FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta has only three games away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium remaining this season, but the first of those carries big implications in shaping the NFC.
The Falcons (5-4) will face the Seahawks (6-3) for the third time in the past two seasons, and if the upcoming contest on "Monday Night Football" is anything like the last two games between these two teams, it should be a good one.
Let's dive into this week's key matchup.
KEY MATCHUP: Falcons' front seven vs. Russell Wilson
This season, the Falcons have faced a number of mobile quarterbacks. Russell Wilson may be the most dangerous runner among them.
Wilson is the Seahawks' leading rusher through the first 10 weeks of the season, gaining 290 yards and a touchdown on 51 carries. He is also third among all quarterbacks with 2,543 passing yards, and Wilson has thrown 19 touchdowns to only six interceptions.
Seattle has yet to establish a traditional, running back-oriented ground game this year, meaning Wilson is the most dangerous runner and also touches the ball more than any player. Over the last two weeks, the Falcons have had mixed results defending mobile quarterbacks.
Against the Panthers, Cam Newton gained 86 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, keeping several drives alive and making big plays with his legs. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott didn't have a bad day running the ball, carrying it six times for 42 yards and a touchdown, but the Falcons' defense generally harassed him for most of the afternoon and did a better job keeping him in the pocket.
Atlanta's ability to contain Wilson could be a central theme on Monday night.
"Some people scramble to run way back deep in the pocket when the play breaks down," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of Wilson. "Some people remain a passer just as long as they can. He's got a little bit of both. He'll remain a passer, but when the opportunity is there to take a deep shot down the field, he's got a very strong arm. He's willing to do that. I guess that's on a designed pass play. On the designed runs that he's an option threat that way, those are by design, and if the look is there to pull it and run, then he does.
"When you look at all of his yards, they're not all on designed quarterback runs. Quite a few of them are on the ones that he extends himself on a pass play, so strong arm, excellent competitor, at his best when he's on the move, and he's an excellent two-minute player. He's got real command of what they do, how they do it, and good chemistry with the receivers. It'll be a full challenge for us."
Five more things to know about Falcons-Seahawks 1. Jeremy Lane is expected to handle Richard Sherman's duties
Reports indicate that Jeremy Lane will slot into a starting role after Richard Sherman's season-ending ACL injury. Lane will fill in for Sherman on the left side of the defense, while rookie Shaquille Griffin will start on the right side.
"Fortunately, we have starters available to us to go up and step in," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said during a conference call with the Atlanta media. "Jeremy Lane and Shaq Griffin have been starting during this season. So, we are fortunate to have (those) kind of guys answer it. We expect our guys to jump up and take full advantage of the opportunity." 2. Falcons won't change much without Freeman
If Devonta Freeman isn't cleared from the NFL's concussion protocol before Monday's game, it will surely have an impact from a personnel perspective but won't change much schematically. The Falcons have plenty of trust in Tevin Coleman as their starting running back, and they feel they won't have to change their offense with him as the lead guy.
"There's always ones that we like to feature with certain guys, but we'll definitely lean on him more if Free is not able to go," Quinn said of Coleman. "The plays that we use, oftentimes they're the same ones, and there are a few that we have that are specific to both of them, but we'll lean on him more for sure." 3. Seattle has one of the league's top linebacker duos
While the Seahawks' secondary gets most of the attention, they have a pair of linebackers who are among the very best in football. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are extremely active at the heart of Seattle's defense. Wagner is second in the NFL with 84 tackles, and he also has two turnovers, while Wright is eleventh with 73 tackles.
"To watch these guys excel in the defense and now become the leaders of the defense, it's amazing, because you know they put the time in," Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel said of Seattle's linebacker duo. "Physical ability to cover, what you ask a linebacker to do from that standpoint. Not just smart, but very instinctual. … You've got to respect those two guys, because they bring it every week." 4. Clayborn's role won't change after six-sack performance
Don't expect the Falcons to start trying to feature Adrian Clayborn in a different role after his six-sack explosion against the Dallas Cowboys. Clayborn is a veteran, dependable guy and he is a big part of Atlanta's defensive line rotation, but those types of outings are of the rarest occurrence.
"We'll stay consistently right in his role, but all the things that he brings to us, that part we're totally counting on," Quinn said of Clayborn. 5. Despite recent success, Falcons trail Seahawks in head-to-head matchupsThe Falcons split their meetings with the Seahawks last season, but they won the one that mattered. Since 2007, Atlanta has a strong 5-2 record against Seattle, but this is the only positive stretch for the Falcons between these two teams, as the Seahawks own a 10-7 all-time series record.