The Seattle Seahawks got off to a slow start against the Washington Redskins on Sunday night, but they thoroughly dominated the last three quarters to earn their first road playoff win since 1983.
A matchup in Atlanta against the 13-3 Falcons, owners of one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL.
Let's take an early look at this battle, which figures to be one of the best of next weekend's divisional round.
Julio Jones and Roddy White vs. Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner
You can talk about Matt Ryan's 0-3 record, 71.2 QB rating and 3-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the playoffs all you want.
But I'm pretty sure I could throw up 20 lame ducks to Jones and White and still manage at least some type of positive production. The best wide receiver tandem in the NFL is simply too good.
White, the consistent veteran, has pulled in 92 catches for 1,351 yards and seven touchdowns this year in what has become a pretty typical season.
Jones sometimes struggles with inconsistency and injury problems, but when the good Jones shows up, he's arguably the most dangerous wide receiver in the NFL thanks to staggering size, breakaway speed and elite hands. On the year, he pulled in 79 catches for 1,198 yards and 10 scores.
In the words of Dan Patrick from when SportsCenter was actually good, "You can't stop these two, you can only hope to contain them."
Of course, the Seahawks' secondary is capable of containing just about anyone.
Richard Sherman is 6'3". Brandon Browner is 6'4". They—much like the rest of the "Legion of Boom" back four—are incredibly physical. They bring an intense press coverage and do a good job of not letting receivers get necessary clean breaks off the line of scrimmage. They are a good reason why Seattle ranks third in the NFL against the pass and gave up just 84 yards to Robert Griffin III on Sunday.
I'll let Michael Irvin sum this contest up:
Best wide receivers against the most physical corners? Mmm-mmm good, indeed.
Russell Wilson vs. The World
OK, it's actually Russell Wilson vs. Atlanta's defense, but at this point, it seems like the dynamic rookie—if he didn't seem like one of the nicest people on the planet, of course—is on a course of pure vengeance.
He's setting out to prove all the detractors around the country wrong, and he's doing a pretty good job of it.
I could sit here and talk about the plays he makes on the ground, the plays he makes through the air, the blocks he makes for his running back 25 yards down the field, the way he takes care of the ball, the fact that he has transformed Seattle's offense into a dominant unit or the fact that he is incredibly charismatic, but this is all you need to know (via—spoiler—Rainn Wilson):
Russell Wilson is actually my son.— RainnWilson (@rainnwilson) January 6, 2013
The Falcons have struggled on defense this year (20th against the pass, 29th against the run) and if they are going to advance to the conference championship, they have to limit Dwight's son's ability to make huge, game-changing plays.
They've done that to varying levels of success (or lack thereof) against mobile quarterbacks (the only two quarterbacks with more rushing yards than Wilson) this season:
|Opposing QB||QB Rating||Pass Yards||TD/Int||Rushing Attempts||Rushing Yards|
|Cam Newton (Week 4)||119.3||215||2/0||9||86|
|Robert Griffin III (Week 5)||82.9||91||0/0||1||7|
|Cam Newton (Week 14)||110.1||287||2/0||9||116|
The good news for the Falcons faithful is that the Redskins and RGIII run a similar option offense to what the Seahawks have been running more often, and they shut that down for three quarters.
Still, Kroy Biermann, John Abraham and company are going to have to be better than usual against Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, who are the heart and soul of Seattle's offense.