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Sunday's 1:00PM ET Game

Seattle @ Atlanta

A primary concern for Seattle's defense in this matchup is generating pressure. The Seahawks lost sack leader Chris Clemons to a season-ending knee injury in last week's win at Washington, and their pass rush was struggling before that. Seattle has managed ten combined sacks in its last eight games, including just three the past three weeks. Matt Ryan is capable of picking apart any defense from a clean pocket. Absorbing only four sacks over the final three regular-season games, Ryan completed 76-of-104 passes (73.1 percent) for 787 yards (7.57 YPA), and an 8:0 TD-to-INT ratio.

At the same time, working in the Seahawks' favor is the physical corner duo of LCB Richard Sherman and RCB Brandon Browner, who will match up with Roddy White and Julio Jones. Browner limited Redskins go-to receiver Pierre Garcon to 50 scoreless yards on four catches in the Wild Card Round, and no other Washington wideout cleared 30 yards. Based on where they lined up on the field for most of 2012, Jones can expect to square off with Browner often Sunday while Sherman sticks to White.

Because Seattle fields the premier cornerback tandem in this year's playoffs, it's fair to argue that Pete Carroll's club matches up with Atlanta's pass-first offense better than any team left in the postseason. Tony Gonzalez would seemingly be the Falcons' best way to attack a Seahawks defense that can shut down the perimeter. Perhaps the first-round playoff bye will rejuvenate 36-year-old Gonzalez, but he struggled to get open down the stretch, averaging 44.7 yards over Atlanta's final seven games. He averaged 68.6 in the first nine.

Atlanta is the most disciplined team in the NFL, setting league records this season for penalties accepted and penalty yardage. Mike Smith's club also finished top-five in turnover margin. This team doesn't make many mistakes. On the other hand, Smith's playoff history is abominable. He's 0-3 lifetime in the postseason with a combined scoring margin of 102-47. Smith's Falcons have been blown out 48-21 and 24-2 in their last two playoff tries.

Although the Seahawks' run defense was a bit up and down this season, it shut down the Redskins' No. 1-ranked rush offense for the final three quarters of the Wild Card Round. After allowing 61 first-quarter rushing yards at Washington, the Seahawks settled down and permitted 43 yards over the final three frames. Offensively, rushing offense is Atlanta's weakness. The Falcons finished the season 29th in both rush yards per game (87.3) and yards per carry (3.69). Turning 31 next month, lead back Michael Turner needs outstanding blocking to be sprung for successful runs, and Seattle's defensive team speed is capable of bottling up scatback Jacquizz Rodgers. If the Seahawks' front seven plays as stoutly as it did for most of the Redskins game, it can render Atlanta's offense one dimensional.

There is a perception that Russell Wilson struggles on the road, and that was true early in the season. But he made major strides over the course of 2012, posting a 2:7 TD-to-INT ratio in his initial four away games before improving to 8:1 in the past five. The home-away factor still works in Atlanta's favor, but not nearly to the extent it might have before.

Despite the improvement of Wilson and recognition he's received as a serious Rookie of the Year contender, the Seahawks' offensive backbone is the run game. Playcaller Darrell Bevell hasn't strayed from it all year. After finishing the season third in rushing offense, Wilson and Marshawn Lynch poured 28 combined attempts for 199 yards (7.11 YPC) and a touchdown on Washington's top-five run defense in the Wild Card victory. Seattle imposes its will on the ground, and it's the one area in which Bevell and Carroll own a decided edge on Atlanta. The Falcons' front seven is easily moved in the run game, ranking 21st in regular-season run defense and 29th in yards per carry allowed (4.80). A poor tackling team, Atlanta surrendered 863 rush yards after contact in 2012, the second highest total in all of football.

Seattle's 24-14 Wild Card win over Washington looks rather convincing on paper, but it could've been much more so. Wilson flat missed two would-be touchdown bombs on throws downfield, and No. 2 tight end Anthony McCoydropped another potential score. The Seahawks must make good on those kinds of opportunities in order to knock off 13-3 Atlanta.

Look for Sidney Rice to run most of his pass patterns Sunday against Falcons LCB Asante Samuel, while Golden Tate takes on RCB Dunta Robinson. Atlanta's backend matches up well with Seattle's receivers. Tate's bread and butter is run after catch, and Robinson is arguably the premier tackling cornerback in football. Getting open against Samuel is a struggle in and of itself, and some teams discourage their quarterbacks from challenging him at all because Samuel is such a proficient jumper of routes. Unless one somehow catches a break -- like an Atlanta blown coverage -- neither Rice nor Tate seems likely to have a particularly big game.

In-line tight end Zach Miller stepped up for a team-high 48 yards on four receptions against the Redskins, while Doug Baldwin and fullback Michael Robinson combined for four more grabs, 62 yards, and a touchdown. Robinson, Baldwin, Miller, and the aforementioned McCoy are complementary players in Bevell's offense, but they are capable of efficient football when opportunities arise. If Rice and Tate struggle to get open, as predicted here, a big play from explosive slot man Baldwin could be the difference in this game.

Score Prediction: Seahawks 24, Falcons 23

Some things I don't agree with is using the Redskins game to show what the Seahawks run defense is capable of. After losing RG3 and Garcon, it becomes pretty easy to shut down anything the Skins try to do. That is too often omitted. He pointed to how Browner shut down Garcon, but not how Garcon was hobbled in the first quarter and barely useful after his shoulder injury.

Another thing is how he does't see Rice or Tate having particularly good games and the rest of the WR corps is just a bunch of complementary but still predicts 24 points. Does Lynch score 2 TDs or more? He's only had 1 game with more than 1 rushing TD and that was in the Arizona blow out. Other than that, he had 1 TD in every game he's scored. No 2 rushing TD games. He did have a 1 rushing and 1 receiving game. So 15 out of 17 games, he had 1 or 0 TDs.

Overall, it's an ok analysis, something to read, but it's clear he is pulling for Seattle as you read more of it.

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Guest Negatorris

After we beat 'The hottest team in the NFL' they'll say the same about the Niners next week.

"Can the Falcons stop the red hot Niners and Colin Kaepernick?"

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After we beat 'The hottest team in the NFL' they'll say the same about the Niners next week.

"Can the Falcons stop the red hot Niners and Colin Kaepernick?"

Yea it'll be "The Falcons can't do anything to stop Kaepernick and the Niners are too physical for them to have a chance".
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After we beat 'The hottest team in the NFL' they'll say the same about the Niners next week.

"Can the Falcons stop the red hot Niners and Colin Kaepernick?"

Yea

Also, why is Seattle labeled he hot team in the first place? They did blow out the Niners in week 16 but looked far from hot vs the Skins.

The media can go suck one!!!

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