The Seahawks are 21-3-1 under Pete Carroll in prime-time games, including 7-0 on Monday Night Football. They also typically play better in the second half of the season than the first. On top of that, they’re playing the Falcons at CenturyLink Field and have one of the best home records in the NFL the past five years.
Even with all of those factors pointing to a Seahawks’ victory, I think the Falcons are going to win Monday night’s game, mainly because Atlanta’s biggest strength will be going against a Seattle weakness.
The Seahawks will be playing their first game without Richard Sherman, and whatever you think about “next man up,” the next man up, Jeremy Lane, is not nearly as good as the future Hall of Famer who tore his Achilles tendon against the Cardinals.
On the other side of the field, everyone likes what they’ve seen from Shaquill Griffin, but he’s still a rookie who gets beat from time to time.
Then when you throw in the fact that Kam Chancellor will probably miss Monday night’s game with a stinger, here’s what you have at three of the four Legion of Boom positions: a guy you tried to trade to Houston until he failed his physical (Lane), a rookie (Griffin), a representable backup to Chancellor in Bradley McDougald, and Earl Thomas, who returns from a two-game absence because of a pulled hamstring – and I’m guessing Thomas won’t be 100 percent.
The Falcons have one of the best passing attacks in the league, so it stands to reason when you match that kind of air game against a banged-up secondary, you can expect a big night from Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu.
It will help the Seahawks if Devonta Freeman can’t play – the Falcons’ top running back might miss the game with a concussion. But Atlanta still has Tevin Coleman, who is also a threat as a receiver out of the backfield.
When you flip it around, Russell Wilson will make some big scramble plays, but with left tackle Duane Brown hobbled by a sprained ankle and perhaps not even playing, you have to be concerned about the Falcons’ pass rush. Adrian Claiborne had six sacks against the Cowboys’ backup left tackle last Sunday. I don’t think he’d get another six against Matt Tobin if he has to fill in for Brown, but Claiborne would probably make another significant impact.
Think about it, Tobin is basically the fourth option at left tackle. The Seahawks’ started with George Fant at left tackle until he tore his ACL in the second preseason game. Rees Odhiambo stepped in, and then Brown took over last week after being acquired from the Texans.
Speaking of fourth – and maybe fifth or sixth options – the Seahawks activated Mike Davis from the practice squad to see if he can help them generate a running game. Davis looked good in the preseason, and I like the idea of giving him a chance. We’ve already seen that Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy aren’t the answers, and C.J. Prosise is now out for the season.
I think Davis will be an upgrade, but the offensive line is still subpar, even with Brown. The Seahawks’ best bet is to allow Wilson to cut ‘er loose. Turn CenturyLink into his own personal playground. Let him draw up plays in the dirt. Let him scramble all over the place. And let him run more read-option plays. Don’t wait until the fourth quarter – take the leash off of Wilson when he runs out of the tunnel.
This business of going 22 consecutive games without scoring a touchdown on the opening drive is ridiculous. I’d also like it if Darrell Bevell quit scripting plays to start the game and called plays from the seat of his pants, reacting to what he’s seeing. And when he’s doing that, I’d like to see more vertical throws from Wilson to Paul Richardson.
I know it’s not that simple, but it can’t be that complicated either – not when you have playmakers like Wilson, Richardson, Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. They need to win high-scoring games because their defense isn’t going to be as good as it was with Sherman and Chancellor.
For now, I don’t think they have enough to overcome the Falcons, not with a banged-up secondary and questions at left tackle.
Seahawks (-2 1/2) vs. Falcons: Atlanta 27, Seahawks 24.
Utah (+17 1/2) at Washington: I’m curious to see how the Huskies will handle a new goal. Their national playoff chances are unrealistic, and their odds of winning the Pac-12 championship are too. Can a secondary goal such as a 10-2 season and a Sun Bowl or Holiday Bowl be enough to motivate them? It’s certainly possible, but I think the Utes are in a good position to pull off the upset. Utah 24, Washington 20.