The last time the Seattle Seahawks travelled to Atlanta they were playing for a berth in the NFC championship game. This time they are just trying to put away a 2-6 team that is sputtering through the season. However, as long as the Falcons are at home and Matt Ryan is at the helm they can’t be completely and utterly dismissed. Last week’s game perfectly demonstrated that there is no such thing as an automatic win (except against the Jaguars), you have to go out and play a good game to beat even some of the worse teams in this league. Let’s get to some of the matchups that might help decide this one.
Matchup #1: Richard Sherman vs. Roddy White
Roddy White returns this week but he might have wish he hadn’t. Sherman has a chip on his shoulder for allowing the long touchdown pass to White in the playoffs last year and this might be his chance to exorcise that demon. Earlier in the week Richard Sherman responded “what challenge?” when asked about the challenge of facing Roddy White who has struggled with injuries all year. When he is healthy White is very difficult to cover but it’s hard to say how close to 100% he is right now. You’d have to give the advantage to Sherman in this one.
Matchup #2: Seattle’s horde of pass rushers vs. Sam Baker
The Seahawks have so many pass rushers that they can deploy in different ways that it’s impossible to be specific here. Sam Baker’s performance has ranged from excellent to pretty poor throughout his career and his is having some trouble this year. Baker has never been an elite athlete and I think that in this game he might be overwhelmed by the quantity, quality and speed of the pass rushers the Seahawks have to offer. Getting to Matt Ryan will be essential to winning this game and beating Baker might be the best way to do that.
Matchup #3: Bobby Wagner vs. Steven Jackson
When it comes to the porous run defense the Seahawks have displayed over the last few weeks the bleeding has to stop here. The Falcons are dreadful at running the ball and Jackson hasn’t looked very dangerous. Bobby Wagner has to be the main man here and step up and play the way he did last year. This isn’t a crucial matchup in the sense that they need to stop a potent run game. Instead, they are getting a chance to stuff a lousy running attack and if they cannot it will be an important barometer as to how deep their struggles are.
This is a must win game in the sense that every game is must win for a team chasing the #1 seed. Hopefully it will be a little bit of revenge for last year. Hopefully it will be a little less stressful than last week.