Seattle Seahawks (11-5-1 SU, 9-8 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (11-5 SU, 10-6 ATS)
NFC Divisional Playoff
Date/Time: Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 4:35PM EST
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: SEA +4.5/ATL -4.5
Over/Under Total: 51
The Seattle Seahawks take on the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on Saturday in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. The Falcons are licking their chops at home, recipients of a first-round bye, following a big 11-5 season where they were NFC South Champions. Always tough at home, they await the Seahawks, winners in the wild card round over the Detroit Lions last Saturday, 26-6. Can the league's top-ranked Falcons offense overcome this tough test over a proven Seattle postseason "D" or will the Seahawks continue on their run to get back to a familiar spot for them?
These teams played on week 6, with Seattle scoring a home win, 26-24, with a wild finish in a close game, including a key non-call on a Richard Sherman pass-interference still a source of irritation for some Atlanta fans. With Seattle dealing with some injuries on defense at the time, Atlanta was able to register a slew of big plays, with Matt Ryan putting up 335 yards. Atlanta receiver Julio Jones had a big game. Seattle was able to keep the Atlanta run-game in-check and looked good in that category on Saturday. Atlanta will likely be airing it out. Seattle, with the offense looking to have found a higher gear, and guys like Chancellor back in the fold, hope to give Atlanta more problems this week.
Seattle looked as good as they had in weeks on Saturday in their conclusive win over the Lions. It's no coincidence that the upgrade in play came in time for the postseason. There are a ton of guys still on that Seattle sideline who know what it's like to win a Super Bowl, lose a Super bowl, and the entire gamut of different postseason results. There have been times this season when they looked anything like a contender. But with Seattle, there will be some inconsistent moments, but it's the bottom-line that speaks loudest. They're again one win from the conference title game.
The Seattle offense got a big boost on Saturday from the run-game, some circus-like catches from Paul Richardson, and some good production from Doug Baldwin. Russell Wilson was efficient on 23-for-30 passing with two touchdown throws, hitting Richardson and Baldwin for TDs. Baldwin caught 11 balls for 104 yards. But the real star of the offense was running back Thomas Rawls, who racked up 161 yards and a touchdown. He looked as good as he did all season. Making it all come together was a Seattle O-line that was able to contain a sometimes-fierce Detroit front. That's the peculiar thing about Seattle—just when you think you have them figured out, they'll either underperform or over-perform to a shocking degree. Sunday was a time for them to thrive. What will they come up with this week? One thing is for sure—with Rawls running loose, the Seattle offense looked a lot like it did during their vintage period. After all, they got pretty far this season without really ever being able to rush the ball with much effectiveness or consistency. If Rawls can keep it rolling, they are in good shape against any team in the league.
The Seattle defense didn't allow a touchdown against Detroit on Saturday. A Seattle defense in a heightened postseason state can be a real handful and they showed that against the Lions. They held Detroit to 2-for-11 on third down attempts and very little on the ground. The middle often times doesn't get a lot of attention, but Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright are real difference-makers. Up-front, Cliff Avril registered two sacks and Michael Bennett had another on Saturday. And the Legion of Boom, with Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and Deshawn Shead, again made their imprint by keeping Matthew Stafford in check, along with former teammate Golden Tate. The difficulty ramps up significantly this week against the Falcons' top-rated offense.
Seattle's defense wasn't infallible this season. They gave up 39 to Green Bay in week 14 and 31 to Arizona in week 16. In an interesting little side-story, The Seahawks face their former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who left to take the head coaching job with the Falcons. And on the road, this Seattle defense has held up pretty well. They'll be on foreign territory, in a dome in January, but this is a team that has overcome more than this and they're a definite threat.
The Falcons really got things turned around this season. After starting 5-0 last season and then going right into the tank, people perhaps held out hope after another good start from the Falcons this season. But waiting for them to fall apart proved a costly endeavor for some. They lost their opener, before winning four in a row to open the season. They were up-and-down over their next seven games, going just 3-4 in that stretch. But with four straight wins to end the season, they carry nice momentum into this postseason spot. Key among the reasons the Falcons were able to get a number-two seed in the playoffs this season was the league's top-scoring offense. And while their defense was near the bottom in a lot of categories this season, they finished the season in strong fashion, appearing to peak at the right time.
The one concern for those taking too much meaning from the way the Falcons ended the season is that they played a lot of bad teams down the stretch other than a week 13 loss to the Chiefs. To end the season, they played the Eagles, Cardinals, Chiefs, Rams, 49ers, Panthers, and Saints. So they didn't face a lot of good offenses down the stretch. Still, their defense has put forth some better performances as of late. Having the league's top scoring offense can help camouflage some shortcomings on the other side of the ball. Making up for their lack of stoutness is a playmaking element. They can get after the passer, with Vic Beasley (questionable) the NFL sack king. This is a defense that can make things happen, including five defensive touchdowns on the season. They've secured 22 takeaways. And at times this season, they were able to tighten up late and in crucial situations. In other words, they're far from being a stout defense, but they make up for it with a playmaking element and a dash of clutch.
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Atlanta is the top-scoring offense in the NFL at nearly 34 points per game. Matt Ryan was just short of 5000 yards passing on the season with a 38-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The line was able to help spring a nice run-game this season, despite not doing that great of a job in keeping Ryan protected. The offense offered great balance. Leading the way on the ground was Devonta Freeman, who was at 1079 yards rushing with 462 yards through the air, along with 13 touchdowns. Tevin Coleman has also been big out of the backfield with 520 yards on the ground and another 421 aerially, along with 11 touchdowns. Through the air, Ryan works with one of the best in Julio Jones, who had 1409 yards.
Giving the Atlanta offense even more juice this season was their depth. When the stars of this offense, guys like Freeman and Jones, didn't deliver, there was an abundance of other options to keep the Falcons' offense on-point. Through the air, Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu were big. Coleman offered relief on the ground and as a short-pass option. Aldrick Robinson, Austin Hopper, and Levine Tuitolo have been big at points this season. In 2016, 17 different players scored touchdowns for the Falcons.
Beating a slip-sliding Detroit team at home and going into the Georgia Dome and making it translate against a hot Falcons team are two different things. And when looking at recent Seattle postseason highlights, not a lot of it took place in a dome. The defense looked good for the Seahawks on Saturday, but they might be run more-ragged in this one. And look for the Seattle O-line to have some trouble, as well. This pick can only be made with so much confidence, being that Seattle did look good in the wild card round. I just see Atlanta being the more-bankable commodity in this particular spot. I'm taking the Falcons.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Atlanta Falcons minus 4.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Seattle vs. Atlanta NFC divisional playoff game from your home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!