Five things to know: First look at Seahawks-Falcons matchup
The Seahawks looked once again like the Seahawks in their wild-card win over Detroit on Saturday, recapturing a form that’s been fleeting during a season defined by its inconsistency. Seattle rushed for 177 yards and averaged 4.7 per carry, Russell Wilson was nearly perfect while throwing for two touchdowns and no interceptions, and the six points the Seahawks allowed established a new franchise record.
“That was the game we’ve been looking for, style-wise, fit-wise, offense and defense,” coach Pete Carroll said.
Now for the bad news: It won’t be nearly that easy next week in Atlanta against the Falcons, a much better team than the one Seattle just dispatched at home.
Matthew Stafford was playing with a busted finger on his throwing hand. His receivers dropped passes, including two on third down. A pair of personal-fouls also hurt Detroit. Seattle was on the right end of two missed calls as Paul Richardson and DeShawn Shead both got away with penalties on significant plays. The Lions were an average team this season and probably the worst of the six that made the playoffs from the NFC.
The Falcons are in a different class, particularly on offense. Theirs led the league in scoring and was second in yards per game during the regular season. Quarterback Matt Ryan is an MVP candidate and enters the postseason on a tear, having thrown 11 touchdowns and no interceptions with a passer rating of at least 121.8 over his last four games.
The Falcons had a first-round bye as the NFC’s No. 2 seed, which gave top receiver Julio Jones a chance to rest the toe injury that has bothered him of late. He still finished with 1,409 yards, second in the league despite missing two games. Expect to see quite a few one-on-one matchups with Richard Sherman, maybe more than when the teams met in Week 6.
Atlanta’s defense lagged well behind its offense, finishing in the bottom third of the league in yards (25th) and points (27th) and in the middle in sacks (16th). The ingredients are in place for a shootout, which is what happened four years ago when these teams met in the same stadium and in the same round of the playoffs.
Seattle lost that game 30-28 and won both of the regular-season meetings since then, 33-10 in 2013 and 26-24 back in October. The Falcons are favored by four points on Saturday with an over-under of 49.5.
Here are four other things to know this week:
How Seahawks could host NFC title game. This qualifies as putting the cart well before the horse, but the Seahawks would host the NFC Championship Game if they beat Atlanta and if Green Bay beats Dallas on Sunday. The highest remaining seed always hosts the lowest remaining seed (and the next-highest hosts the next-lowest). The Seahawks are the No. 3 seed while Green Bay is the fourth seed. The title game would be in Dallas if the top-seeded Cowboys win, regardless of whether their opponent is Seattle or Atlanta. The Cowboys beat the Packers 30-16 at Lambeau Field in Week 6 and are favored by four points in this game.
C.J. Prosise could be back. Carroll said last week that Prosise was far along enough in his recovery from the broken scapula that has sidelined him since November that he could return for the divisional round. There’s no guarantee he will, but it would be a significant boost if he does. It would be in a complementary role behind Thomas Rawls, presumably as the third-down back, but Prosise has shown enough big-play ability in his limited action this season to suggest that he can make an impact even with only a handful of touches. Carroll should provide more clarity on Prosise’s status when he joins “Brock and Salk” Monday at 9:30. Update: Carroll said Prosise will practice this week.
Kris Richard interviewed with Buffalo. The Bills announced Sunday night that they were interviewing Seattle’s defensive coordinator, conformation of what was reported last week. It’s the only known interview Richard has conducted or set up with another team. That he’s a candidate for a head-coaching position is a reflection of his rapid rise. Richard, 37, has only been a coordinator for two seasons. He was getting his foot in the coaching door less than 10 years ago as a graduate assistant in 2008 and 2009 with USC, where he had played for Carroll. Offensive-line coach Tom Cable is reportedly scheduled to interview for the 49ers’ head-coaching vacancy while Scott Fitterer and Trent Kirchner, the Seahawks’ co-directors of player personnel, are interviewing for San Francisco’s general-manager job.
This week’s schedule. Another Saturday game means everything will be moved up a day on the Seahawks’ schedule this week. Carroll will hold press conferences on Tuesday and Thursday (his appearance with “Brock and Salk” will remain on Monday). For games back east, the Seahawks typically fly out two days beforehand (whereas it’s the day before when they’re playing in California or Arizona), so they’ll head to Atlanta following Thursday’s practice.