NFC Divisional round Playoffs – Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan doesn’t have a great record in Playoff football; he’s won just 1 game out of the 5 that he’s played, but that game was against the Seahawks.  In his defence he hasn’t had the highest scoring Offence in the league around him before so his chances have never been as good as they are right now.  During the regular season the Falcons averaged almost 34 points per game which compares very favourably to Seattle who averaged just a shade over 22 and only scored more than 34 on 2 occasions.
The Seahawks relying on their Defence to win them games is not news but if they plan on keeping this one low scoring then they might come unstuck because the Falcons have only failed to score 20 points on 2 games this season and in their last 4 games they recorded an aggregate score of 154-75 (they’re kind of on fire).  For the Seahawks part they can cling to the fact they were victorious by 26-24 when the teams met back in week 5 but that game was at CenturyLink field, not in the Georgia Dome and in their last 4 regular season games the Seahawks aggregate score was 90-98!

This game is far from a done deal though and both Defence’s will be fun to watch, they have both have aggressive pass rushes with Atlanta recording 34 sacks this season, 15.5 of those were credited to Vic Beasley who led the league during the regular season (and 4 of those came in his last 4 games).  The Seahawks had the 3rd best number in the league with a very impressive 42 (Cliff Avril was their leader with 11.5 for the season).  On the Offensive side of the ball the Seahawks have also allowed 42 sacks, so Vic Beasley could well be in business tonight, Atlanta have been marginally better at protecting Matt Ryan as they’ve just allowed the 37 sacks but with extra emphasis on the Seahawks pass rush Ryan won’t be holding on to the ball for too long.  The Seahawks are missing one of the best 2 Free Safety’s in the NFL in Earl Thomas (I can’t separate him and Eric Berry in KC) which theoretically means they’re susceptible to the deep pass but with their receiving corps leading the league in yards after the catch with 6.37 they will probably stick to short throws that allow the receivers to use their speed and elusiveness to break off big chunks of yards.  The running game will be vital to slow down the Seahawks pass rush and the last time the 2 teams played the Falcons really struggled to get anything going on the ground, they recorded just 52 yards rushing and 2 of those were credited to Ryan.  This caused Ryan to be sacked 4 times losing 25 yards and throwing an Interception to Earl Thomas.  The Seahawks on the other hand ran all over the Falcons, although they only recorded 72 rushing yards they scored 3 touchdowns on the ground.

How the Falcons Offensive Co-ordinator Kyle Shanahan interviewing for numerous Head Coaches jobs has disrupted the team remains to be seen and while Ryan’s shaky Playoff record is a worry the Falcons have the players to win this game and with Beasley and their Receiving corps they have the ability to do it spectacularly.  The Seahawks biggest issue all season has been place kicking and every point will be crucial at this stage of the postseason so I can see that counting against the road team too, don’t be surprised if Haushka has his customary snap hook on an extra point and that could be a deciding factor.  I’m expecting a nervy game though and if the Seahawks can keep it a low scoring affair then there’s always a chance the home crowd will become restless and Ryan’s previous Playoff displays may well come back to haunt him.  The bookmakers have the Falcons as favourites to win by 6 points or fewer but if the Falcons continue their recent form then they should win by more than 1 touchdown.

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