Arguably the most intriguing game of the entire weekend (save SF-GB), this is finally the game we have all been waiting for though.
Will Matt Ryan get his first ever postseason victory, or will Russell Wilso continue to steamroll the opposition on his way to his second-plus victory?
Marshawn Lynch (foot) has been running like a man possessed all season long and he has tasted the rainbow for quite some time (what does that even mean).
Running behind a physically gifted offensive line should be able to give the Falcons quite the troubles, but playing at home has made up a world of differences for this team.
The Falcons have been quite the resilient group and a lot of that has been their ability to bury teams in the Georgia Dome. Once their offense gets off to a great start, things always take off from there and the likes of Williams Moore and Sean Witherspoon are rocking kids to sleep.
Both are two of the heaviest hitters in the game and while yardage has been given up, the turnover margin is a reason why they are here.
The Falcons were third in the NFC taking the ball away from the opposition on 31 separate occasions and their three star defensive backs have been the main suspects for their success.
Asante Samuel has been one of the more productive defensive backs in recent postseason history (5 INT), but the safety duo of Thomas DeCoud (6 INT) and William Moore (4 INT) has finally given this team a chance to finally breakthrough.
The ball may not be up in the air very often with the way Seattle runs it with Lynch, and Russell Wilson often takes off himself.
Putting seven and often times eight men in the box will be vital in this matchup, and look for some early success if Atlanta grabs hold of an early lead.
The ultimate unit matchup of the entire weekend will be the Seahawks ferocious secondary that features Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Brandon Browner against the Dirty Bird’s explosive playmakers (Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Jacquizz Rodgers, Harry Douglas).
It should be illegal to have corners that are 6’3 and 6’4, but that is what Seattle has brought to the table all year long. Matt Ryan needs to be calm and cool as ever, and more importantly he needs to put together one of his better games together if he expects to come out victorious.
Gonzalez is currently 0-5 in his postseason career, and he should be the X-factor in this one.
Gonzo will be looking at star rookie linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner (Leroy Hill too, specifically safety Kam Chancellor) to slow him down, but the greatest tight end in the history of the NFL is far too improved from a season ago.
Yes, his game has improved and while he isn’t the same player as he was with the Chiefs say five or six years ago, his ability come up with clutch catches at the sticks has meant the world to this offense.
Their lack of a running game is critical and it has played a major role in the postseason, but they have been able to offset that with short, quick routes to Gonzalez and Jacquizz Rodgers.
This Atlanta organization is just 0-3 in the postseason under Mike Smith. On the other side, Pete Carroll has done a tremendous job thus far in his third season with the Seahawks, thanks to what will be his fourth postseason game already.
While the former Trojan coach always won the heavyweight battles (save BCS title ’05-’06 against Texas), he is already 2-1 in the postseason compared to Mike Smith (0-3).
The interesting note is that all of those three teams that defeated Atlanta in the playoffs (last four years) all ended up either winning or playing for the Super Bowl (Giants and Packers won, Cardinals lost).
Times in my eyes have changed in Hotlanta and this defense will rise to the occasion and own the battle of field position with an early defensive stop which will lead to some critical early points.
Matt Bryant is arguably the best kicker in the game whereas Seattle has a major question mark after being forced to sign Ryan Longwell (Steven Hauschka on injured reserve, ankle).
This game very well could come down to a kick and while most experts are still in love with Seattle, the Falcons have used the underdog card all season long. It hasn’t failed them yet and this will finally be their breakthrough in a game that should live up the majority of the hype that it has received.
The Danny V SMH Fact: Since both Denver and Seattle have passed marijuana, both teams have not lost a game yet. Just stating a fact jack!
Time: 1 p.m. Eastern (Sunday)
Experts Pick: ATL by 2.5
Danny V’s Pick: Falcons 27, Seahawks 20
Photo Credits: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d824d9c1c/printable/falcons-hope-bigplay-offense-clicks-for-lateseason-run