SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (12-5)
at ATLANTA FALCONS (13-3)
NFC Divisional Round Playoff Game
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Atlanta -3, Total: 46
The top-seeded Falcons try to win a playoff game for the first time since the 2004 season when they face the red-hot Seahawks on Sunday afternoon.
The Falcons are dominant at home. They lost their meaningless regular season finale, but before that had won 11 in a row SU (6-3-2 ATS) at the Georgia Dome. However, the Falcons are also 0-3 (SU and ATS) in playoff games during the Matt Ryan era. As the top seed two years ago, they were blown out at home by Green Bay, 48-21. The Seahawks, once a team that couldn’t win outside of Seattle, have won three in a row on the road (SU and ATS), outscoring opponents 97-48 and rushing for 223.3 YPG in those games. Overall, the Seahawks have won six in a row SU (5-1 ATS). They lost top pass rusher Chris Clemons (knee) and K Steven Hauschka (calf) in their Wild Card win in Washington though.
Can the Falcons end their long playoff drought on Sunday afternoon? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every NFL playoff game.
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has been outstanding late in the season, winning eight of nine games with a 66% completion rate, 8.8 YPA, 17 TD and 2 INT, which includes last week's playoff win in Washington. He's also rushed for 428 yards and 4 TD in these nine contests, including 67 on eight carries (8.4 YPC) last week. RB Marshawn Lynch has certainly lived up to his "Beast Mode" nickname recently with nine 100-yard efforts in his past 11 games, including five in a row. He rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries (6.6 YPC) in last week's win over the Redskins, which had the 5th-best run defense in the NFL. Atlanta's run defense is much more porous, giving up 123 rushing YPG (21st in league). The Falcons have also struggled against the pass too, allowing 242 YPG (23rd in NFL). Seattle has great depth in its receiving corps with eight players catching more than a dozen passes during the regular season, led by Sidney Rice (50 rec, 748 yds, 7 TD) and Golden Tate (45 rec, 688 yds, 7 TD). But last week, FB Michael Robinson caught the lone touchdown pass, while TE Zach Miller (48 rec. yds, 2-pt conversion) and Doug Baldwin (39 rec. yds) both outgained Tate (35 yds) and Rice (27 yds). Veteran K Ryan Longwell (17-for-23 FG in playoff career) will replace the injured Hauschka. Seattle has a +12 TO margin during its six-game win streak, with 16 takeaways and just four giveaways. But Atlanta produced 31 takeaways this season (T-5th in NFL).
Falcons QB Matt Ryan posted career highs of 4,719 passing yards and 32 TD, but he has a 71.2 passer rating in his postseason career, throwing for 584 yards (5.3 YPA), 3 TD and 4 INT. And despite his team's 7-1 SU home mark this year, Ryan has just 11 TD and 9 INT in Georgia Dome, compared to 21 TD and 5 INT on the road. He'll need to be playing at top form on Sunday, as the Seahawks rank sixth in the NFL in passing defense (203 YPG) with more INT (18) than passing TD allowed (15) during the regular season. Last week, the Redskins gained just 203 total yards, including 99 through the air. But Washington doesn't have receivers nearly as accomplished as the Falcons trio of Roddy White (92 rec, 1,351 yds, 7 TD), Julio Jones (79 rec, 1,198 yds, 10 TD) and TE Tony Gonzalez (93 rec, 930 yds, 8 TD). The problem for Atlanta's offense has been the ground game, which averages a mere 87 rushing YPG on 3.7 YPC, which both rank 4th-worst in the NFL. Michael Turner rushed for just 800 yards on 222 carries (3.6 YPC) this season, but he did score 10 touchdowns. But in three career playoff games in a Falcons uniform, Turner has just 122 yards on 43 carries (2.8 YPC) and 2 TD, and he'll be facing Seattle's 10th-ranked run defense (103 YPG). Atlanta has done a great job of protecting the football down the stretch with a total of two giveaways in the past five games combined, including three straight turnover-free contests.