When the Seattle Seahawks (11-5) travel to the Georgia Dome to play the Atlanta Falcons (10-6) in the Divisional Round of the 2013 NFL Playoffs, the ensuing battle will be one of the best games fans witness all season.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons are trying to prove critics wrong by finally winning in the playoffs, while the rookie-laden Seahawks are trying to shock the world with a team built on a great rushing attack and a stellar defense.
With a trip to the NFC Championship on the line, each of these tough teams will give everything on Sunday to make this battle one of the best matchups of the year.
When: Sunday, Jan. 13 at 1 p.m. ET
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.
Live Stream: NFL Audio Pass (audio-only live stream)
Spread: Atlanta (-2.5)
Seattle’s Player to Watch: Marshawn Lynch, RB
While the play of rookie Russell Wilson will make-or-break the Seahawks’ offense, the heart and soul of Seattle’s attack is running back Marshawn Lynch.
With one of the most aggressive styles in the NFL, Lynch brutalizes defenses and makes them think twice about getting in his way again. Add in the fact that Atlanta is 21st in the NFL against the run, giving up 123.2 yards on the ground per game, and the veteran will have a career day.
If the Seahawks do not abandon the run—even if they go down on the scoreboard early—the clock control provided by the rushing attack will give their defense enough time to shut down Ryan and the Falcons’ air assault.
Atlanta’s Player to Watch: Matt Ryan, QB
The Atlanta Falcons have achieved an immense amount of success with Matt Ryan under center, but as soon as the calendar changes and the playoffs start, the young QB turns into a different player.
With three losses in his first three starts in the postseason, the Falcons need Ryan to play like the star he is during the regular season if they want to make it all the way to the Super Bowl this year.
To add to Ryan’s issues, the Seahawks boast the sixth-best pass defense in the league—giving up just 203.1 yards per game—but all hope is not lost. With weapons like Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons QB will put up big numbers.
Prediction: Atlanta 34, Seattle 30
While each of these organizations benefited from the outstanding play of their defensive units, this matchup will turn into an all-out offensive showcase.
Led by Ryan, Jones, White and the elite passing attack of the Falcons, there is little doubt this game will feature plenty of offense.
Add in the fact that Lynch and the Seahawks will be running with the same intensity with which they ran against Washington last week, and there is little doubt that Seattle will put up a healthy dosage of points themselves.
Atlanta has better players at the key offensive skill positions, and they will sneak out with a huge win, 34-30.