaningless game.) The Falcons’ own running game, meanwhile, has been ineffective for most of the season. They’ll need to get something from Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers on the ground.
The Seahawks are good. But they look less daunting than the New York Giants or Green Bay Packers did the last two years.