Falcons draw Seahawks and that's good for them

Credit: Michael Cunningham

Credit: Michael Cunningham

The Seahawks beat the Lions in an NFC wild card game Saturday night. They’ll play the Falcons in the divisional round 4:35 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome. This was a good result for the Falcons--among their three possible opponents (the Giants and Packers were the others) I’d say the Seahawks are the best draw for them.

The Seahawks beat the Falcons 26-24 in Week 6. Falcons coach Dan Quinn did his best during the bye week to avoid talking about a potential rematch. But he did let this slip while answering a question about the impact Seattle safety Kam Chancellor has made since returning from injury:

“He’s a factor. It’s the physicality that he plays with but, like I said, all teams are a little different now and I’d say we’re a better version of ourselves than when we played them.”

No doubt that’s a preview of the theme for the Falcons in the days leading up to the rematch. They aren’t wrong to think things will be different this time, and not just because they got jobbed by that pass interference that wasn’t called against Richard Sherman in the first game.

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First, the rematch is in Atlanta and the Seahawks are a bad road team. They lost once in Seattle all season and were 3-4-1 on the road. Also, back in Week 6 the Seahawks were off to a 4-1 start--they went 6-4-1 after that. And the one home loss was to a mediocre Arizona squad two weeks ago that opened the door for the Falcons to get the bye.

The Seahawks didn't look particularly strong while beating the Lions. Their offense has sputtered along all season and continued to do so for much of the game vs. Detroit's league-worst defense. Seattle's defense benefited from the home crowd plus some more non-called PIs, drive-killing dropped passes by the Lions and two boneheaded roughing penalties by Detroit wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

The Falcons’ supercharged offense will be a much tougher challenge for the Seahawks. The Seahawks D is legit and will get its fair share of stops but the Falcons were effective even against very good defenses this season. The Falcons are going to score and the Seahawks will be hard-pressed to keep up on the road, where they scored 15.9 points per game this season.

That's not to say it will be easy for the Falcons because of course it won't. The Seahawks still have a championship pedigree. They've been wildly inconsistent—the fourth-most variance in week-to-week performance, according to the Football Outsiders variance measure--and that cuts both ways: Will the Falcons see the Seahawks who couldn't even score a TD at L.A., Arizona and Tampa Bay or the outfit that hung 31 on the Pats in Foxboro?

I think the Falcons will see something in between, leaning more toward the mediocre, and that won’t be enough for the Seahawks to upset the Falcons in the Dome. The Seahawks are the team the Falcons wanted to see there on Saturday.