Atlanta Falcons
NFC Divisional Playoff 2017: 5 Reasons Falcons Will Win vs. Seahawks
Atlanta Falcons

NFC Divisional Playoff 2017: 5 Reasons Falcons Will Win vs. Seahawks

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 10:34 p.m. ET

The Atlanta Falcons couldn’t prevail over the Seattle Seahawks earlier this season, but their Divisional Round bout could see a different outcome.

Armed with potential MVP Matt Ryan at the quarterback position, the Atlanta Falcons have been one of the best teams in the NFL this season. They have produced two separate four-game winning streaks this season, and the Falcons have quickly become a scary team under head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Even though the Falcons had a better record in the regular season than the Seattle Seahawks (11-5 to 10-5-1), the visitors look like the favorites on paper. Seattle made quick work of the Detroit Lions in the Wild Card Round, winning 26-6.

Thomas Rawls is one of the best three rushers in the league when he’s on his game, and he clearly was last week against the Lions. Beyond that, the Seahawks are an experienced playoff team with an elite defense, and few teams have a better coaching staff.


The Seahawks are one of the toughest postseason draws, but here are five reasons why the Falcons can continue their excellent season with a win in the divisional round.

Dec 18, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the 49ers 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

5. The NFL’s Best Offense

We all know how tough the Seahawks defense is, but you could argue that the Falcons may have an advantage against Seattle’s defense. Peyton Manning‘s Denver Broncos can attest to the fact that the Seahawks have a way of embarrassing top offenses. But the Seahawks won’t have free safety Earl Thomas, arguably the team’s most important player after Russell Wilson, on the field.

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    That boosts the Falcons offense further. Atlanta led the league in points per game, was second in yards per game, and led the league with an average of 8.2 net yards per pass attempt. If the MVP award is given to the player with the best numbers, then Matt Ryan should run away with it. Not only was he the man in charge of this league-best offense, but he also topped all quarterbacks in QB Rating, yards per attempt, and TD percentage.

    If the MVP award is given to the player who overcame an unfavorable supporting cast, then Ryan should not win this award. While Ryan was one of the best five quarterbacks in the league this past season, he had some of the best skill position players in the league. Julio Jones is uncoverable, Taylor Gabriel can take over games if defenses focus on Jones too much, and Mohamed Sanu quietly became one of the league’s more consistent No. 2 receivers. More importantly, the Falcons running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman helped the team finish fifth in rushing yards and rushing yards per attempt.

    Atlanta scored 33.8 points per game, and it’s funny to think that the team hit this average two years after Roddy White predicted they would (because, you know, White is gone after he held back the offense in 2015).

    Oct 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) runs the ball against Denver Broncos strong safety T.J. Ward (43) and inside linebacker Brandon Marshall (54) and free safety Darian Stewart (26) in the third quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Falcons won 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    4. League-Leading Offensive Turnover Rate

    Putting up gaudy numbers is impressive, and the Falcons certainly did that by leading the league in points per game. However, against an opportunistic defense like Seattle’s, it is critical for an offense to avoid making mistakes. We’ve seen Kam Chancellor turn turnovers in points on multiple occasions in the postseason, and the damager of souls was involved in three more turnovers this past season.

    The Falcons turned the ball over just 11 times as an offense last season, so they had the fewest number of turnovers of any team in 2016 (tied with Tom Brady‘s New England Patriots). It is worth noting, however, that they turned the ball over multiple times in a game just once, and that performance came against the Seahawks in that regular-season loss.

    I’d give credit to Ryan for holding onto the ball, and it is true that he threw just seven interceptions and is always one of the league’s most accurate quarterbacks. However, the real credit goes to running backs Coleman and Freeman. They put the ball on the ground just once each, whereas Ryan had four total fumbles to his name. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers lost fewer fumbles than the Falcons.

    Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (97), outside linebacker Vic Beasley (44), and tackle Jake Matthews (70) run onto the field before their game against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

    3. Home-Field Advantage

    Playing on the road against the Seahawks is one of the toughest tasks in the NFL, but the Falcons don’t have to make that journey to CenturyLink Field. Matt Ryan has a 98.9 QB Rating at home for his career versus an 89.1 QB Rating on the road. He completes a higher percentage of his passes and throws fewer interceptions at home, and the latter is worth underscoring. Takeaways mean more than ever to the Seahawks with Thomas out of the picture.

    What makes the home-field advantage so beneficial to the Falcons is the fact that the Seahawks have been inconsistent on the road this season as an offense. They have scored 3, 6, 5, and 10 points on the road on four occasions this season. The Seahawks lost to the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams, and Green Bay Packers on the road. They also tied the Arizona Cardinals and barely squeezed a Week 17 win over a San Francisco 49ers team that already fired their head coach in two other road games.

    The Falcons defense finished 27th in the NFL in points allowed per game and 25th in yards allowed per game. Thanks to players like Robert Alford and Vic Beasley, the Falcons defense is no longer a joke, and they have been able to weather the storm without star corner Desmond Trufant. That said, the defense remains a weakness, and playing at home against a Seahawks team that has put up some duds on the road could give Atlanta’s unit an underrated boost.

    The numbers back up the narrative. On the road, the Falcons surrender 7.1 yards per attempt with a 97.7 QB Rating. At home, those numbers go down to 5.6 and 85.1, respectively. This is similar to the average league splits, though the Falcons QB Rating allowed improves at home by 5.1 points more than the league averages would dictate.

    Dec 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) celebrates after throwing a 64-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    2. Winning Streak

    As the 2009 New Orleans Saints and 2012 Baltimore Ravens taught us, teams can still win the Super Bowl despite having lost several games heading into the postseason. However, the 2010 Green Bay Packers showed us that it can’t hurt to ride a winning streak into the playoffs.

    The Atlanta Falcons have won their last four games, and only the New Orleans Saints kept it close. In those games, the Falcons never scored less than 33 points. In fact, Atlanta has been held under 20 points just once this season, and that game was also the only time they lost by more than one score. This loss came on Nov. 13 against the Philadelphia Eagles, which means more than two months will have past since that date when the Falcons and Seahawks face off.

    Since that loss to the Eagles, the Falcons only defeat came at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs. That 29-28 defeat seems fluky, as Atlanta lost on a pick-two to Eric Berry.

    After the Falcons lost to the Chiefs, their record dropped to 7-5. At the time, it seemed like the Falcons were at risk of losing the division, since the Buccaneers were making a charge. The Falcons winning streak began with a blowout win over the Los Angeles Rams the following week, and they haven’t looked back since.

    Nov 22, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) drops back to pass as guard Andy Levitre (67) and offensive tackle Jake Matthews (70) block in the first quarter of their game against the Indianapolis Colts at the Georgia Dome. The Colts won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

    1. Elite Offensive Line

    There’s no doubt in my mind that the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders have the best offensive lines in the NFL, but the Atlanta Falcons should come in third place on that shortlist. Based on what the Falcons had at the center position, Alex Mack looked like a game-changing signing. He’s been so good this season that he might be the best center in the NFL right now, and Mack has turned one of the biggest weaknesses on the roster into a real strength.

    Elsewhere, the Falcons have an excellent tackle duo, as Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder have picked up where they left off last year. On the inside, guard Andy Levtire has turned his career around. The former massive free agent bust for the Tennessee Titans has never gotten back to his status as one of the best guards in the league—a designation he held while with the Buffalo Bills—but he has been a solid player in Atlanta.

    Chris Chester is the Falcons lone weak spot on the line. While he is a liability, he does have plenty of experience working with Kyle Shanahan. All of the members of the Falcons offensive line have contributed to keeping Ryan’s jersey clean, and they have paved the way for arguably the best running back duo in the NFL.

    The success of the Falcons offensive line should be a big storyline this week because of the unit they will be facing on Saturday. Seattle led the league with just 3.4 yards per carry allowed this season, and their somewhat under-appreciated run defense will give Coleman and Freeman all they can handle.

    It will be up to the Falcons offensive line to keep the Seahawks run defense from swallowing up their star backs, and it will also be up to the line to stymie one of the NFL’s best pass rushing trios. Michael Bennett, Frank Clark, and Cliff Avril have recorded 26.5 sacks this season, and both Bennett and Avril tend to be at their best in the postseason.


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