NFL Week 6 Preview: Seahawks vs. Falcons
The Seahawks enter week six facing their biggest challenge thus far in the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons head to CenturyLink Field (the Clink) after taking an impressive victory in Denver, beating the Broncos 26-16. This Falcons victory was made all the more impressive by their star wide out, Julio Jones only hauling in two catches for 29 yards on the day. The Falcons clearly planned to make Denver’s ILBs (inside linebackers) their target for manipulation and had great success doing so, utilizing running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to carry the ball AND catch passes to the tune of 119 yards on the ground, and another 167 yards through the air. Will the Falcons enjoy similar success in Seattle? Probably not…
On offense, the Falcons did a great job of targeting what they considered to be Denver’s weakness defensively, and they did it with such effectiveness that there was no need to try and force feed Julio Jones. However, I would not consider Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright to be nearly as vulnerable in coverage and against the run as Denver’s linebackers were, and I fully expect the defensive line to do its job in anchoring what has been one of the league’s top rushing defenses in the Seahawks. Defensively, the Falcons looked deceptively effective. Vic Beasley, Jr. had a career game on Sunday, abusing fill-in tackle Ty Sambrailo to the tune of 3.5 sacks. Add that to a Bronco run game that never quite seemed to click and Paxton Lynch clearly looking like a quarterback starting for the first time, and you get a team that doesn’t score its first touchdown until the game is all but done. The Falcons defense is missing a lot of players, especially at the linebacker position. More on that defense shortly.
While a bye week this early in the season is usually more of a curse, it turned out to be a blessing for the Seahawks. A week off to rest banged-up players such as Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and more, has proven to be sorely needed. The biggest benefit will come from Wilson, who could stand to regain most, if not all of his trademark slippery elusiveness and speed. Pair that with the Wilson who’s finally embraced the full talents of his receiving corps (ESPECIALLY Jimmy Graham), and we could see a quarterback who’s made the jump to unquestionably elite right before our eyes. While Thomas Rawls is expected to miss this month and possibly more, C.J. Prosise is back in practice, and C.J. Spiller has had more time to familiarize himself with this offense. Christine Michael will be the feature back for the time being, but talented depth in the run game couldn’t possibly hurt. The offensive line should continue to improve its play, having more time to integrate starter Germain Ifedi. Hopefully Garry Gilliam has managed to shake the funk he carried to start the season, as he will certainly have his hands full with Vic Beasley on passing downs. Beasley aside, this offensive line should feast in the run game, as the Falcons are missing several linebackers (they had a safety calling defensive plays on Sunday), and the Falcons’ interior defensive line doesn’t exactly inspire fear. With that said, if the Falcons can’t get pressure up the middle regularly without blitzing, it’ll be a very long day for Dan Quinn and his team.
Matt Ryan has been on fire as of late (770 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT in the last two weeks), and his offensive line has done well to give him time to pass. The onus will be on Seattle to get pressure on him, with and especially without blitzing. Julio Jones… well, need I say more? If Richard Sherman shadows Jones (he probably will), he will be in for a rough game. Jones has the perfect combination of quickness, strength, and sheer athleticism to give even the best cornerbacks big trouble. Ryan has mentioned several times that he isn’t looking to force the ball into Julio’s hands, so whoever defends him will need to hold steady long enough for the pass rush to do its job.
Prediction: The Wilson-Graham connection thrives for another game. However, this one will be decided in the trenches.