Peter Konz will be the X-factor on Atlanta's way to victory against the Seahawks Sunday.
Call me crazy, but the rookie has been very average this season, never excellent, but not terrible either. However, he is a rookie who converted from center to right guard and had to earn his way into the starting lineup.
Now that he's settled in with 10 games under his belt, it's safe to say he's seen and matched up against some extremely good players. It's also a pretty good assumption that he's had a shot to learn the Falcons scheme and NFL techniques how to block guys out of plays.
Konz could truly be the one player who brings the Falcons from the playoff doldrums into the playoff spotlight. His play will be key and he should be the one who excels on this stage more than anyone else.
Late Season Slump Myth
As a rookie, there's always a question about the "rookie wall," so to speak and it looked like Konz hit one in his final three games of the season. Accoording to ProFootballFocus, he registered grades of -1.3 versus the Giants, -4.2 versus the Lions and a -1.1 versus the Buccaneers.
He also looked to have trouble versus the Panthers in the second game Atlanta played versus them, registering a -1.0. However, looking at his competition, they look to be the fiercest he played all season.
Against Carolina, he drew a rotation of defensive ends that the Panthers hadn't been using all year and had no film from which to study. Against the Lions and Buccaneers, though, he got two of the top four defensive tackles in the NFL: Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy and vs. the Giants, Chris Canty is no slouch, either.
When you are going up against some of the most talented players to play the position in the league today, it makes it tough to have good games. He showed that he could compete with the best, but still needs time to adjust to the NFL game before he does. He won't have that problem against Seattle.
Konz Matches Up Well
While defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch both look like solid matchups for the Seahawks in this one, it wouldn't shock me to see that the rookie has been polishing his technique and stuffing the pair. With Todd McClure able to call multiple blitzes out at the line, this should make it much easier as well.
Mebane and Branch are both average pass rushers at best. They aren't the dynamic pass rushers that McCoy and Suh are; the type of players who will force multiple double teams in the passing game.
Who will win this week?
This will hurt the overall Seahawks pass rush. Without being able to create pressure on the inside, the Seahawks pass rush will have trouble getting to Matt Ryan and disrupting him. If Atlanta can get the passing game going, their running game will follow nicely.
Factor in that Konz has improved as a run blocker all season long and this could be one of those dark horse match-ups, in which the rookie saves the day in the playoffs. Atlanta's biggest problem last season against the Giants was their pass protection.
Konz could be the man who puts the playoff game in Atlanta's favor this season.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.