Falcons to scout potential playoff opponents

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, right, greets Falcons coach Dan Quinn after an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, right, greets Falcons coach Dan Quinn after an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Before enjoying the full benefits of earning a bye-week, the Falcons will put in some work.

The NFC South champion Falcons (11-5), who will face the highest seed to advance from the NFC wild-card round at 4:35 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Georgia Dome, will practice Wednesday and Thursday before getting some time off.

“We’ll get after it pretty good on the practice field,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said on his show on 680 The Fan on Tuesday. “I’m excited about that. I think it’s good for both sides of the ball and especially as a quarterback, you want to keep that rhythm that we’ve had.

“We’ll get out there Wednesday and Thursday and kind of move forward from there with a couple of days off and find out who we are going to play.”

Ryan said that no trips to Miami are planned, nor any cruise-ship photo shoots such as the ones involving New York Giants players. He said some of his teammates likely will get together to watch the games Saturday and Sunday.

The Falcons will face No. 3-seed Seattle (10-5-1) if the Seahawks can defeat No. 6-seed Detroit (9-7) on Saturday. If the Lions, who are 7.5-point underdogs, upset the Seahawks, the Falcons will face the winner of the game between the No. 5-seed New York Giants (11-5) and No. 4-seed Green Bay (10-6).

The Falcons have a playoff history with all three teams.

The Falcons beat the Seahawks in the divisional round of the playoffs after the 2012 season on a last-second field goal. The Seahawks went on to make back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in subsequent seasons after that devastating loss.

The Packers and Giants eliminated Falcons on way to Super Bowl titles after the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

The Seahawks, who are making their fifth consecutive trip to the playoffs, don’t appear as strong as their Super Bowl teams. They clearly miss retired running back Marshawn Lynch and injured All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas.

The Seahawks have had a revolving door at running back as they’ve tried to replace Lynch.

Christine Michael, who’s no longer with the team, is their leading rusher this season, with 469 yards on 117 carries and six touchdowns before he was placed on waivers Nov. 15. Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins have all spent time as the top running back.

“We just keep going, we’ll keep running,” Carroll said on 710 ESPN Seattle on Monday. “We have to keep running to make sure we have the mix that we want. That’s our style of play.”

The Seahawks averaged 3.9 yards per rush this season.

“We’re not pleased with it,” Carroll said. “It’s not anywhere near where we want it to be. We’re still working at it, and we’re still committed to keeping the formula that allows (quarterback) Russell (Wilson) to be effective, which is so important. He needs his space, he needs the play-actions for the big plays, he needs to get the (bootlegs) out on the perimeter and all that stuff to keep the passing game alive and explosive.”

Before Thomas suffered a broken leg in a 40-7 win over Carolina on Dec. 4, the Seahawks led the NFL in fewest points allowed. With Thomas out, they gave up 38 points to the Packers, 34 to the Cardinals and 23 to the 49ers.

The Falcons went toe-to-toe with the Seahawks before losing 26-24 on Oct. 16 in Seattle. The Falcons blew a late 24-23 lead when quarterback Matt Ryan threw an interception off the hands of wide receiver Julio Jones.

Also, there was a controversial non-call as Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman held Jones on a deep pass play that would have put the Falcons in field-goal range for the victory.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn came to the team from Seattle, where he was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator.

Riding a six-game win streak, Green Bay is perhaps the hottest team among the playoff participants. The Falcons defeated the Packers 33-32 on Oct. 30 at the Georgia Dome.

“Momentum and confidence is real big,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “This is definitely the way you want to come in. We’ve limped in before, rested players, and so forth. There’s no doubt with this team.”

The Giants finished second in the NFC East, but have two victories over No. 1-seed Dallas (13-3).