Atlanta will try turn around their recent playoff fortunes when they host Seattle, while the Seahawks will try to dispel the notion that they are a much worse team on the road, particularly when traveling back to the East Coast. Seattle is the fifth West Coast team to play consecutive road playoff games in the Eastern Time Zone:
- 1981 San Diego Chargers: played famous OT game at Miami, lost at Cincinnati 27-7 as 4.5 point underdogs in AFC Championship Game.
- 1982 San Diego Chargers: won at Pittsburgh, lost at Miami in rematch from previous year 34-13 as 1.5 point favorite in Divisional Round.
- 1989 Los Angeles Rams: won at Philadelphia, won at the Giants in OT 19-13 in Divisional Round as 3 point underdog.
- 2007 San Diego Chargers: won at Indianapolis, lost at undefeated New England 21-12 as a 14 pt underdog in AFC Championship Game.
Seattle won the game last week thanks to Robert Griffin’s injury limiting the Redskins offense, and also due to their own ball control in the middle of the game. It took some effort because they did not finish in the red zone (notably Lynch’s goal line touchdown) but they eventually came through.
Atlanta has had two weeks to get healthy and get ready for this game. There are many similarities between this matchup and Green Bay two years ago, going against the hot wild card team with a very good point differential and efficiency rating coming in. We’ve seen Seattle incorporate more read option in recent weeks, with Russell Wilson becoming more involved as a runner paired with Marshawn Lynch. Over half of his rushing yards on the season came in the final five weeks, and he added 67 yards against Washington.
That’s the big wildcard in this game when Seattle is on offense. Atlanta won against Washington and Griffin, knocking him out of the game, though Griffin really didn’t run in that game until the one that led to the concussion. It’s not something the defensive ends and linebackers see regularly, and we’ll see early on whether they can contain Lynch on inside runs without leaving Wilson free to hurt them.
On the other side, we have one of those strength on strength matchups, with Seattle’s big cornerbacks going up against Julio Jones and Roddy White. The winner of this game will likely be the one that wins those individual matchups more often. Add in safety Earl Thomas getting involved opposite Tony Gonzalez and routes to the middle of the field, and this one should be fantastic. Also, because of those matchups, don’t sleep on Jacquizz Rodgers, he is a valuable target on third downs and someone that Seattle will make sure does not pick them apart. This doesn’t seem like the kind of matchup that would favor Michael Turner at all (not many do at this point), which probably means he will do something crazy.
Chris Clemons was the other notable injury from last weekend in Washington, and one that will actually have an impact. Bruce Irvin will have an expanded role as a result.
This should be a fantastic toss up game. I went with Atlanta, playing at home, as a team with playmakers that can win those individual matchups, though Seattle is a tough draw. Nothing would surprise me here, and I guess that is how the playoffs should be.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]