MVP candidate Matt Ryan will face a tough test against an always feisty Seattle defense. Read a preview for the first NFC Divisional Playoff Game. (AP Photo/Paul Abell)

The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Atlanta Falcons 26-24 in week 6 that included some controversy along the way. Richard Sherman got away with a blatant pass interference call on Julio Jones that sealed a Seahawks win. That game took place, however, took place in Seattle. This rematch will take place in Atlanta in what could be the final game ever played at the Georgia Dome. The 2017 NFL playoffs are officially down to the elite eight. It’s the Seahawks vs. the Falcons! Now it’s time to give 3 reasons why each team has a chance to win. What are the keys to the game for each team in order to advance this postseason? For more on the rest of the playoff teams, click here!

10-5-1 Seattle Seahawks At 11-5 Atlanta Falcons

Saturday, January 14th, 4:35 p.m. ET: FOX

Spread > Seattle +4 – Under/Over 51.5

WHY The Seattle Seahawks Will Win:

Can Russell Wilson beat Atlanta for the 2nd time this year? Read 3 reasons why they can. (Tony Avelar The Associated Press)
  1. Seattle Has A Much Better Defense:

We all know the saying; Defense wins championships. If that statement rings true it means the Falcons truly doesn’t have a chance to win a Super Bowl. Sure Earl Thomas is out but Seattle’s defense is still a million miles ahead of Atlanta’s. The Falcons ranks 27th is defensive DVOA according to Pro Football Outsiders, Seattle ranks 5th in the same category. Atlanta’s real weakness is in run defense where they rank 29th in DVOA against the run. There is no question that Seattle can match Atlanta’s offense in this one because of that wretched Falcon defense. Seattle doesn’t have the defense that they used to but they still are a robust unit. The Seahawks can still get after the quarterback with Michael Bennett, Frank Clark, and Cliff Avril leading the charge. Seattle has 42 sacks on the season which is 3rd most in the NFL. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner led the NFL in tackles with 167. Linebacker K.J. Wright is just as talented as Wagner is. Richard Sherman is still capable of being the best corner in football adding 4 picks to his stat line this year. As a whole, Seattle still ranked 5th in yards allowed and 3rd in points allowed on the season. In the Wildcard win over Detroit, Seattle held the Lions to just 6 points and 231 yards. The Falcons defense is by far the worst of any remaining playoff team. Atlanta ranks 25th in yards allowed and 27th in points allowed.

Getting pressure on Matt Ryan will be imperative for Seattle’s defense (PFF Stats)

2. Pete Carroll Has The Coaching Edge:

Who do you trust to win a playoff game, Pete Carroll or Dan Quinn? It’s not even close, Pete has the edge. His team always play well in big games, we know that much even going back to his USC days. Dan Quinn coached under Carrol from 2013-2014 as Seattle’s defensive coordinator. Carroll knows his defensive tendencies better than anyone. That means he is going to have a nice game plan to take out that Leo linebacker Vic Beasley that has been causing havoc all season. The playoffs are a different animal. Are you going to bet on a coach that has won a Super Bowl and a collegiate national title or bet on a rookie head coach? Seattle is going to be a tough out.

History is not on Dan Quinn’s side. Pete Carroll has a big edge here (ESPN)

3. Seattle Found Their Running Game At The Perfect Time:

Beast Mode is not running through those doors for the Seahawks. Those days are over. Coming into the playoffs Seattle’s run game has been below average all season. Christine Michael led the team in rushing yards and got released for no good reason. Starting running back Thomas Rawls has only averaged 3.2 yards per carry, well below league average. One reason is because of the offensive line struggles. The other is because Thomas Rawls stinks. He predictably made me a very smart man when I called him a fantasy bust this season. But enough of the negative, this ground game showed up in a big way last week. Thomas Rawls rushed for 161 yards on 27 carries against the Lions. That flukey performance by Thomas Rawls turned out to be a franchise playoff rushing record. The good news is he can do it again running against a swiss cheese defensive Falcons front 7. Rookie sensation C.J. Prosise also has a chance to play in this game giving the Seahawks a receiving back to help aid their offense. On a side note, tight end Jimmy Graham had a nice showing as well last week and is the true definition of a player who could swing the tide of this game.

Read About The Seahawks Playoff X-Factor Here

WHY The Atlanta Falcons Will Win:

Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are essential for controlling the clock for the Falcons. Read 3 reasons why Atlanta can defeat Seattle. (Kevin C. Cox Getty Images)

 

  1. It’s Time For Hotlanta – The League’s Best Offense:

The Atlanta Falcons have won their games by an average margin of victory 14.1 points per game. The biggest reason for their success is their red-hot offense that leads the NFL in just about every statistical category. The mastermind of this offense is offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. His Falcons team has scored the 4th most points in a single season in NFL history in 2016. Teams will regret not hiring this guy as their head coach this offseason but that is a story for a different day. MVP candidate Matt Ryan has led Atlanta to an average of 33.8 points per game. Not only does Atlanta score a lot but they are also extremely efficient.  The were tied for 1st in the NFL with the fewest turnovers in the NFL with 11. The real difference with Atlanta is their ability to create positive plays on first down. They average 7.6 yards per play on first down, 1st in NFL. There aren’t enough good things to say about this offense. Seattle will really struggle with some of these matchups especially with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman coming out of the backfield. Atlanta has been grooving during this four-game win streak. There is no reason that stops now.

Atlanta has given up more points per game (25.4) than any Super Bowl winner ever. A high-powered offense isn’t the only factor. (ESPN)

2. Atlanta Is Tough To Beat At Home:

The Georgia Dome is going to be loud this weekend. Especially given that it could be the last time the Falcons ever play in that stadium depending on the result of the Green Bay, Dallas game. Factoring in that Seattle averages 15 points on the road creates the perfect formula for a Falcons win. Seattle is also 0-8 as road playoff underdog in their franchise history. The Georgia Dome could create problems Seattle’s offensive line. It’s going to be really loud in that place. The Seahawks offense line is a complete mess to put it lightly. One reason for that is the Seahawks have allocated the least amount of money by any team across the offensive line. They have only spent $6.2 million across the whole line! Next in line are the Giants at $13.2 million.  The Seahawks haven’t just gone cheap, they went borderline crazy.  Both George Fant and Garry Gilliam are undrafted and grade out as among the worst tackles in football. The question will be can the Falcons create a quality pass rush? Enter Vic Beasley who led the NFL in sacks with 16. If Seattle falls behind, they may never be able to recover. Getting off to a quick start and quieting the crowd will be a huge factor.

3. Atlanta Has The Edge In Terms Of Play Calling:

I don’t think anyone in Seattle trusts offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Even players on his own team (Richard Sherman) question him. Remember Russell Wilson has to carry this team in order to win, Matt Ryan doesn’t. Enter Kyle Shanahan, Atlanta’s offensive coordinator who has been rather brilliant all season. Remember this guy practices against Pete Carroll’s defense every single day because Quinn comes from the Carroll coaching tree. He is going to draw up the perfect game plan. One example of this is Julio Jones, the best receiver in football.

Julio Jones circled in red will be lined up away from Richard Sherman as Kyle Shanahan draws up perfect mismatches (FOX)

Falcons WR Julio Jones caught three of his five targets into Seahawks CB Richard Sherman’s coverage for 40 yards and an interception.

Jones caught all four of his targets into the coverage of other Seattle defenders for 99 yards and a touchdown.

He is going to have Julio line up away from Sherman creating proper matchups because we all know that Sherman stays on his side of the field. Seattle will also play this game without Earl Thomas who they had in the regular season meeting. The Seahawks have been a different team without safety Earl Thomas who is out for the season. Seattle with Earl Thomas on the field this year: Seven TDs, 10 picks, 77.8 passer rating. Seattle without Earl Thomas: 9 TDs, 1 INT, 99.5 passer rating. Seattle isn’t the dominant defense that we once remember. Earl Thomas no longer can cover up the holes in this Seattle secondary. That makes it more likely that guys like Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, and Justin Hardy can bust coverages for big gains.

Read About The Falcons Playoff X-Factor Here!

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Can the Falcons high powered offense be enough to win the game? (Pro Football Focus)

I like the Falcons in this one. I think Seattle is that team that everyone falls in love with after a dominating performance in wildcard weekend but fails to deliver 2 weeks in a row. It’s hard to bet against a historic offense at home. This isn’t the Seahawks dominating team that we once remember. Having said that I think Seattle can cover the spread. They always find a way to stick around in games they shouldn’t. Falcons win – Seattle covers.

*If you agree or disagree make sure to let me know @treydaubert

Atlanta Falcons Defeat Seattle Seahawks 31-27