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3 Matchups to Watch During Falcons at Seahawks

Posted Oct 15, 2016

The Falcons will look for the their fifth-consecutive win on Sunday when they face off against the Seattle Seahawks. Here are three matchups to watch from CenturyLink Field.

WR Jones versus CB Sherman

Richard Sherman has yet to face a wide receiver this season of Julio Jones’ caliber. Likewise, Jones has not faced a cornerback as well-regarded as Sherman in 2016. If Sherman follows Jones around on Sunday — and reports say that’s likely — it’ll be the biggest individual matchup of the game.

"Richard’s a great guy,’’ Jones told ESPN. "We hung out a few times. We have respect for each other’s games. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a great battle. He’s not going to shy away from competition, and neither will I. It’s going to be fun. It’s going be a great matchup.

"Just a very intelligent guy. He studies a lot of film. You can’t give him any indicators pre-snap. He will take full advantage of that. And just his length and ball skills.’’

Sherman enters Week 6 with two interceptions, good for third in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, QBs have targeted him 20 times this season, completing only eight of those throws for 108 yards and a touchdown.

Jones’ 517 receiving yards and three touchdown catches both rank third in the NFL.

Atlanta’s front seven versus QB Wilson

Russell Wilson has been hindered by a couple lower-body injuries this year, but following Seattle’s bye week, he said he’s “feeling great” and is expected to impact the run game. The three-time Pro Bowler averaged 607.5 rushing yards per season from 2012-15 and has proven he can burn opponents with his legs. It’ll be up to Atlanta’s front seven to contain Wilson — in the pocket and in open space.

"He looks great and that’s a great sign for us,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said about Wilson. “The threat that he poses is always a benefit and has always been a benefit to our running game. He’s averaging one yard a carry right now, that’s not the guy we know. So as he comes back to full speed and he can be the factor, then it affects everything.”

The Falcons linebackers will be important in pass defense, too. Tight end Jimmy Graham recently found his stride, registering 12 catches, 213 yards and a touchdown in his last two games.

Seattle’s LBs versus Atlanta’s RBs

Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have combined for an astounding 1,000 yards this year, and 430 of them have come through the air. Both of Atlanta’s running backs are threats in the passing game — as the Broncos learned a week ago — and if Matt Ryan can get the ball to them on Sunday, the Seahawks will have a hard time slowing down the NFL’s most productive offense.

Seattle linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright will likely spend a lot of time covering Freeman and Coleman. In four games, the two have allowed 24 completions on 35 targets for 222 yards, per PFF.

“Teams usually split out running backs and send them on seam routes but never throw it to them,” Wright told The Seattle Times. “But this team actually sends these guys vertical and (Ryan is) actually looking at them like a number one target.

“We definitely have our hands full. But it’s going to be fun for us.”