The Atlanta Falcons earned a first-round bye with the No. 2 seed and are using the week to improve and recharge. Take a look at the guys as they prepare for the playoffs.
It should be an exciting weekend of football this weekend as the NFL Playoffs kick off. But for Falcons fans, the attention will be on who will be traveling to Atlanta for the Divisional Round next weekend. If you want to know a little more about the Falcons possible playoff opponents, here's a quick look at three teams they could possibly face next weekend, and what it would take for them to get to Atlanta.
How they get to Atlanta: If they beat the Detroit Lions on Saturday night, they will face the Falcons in Atlanta next Saturday.
How they finished: In their final six games, Seattle did not always look like the contender people are used to. They went 3-3 down the stretch, including a week 16 loss at home to the Cardinals that let control of a first round bye slip away. That also includes a five point outing in Tampa Bay and a hard fought 25-23 win to close out the season against a 49ers team that had lost 14 straight coming into that game.
On offense: Their offense has had an up and down season. But while some of Russell Wilson's numbers haven't been up to par with previous seasons, he is still dangerous. Seattle's biggest issue has been the running game, where they have not been able to replace Marshawn Lynch's production. The Seahawks were 25th in the league in rushing this season, averaging less than 100 yards per game. Even more troubling, they averaged just 3.9 yards per carry.
On defense: They've been really good, as usual. They finished as the #3 scoring defense in the league, giving up just 18.2 points per game. Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom may get the most mentions, but Bobby Wagner has been all over the field for this unit. Wagner led the NFL in tackles this season, with 167. He finished with 18 more than the runner up. He's part of a front seven that have been very difficult to run on this season. The Seahawks gave up just 3.4 yards per carry on defense, the best in the NFL.
How they get to Atlanta: If the Seahawks lose to Detroit tomorrow night, and the Packers knock off the Giants on Sunday afternoon, Green Bay will head to Atlanta for the Divisional Round of the playoffs. In their previous trip to Atlanta this season (Week 8), they lost in a 33-32 shootout to the Falcons when Matt Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu in the final minute for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
How they finished: Red hot. On the verge of exiting the playoff race after ten games, the Packers won their final six games to win the NFC North divisional title. During that stretch, Aaron Rodgers was nearly unstoppable, throwing 15 touchdown passes and no interceptions. In their final four games, they scored at least 30 points in each contest. And their defense held opponents under 30 in every one of those games, which had not been happening prior.
On offense: Aaron Rodgers ended the season as one of the hottest quarterbacks in football. And wide receiver Jordy Nelson is one of the reasons for that. Nelson led the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns and he finished 5th in receptions (97). But while the Packers were dangerous in the passing game, their ground game has run aground. They have the 20th ranked rushing attack in the league. With Eddie Lacy on IR, and James Starks struggling and now injured, Green Bay has turned to wide receiver Ty Montgomery to pace the ground game. And Montgomery is actually providing a spark. He is averaging 5.9 yards on 77 carries. In Week 16, he ran for 162 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Chicago Bears on just 16 carries.
On defense: Ten games into the season, Green Bay's defense looked like it was falling apart. Injuries had helped fuel a 4-game slide that saw them give up at least 31 points in each contest during that span, the last two of which they surrendered 47 and 42. And a slew of injuries at linebacker and cornerback were making it difficult to figure out who was in the lineup. They've been susceptible to the pass this year, giving up a league-worst 8.1 yards per pass. But over the course of the final six games, this group has been much stingier, surrendering just 18.7 points per game during that stretch. And they can be disruptive. They were fourth in the league with 17 interceptions and they tied for #6 with 40 sacks.
How they get to Atlanta: For the Giants make it to Atlanta, two upsets would need to occur this weekend. The Lions would need to go into Seattle and beat the Seahawks, and then the Giants would have to beat the Packers at Lambeau Field. But Eli Manning has done this before. He led the Giants to a 2011 Divisional Round upset at Lambeau Field against a 15-1 Packers team following what may have been Aaron Rodgers greatest regular season.
How they finished: The Giants won 9 of their last 11 games. But there were signs of trouble at the end of that run. Both of the losses came in the back half of that span, and their offense failed to break 20 points in their final five games.
On offense: Odell Beckham had a great year. The rest of the numbers are not as great. Beckham's 101 receptions were third-best in the league, and he finished with 1,367 receiving yards. But he accounted for over one-third of Eli Manning's passing yards, and the Giants finished 17th in passing offense despite Beckham's production. And the real issues were on the ground. New York struggled to run the ball all year, and finished 29th in the NFL in rushing offense. They averaged just 3.5 yards per carry for the season, the worst average of any team in the playoffs.
On defense: New York spent big money in free agency on this side of the ball, and it seems to have worked. New York finished with the #10 total defense in the league. Better yet, they boast the #2 scoring defense, having given up just 17.8 points per game in 2016. In fact, they never gave up 30 points in a game all season, and in their final 13 games, they never surrendered more than 24 points. That's even more impressive considering their offense didn't exactly keep them off the field. The Giants offense finished the season ranked #29 in time of possession.