Before the season began, I wrote this article, predicting a Hawks win this week, 27-23. My thinking was that the Hawks would have had three games for the offense to find a rhythm, and the defense would allow a lot of yards, but hold the Falcons to mostly field goals. I still maintain the Hawks have a very good shot at winning, though I’d like to shave a few points off my predicted score; I don’t think it will be a shootout as I once anticipated. Below, I’ve revisited the four major reasons I expect(ed) a win, and they still hold, mostly, true.
Schedule/ Momentum/ Morale
The Falcons, a team touted as a Super Bowl contenter is currently 1-2 primarily because of a tough schedule and underperforming offensive line. They’re coming off a tough, three point loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa, and now have to head to the stadium formerly known as Qwest. The Falcons will be looking to get back to .500, as their game next week against the Packers will be a bigger test than the one tomorrow in Seattle. I expect the Falcons to give this game everything they have, as another loss would put them at 1-3 and farther into last place of the highly competitive NFC South.
The Seahawks are coming off a hard fought win in their home opener against a bitter rival. I expect them (as I wrote) to ride this high. I really thought the team chemistry improved last week. They showed a visciousness on defense I haven’t seen on this team for a while. The offensive line should be more confident after a decent showing, and that confidence and chemistry should relate to better production on the field. In addition, this will be the first consecutive game starting the same O-line.
The Seahawks defense really is the key to winning this game. I’ve been impressed with their red zone and goal line defense thus far. They’ll give up some big plays, lets not kid ourselves; with guys like Roddy White and Julio Jones, Matt Ryan is going to connect on some deep bombs. Browner is outmatched by either of them because of his speed, and both are significantly bigger than Trufant. Will we see Thurmond get some action, I don’t know, but I don’t expect the cornerbacks to contain both wide receivers. The key is keeping them out of the endzone. If they can limit big plays, I have confidence in this defense to give up field goals over touchdowns and keep the offense in the game.
The key to a Hawk win, and Keith touched on this earlier in his 6-Pack, is the Seahawks defensive line. The Falcons O-line has struggled thus far, and in opposition, our D-line has been surprisingly effective. Mebane has been able to penetrate into the backfield, Red is still stout against the run, and Clemons and Brock are continuing to look like a formidable sack tandem. If the line can stop the run, which I think they will, and pressure Ryan enough to make some bad throws, the Seahawks will win this game. But if the D Line can’t stop Turner, and can’t pressure Ryan, we’ll see deja vu of last year’s embarassment and get blown out for the second time this season.
Well, I was right. The 49ers game was messy. The Hawks have also looked to grow and play better as a team every game. Sidney Rice is a new Hawk force and the current O-line will be starting it’s second consecutive game together. There’s no denying the Falcons have superior talent at important positions (*cough* quarterback *cough*), but the Seahawks have shown an ability to take certain skill sets from players and make the most out of them. We do have a talented football team- so far it’s just been a matter of team chemistry, continuity, familiarity, confidence, what have you. I expect to see the offense click on a few drives (which I hope go for TDs) but to also experience (more) growing pains on others. I expect the defense to continue its newfound ferocity and hopefully make some plays (a Thomas pick 6 would work).
Home Field Advantage
If you’re going to this game, leave your Charlie chants and suck for Luck bull**** at the f***ing door. The 12th Man needs to be in full support of this team WINNING. Winning NOW. Fandom isn’t about hoping for your team to lose. With a win tomorrow, the Seahawks have a chance to show the world they can ball with the big boys. Two weeks ago, they looked like the worst team in the league. Last week, they looked like an average team. With a win against the Falcons, the Seahawks can show they belong back in the talk of an NFC West championship. The CLink crowd should be jacked about this; they need to help their team pull out a win over a far superior team, one with an edge in expereience, continuity, talent, nearly everything. Help Mebane, Red, and Clemons have huge days. Put them in 1st and 15 situations. 2nd and 13. 3rd and 9. Give that offense hell.
Final prediction: Hawks win 20- 16. D Line pressures Ryan all day, stops the run, and the secondary makes plays. Falcons get three field goals and score on a deep bomb to Julio Jones. Rice scores his first TD as a Hawk. Washington breaks a screen pass for a TD. Optimistic? Sure, but not excessively unlikely. The D line needs to step up and Jackson needs to put the ball in the hands of his playmakers. Carroll knows this, Bevell knows this, Bradley knows this. The players just have to execute, otherwise it will be a Falcons blowout.