Seahawks vs. Falcons: X-Factors Who Must Spark Seattle

David Daniels@TheRealDDanielsSenior Writer IJanuary 11, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 14: Bruce Irvin #51 of the Seattle Seahawks stands on the sidelines before a game against the New England Patriots at CenturyLink Field on October 14, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks beat the Patriots 24-23. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks’ stars won’t be enough to beat the Atlanta Falcons.

Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman didn’t carry the Seahawks to outscore their Week 14-16 opponents by 120 points. It was a complete team effort, and that’s what they’re going to need to upset the Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Here are three key role players who must play a major part in that team effort.

3. Brandon Browner

Sherman and Earl Thomas get the vast majority of the attention that Seattle’s secondary receives. Brandon Browner is a stud too, though, and he must play up to his potential against Atlanta’s elite wide receiver duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones.

The 6’0”, 211-pound White and 6’3”, 220-pound Jones have the size to overwhelm most cornerbacks, but not the 6’4”, 221-pound Browner. If he manages to shut down his matchup, Seattle will keep it close throughout.

2. Zach Miller

In the Falcons’ two meaningful losses, opposing tight ends had huge outings against them. Jimmy Graham blew up for seven receptions, 146 yards and two touchdowns, while Greg Olson caught four balls for 55 yards and a touchdown. Zach Miller, the Seahawks’ third-leading receiver, will have the opportunity to do the same on Sunday.

But even if he doesn’t put up huge numbers through the air, he can still impact the game as a blocker, protecting Lynch and Wilson. While he was primarily a receiving tight end with the Oakland Raiders, he’s developed into a balanced one under Pete Carroll.

1. Bruce Irvin

Bruce Irvin hasn’t done much more than rush the passer this season, but due to Chris Clemons’ season-ending knee injury, he’ll start against Atlanta. His focus hasn’t changed, though—he must still harass Matt Ryan. If the Falcons’ quarterback has all day to throw, White, Jones and Tony Gonzalez will get open.

After recording just one sack in the final six weeks of the regular season, Irving made his presence felt against the Washington Redskins, recording a sack and pass deflection. Pressuring Matty Ice into melting once again is vital to the Seahawks’ upset effort.

David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.