Falcons give Seahawks plenty to worry about
By Jim Moore
We had Chuck Smith from 92.9 The Game in Atlanta on the show Thursday. I mention this because he completely dismissed any parallels between Carolina’s Cam Newton passing for more than 500 yards and rushing for more than 200 yards in two games against the Falcons this year.
I was thinking – and so was Ron Jaworski when he talked to “Brock and Salk” Thursday – that Russell Wilson, since he’s a read-option quarterback who has similar traits, could exploit the Falcons like Newton did.
Smith pooh-poohed this notion by intimating that “radio heads” who suggest something like that “don’t know what they’re talking about.” He’s right; I usually don’t know what I’m talking about. If we’re talking coverage schemes and X’s and O’s, I’m out of those conversations.
Imagine if newly signed kicker Ryan Longwell booted the game-winning field goal to put the Seahawks in the NFC title game. (AP)
But if we’re talking predictions on Seahawks games this season, that’s different. I’ll put my record up against any radio head out there. If you’ve been reading these weekly posts, you know that I’m 14-3 against the spread in predicting Seahawks outcomes. How do you know this? I boast about it every week.
When you talk smack like I do, the football gods usually smack back, but I silenced those pigskin deities again last week, predicting that Seattle, as a 3-point favorite, would beat Washington 27-10. As you know, they won 24-14 and covered the spread.
I’ve missed three games this year – the 14-12 win over Green Bay in which I took the Packers minus-4; the 24-21 loss to Miami in which I took Seattle minus-3; and the 58-0 win over Arizona when I stupidly took the Cardinals plus-10.
All of the others split the uprights, just like Ryan Longwell is going to do at the end of Sunday’s playoff game at the Georgia Dome.
The Seahawks are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. When you’re Super Bowl contenders, you win divisional-round playoff games to advance to the NFC championship game.
Yes, if you’re the 12th Man, you worry about a lot of things that might prevent your favorite team from advancing to next week’s game against the Packers at Lambeau Field. That’s right, the Packers. Call it a bonus pick – take Green Bay plus-3 against the 49ers.
Those concerns include:
• Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and that wicked Atlanta passing game.
• The 10 a.m. kickoff time.
• Atlanta, after all, is 13-3 and supposedly has the best team in the NFC.
• Atlanta’s at home, and home teams in this round are 67-25 since the playoffs adopted this format in 1990.
• A West Coast team has not won back-to-back East Coast playoff games since the Los Angeles Rams pulled it off in 1989.
• Atlanta converts 45 percent of its third downs into first downs, and Seattle’s defense has struggled in these situations this year.
• Marshawn Lynch’s sore foot.
• Chris Clemons’ absence, further weakening a lukewarm pass rush.
But when you’re a team of destiny like the Seahawks are, you can overcome all of those concerns.
As potent as the Falcons are, I’d still rather have the Seahawks’ offense. Atlanta can beat you through the air. Seattle can beat you through the air and on the ground, with straight handoffs to Lynch or with its read option. Atlanta can’t beat you on the ground with Michael Turner anymore.
Seattle also has a much better defense, but my biggest concern hearkens back to the Detroit game in October when Matthew Stafford threw for 354 yards and led the Lions to a 28-24 win. That game was in a dome, too, and the Lions, like the Falcons, didn’t have much of a running attack.
Atlanta will score and score again. There will be times when we’ll shake our heads, wondering how Jones got so open or how Gonzalez got free in the end zone.
But I just think the Seahawks will stop the Falcons often enough to win. Earlier this year, the Hawks could not have won a shootout with Atlanta. Now they can.
I also love that Atlanta’s under all kinds of pressure to win a playoff game after going 0-3 with coach Mike Smith and Ryan. That remains a big emotional hurdle and will loom even larger if the Seahawks start fast.
The Falcons were two games better than the Seahawks during the regular season, but I’d argue that Pete Carroll’s team would’ve been 13-3 if it had had the Falcons’ schedule, considered the weakest in the league.
Want to know what I’m trying to figure out more than anything else? Why the Seahawks are 2.5-point underdogs in this game.
Forget about taking this one to the bank and take it to Vegas instead. Longwell will send the Seahawks to Green Bay with a game-winning field goal as time expires.
Prediction: Seahawks 34, Falcons 31