Regarded as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, the Seahawks come to Atlanta on Sunday for the divisional round of the playoffs. For many, last week's 24-14 win over the Redskins in the wildcard round was the first time watching the west coast Seahawks.
Although Seattle is a different team with rookie QB Russell Wilson under center this year, the Falcons-Seahawks regular season meeting last year offers some glimpses into what this year's matchup could look like.
The Falcons beat Seattle last season 30-28. This year's breakout cornerback, star Richard Sherman, wasn't yet a consistent starter in 2011, but Seattle's other starting CB Brandon Browner was and the Falcons were able to exploit the matches Seattle gave them to help get Julio Jones 11 catches for 127 yards. Tony Gonzalez added a touchdown and running back Michael Turner chipped in with two rushing scores.
In his career against Seattle, Ryan is 2-0 and although the Falcons are 5-8 all-time against Seattle, they've won the last three meetings and have scored 30 or more points in each of those wins. With the presence of Sherman at corner, the Seattle defense matches up well with Atlanta's top two wideouts, Jones and Roddy White, but the addition of Gonzalez, the team's regular-season reception leader, could spell trouble for Seattle.
The receiving trio of Jones, White and Gonzalez will likely be the best three receivers the Seahawks have faced in a single game this season. They'll likely opt for man-to-man coverage and hope the physically imposing Sherman and Browner can handle Jones and White. Gonzalez will draw from coverage from the linebackers and two-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas, a Pro Bowler again this season in just his third season in the league.
Harry Douglas could also be an interesting factor in the passing game. With Sherman and Browner rising as starters, veteran Marcus Trufant is now the slot cornerback and he and Douglas will battle all Sunday.
This season, the Falcons and Seahawks have faced four common opponents. Seattle was 1-1 against Arizona, won games against Carolina and Dallas and lost one to Detroit. The Falcons beat all of those opponents and their only loss to any of those teams was in the second regular season meeting with the Panthers.
Coming into Sunday, Seattle is riding a six-game win streak and has won eight of its last nine. The Seahawks have scored 20 or more points in 10 straight games and have outscored their opponents during the six-game streak 217-74. Despite their big wins, their Week 17 20-13 win over the St. Louis Rams was a close one and required a fourth-quarter comeback by Wilson.