One of the best matchups of the week is the Falcons, who have the top offense in the NFL, flying across the country to visit the Seahawks, who own one of the best defense (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX). The 4-1 Falcons are flying high in first place in the NFC South, and they’ll face a first-place Seahawks team that’s fresh off a bye and substantially healthier than it was before the time off.
After beating the Broncos just a week ago, the Falcons will once again have their hands full with a Super Bowl contender. Given the cross-country trip and Seattle’s home-field advantage, I don’t see the Falcons winning this one, and here’s a more detailed explanation why.
USA TODAY SportsRobert Deutsch
The Seahawks’ offensive line will protect Russell Wilson
Seattle’s offensive line is not good. That’s become clear over the first four games, and over the past few years. However, as bad as it has been, Atlanta’s pass rush is almost just as bad, excluding last week’s shocking six-sack performance against the Broncos. Even with six sacks last week, the Falcons are still 17th in that department with 10 on the year. Their pass rush has been almost non-existent for the past two years, and it won’t pose much of a threat to the Seahawks.
Vic Beasley’s quickness and speed moves could generate some pressure, but since he plays on the left side of the defensive formation, Wilson will be able to see him coming and elude a sack in the pocket. Unlike Paxton Lynch, Wilson’s awareness is off the charts and will greatly help a Seahawks offensive line that isn’t great. Seattle struggles to protect Wilson, but this is one game where they should have success.
Since Russell Wilson came into the league in 2012, the Seahawks are 33-5 at home including the postseason. They have arguably the best home-field advantage in football, and it’s a huge reason why they’ve been so successful over the past five years. When they host an NFC South team, the Seahawks are 4-1 since the start of 2012 with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. The Falcons are currently one of the best teams in football, but they are vulnerable defensively and are primarily a dome team that thrives on the turf.
It’s going to be a cold, rainy day in Seattle on Sunday, which will disrupt the Falcons’ high-powered offense. Matt Ryan will have more trouble throwing in those conditions than he would if the game were played indoors in Atlanta. Russell Wilson, on the other hand, is 29-5 at home in his career and has 56 touchdowns to just 16 interceptions. The Seahawks will have a significant advantage at home this week.
Getty ImagesTom Pennington
Seattle is healthy after the bye
The Seahawks were reeling a bit before the bye with a handful of injuries limiting the offense. Russell Wilson said he is “feeling way better” thanks to the week off, allowing his knee and ankle to heal. Tyler Lockett was also less than 100 percent due to a knee sprain, but head coach Pete Carroll said “he feels a lot better” after the short break. Because of this, and the added week of preparation, the Seahawks will come out firing and should be noticeably sharper on offense.
That’s not to say Seattle will now have the best offense in football, but there’s no doubt teams typically perform better following bye weeks. Since 2012, the Seahawks don’t have the best post-bye record (2-2), but Wilson has been sharp in those games. He has eight touchdowns and just one pick in four games following a bye. He’ll come out firing in this one.