Two weeks running, the Seattle Seahawks have been roughed up by inferior teams who have prime real estate at the bottom of their respective divisions – the St. Louis Rams (currently 3-6, fourth in the NFC West) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (currently 0-8, fourth in the NFC South). This is a week where the Hawks can redeem themselves and play a more complete game – something that continues to elude their offense in particular. And what a perfect opportunity to dominate an opposing team that the Hawks have some history against!
This Sunday, the Seahawks will face their NFC rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, for the first time since Atlanta stole Seattle’s spot in the division championship last year (although let’s face it, with poor defense during the last 31 seconds and Pete Carroll’s bad call icing the kicker – the Hawks deserved that loss).
Here are a few things to know heading into the game:
1) Difference in a Year
This time last year heading into week 10, the Falcons were the Kansas City Chiefs of the 2012 season, with a perfect record of 8-0 (they had a bye week 7). QB Matt Ryan had his best season of his six years in the NFL, with a career-high total passing yards (4,719) and touchdowns (32), plus his best quarterback rating of 74.8.
In his sophomore season, WR Julio Jones also had a breakout year as one of the top receivers in the league with a total of 79 receptions for 1,198 yards and 10 TDs. In addition to Jones, there was TE Tony Gonzalez, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, RB Michael Turner, and WR Roddy White who rounded out the solid offense Atlanta had going that took them all the way to the 2012 NFC Championship game. Even though they lost to the San Francisco 49ers, it was the farthest the Falcons have gone under a Mike Smith/Ryan-led squad (as a franchise, they won the championship back in 1998, but lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII, their only Super Bowl appearance – Seahawk fans know your pain).
But this year, the Falcons are a shadow of their former glory, struggling with their once golden offense, plagued with injuries – missing Jones, out with a foot injury sustained against the New York Jets, and White hampered with a hamstring injury.
2) Falcon Player to Watch: Tony Gonzalez
As a football fan and as a fantasy football owner (yes, he’s on my team!), you’ve got to give this guy some major props. The man is 37 years old, played 17 years in the NFL for two teams – the Chiefs and his current team – and he’s still putting up substantial numbers. One of his breakout games this season came against the New England Patriots. Unfortunately for the Falcons, despite their late surge, they lost a close one, 23-30, but individually speaking, Gonzalez was their top receiver, with 12 catches for 149 yards and two TDs – and about 27 fantasy points, might I add.
Despite cancelling his retirement last season, it looks like the 2013 season will be Gonzalez’s swan song and with the way the Falcons are playing, the last time he’ll face the Seahawks.
3) Game Prediction
With the Falcons’ sad record of 2-6, and their only wins over the Rams and the Bucs (ironically, the two teams that gave the Seahawks unexpected trouble), based on the numbers and depth that the Hawks have over the Atlanta, odds favor Seattle.
However, the problems that the Seahawks had the last two weeks continue, with holes in the O-Line, since T Breno Giacomini and C Max Unger are still out and thus leaving Russell Wilson unprotected and at the mercy of the Falcons’ defense (remember against the Rams, Wilson was sacked seven times, the most in his career). Also missing for the Hawks are key defensive players like DE Red Bryant out with a concussion and SS Kam Chancellor limited by an ankle injury. But then again, it was the defense that pulled off the improbable wins when they stopped the Rams from scoring a TD late in the fourth quarter that would’ve cost the Hawks the game. Then against the Bucs, who went on a scoring tear during the second quarter, the defense was able to adjust, stop their passing game, and allow the offense to catch up and overcome the 17-point deficit.
Despite the wins and having an 8-1 record, the Seahawks need to play better. They have something to prove and they will because they’re better than their last two showings.