In a rematch of one of the most exciting NFC playoff games from last season, the first-place Seattle Seahawks square off against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon at Georgia Dome.
Down by 20 points heading into the fourth quarter, then-Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson fired off three successive touchdown drives to take a one point lead, but Falcons kicker Matt Bryant saved the day with a 49-yard field goal with seconds remaining. But the tables have turned in a matter of 10 months.
Seattle avoided its second loss of the current season by staging a successful 13-point comeback in Week Nine’s 27-24 overtime victory over Tampa Bay. It was only the fourth game of the season the Seahawks venerable defense had given up 20 or more points, and the second time they’ve allowed an opponent to rush for 200 or more yards.
Atlanta and quarterback Matt Ryan continued to dredge through a downtrodden season with four turnovers in a 34-10 loss to division rival Carolina last week. Ryan’s now tossed seven interceptions in the last two games, placing him fourth on the season with 10 total picks. The letdown dropped the Falcons to 2-6 on the season.
Wilson also struggled last week with two interceptions, but still completed 73 percent of his passes for two touchdowns, and rushed for another score.
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With Julio Jones done for the year and Roddy White questionable for the fourth straight week, tight end Tony Gonzalez should garnered plenty more targets from Ryan. However in the last three games the future Hall of Famer has been targeted 18 times out of a possible 114 pass attempts.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, White will make his return on Sunday after missing three consecutive games, but it’s not because of Seattle’s loquacious corner Richard Sherman.
“No, not really,” White said to the AJC. “I just don’t circle things on the calendar. Every game that I play is the one that is circled throughout the season. There is no one particular game that I go out there and play harder than any other one.
“We are playing the Seattle Seahawks. They are the top team in the NFC right now. We’ll be ready. We’re looking forward to having the chance to knock these guys off.”
Last season Sherman was named to the All-Pro team after snagging eight interceptions, and leading a secondary that picked off Ryan twice in the playoffs. Seattle’s No. 2 ranked secondary continues to dominate this season, with Sherman and safety Earl Thomas hauling in eight interceptions and holding opposing quarterbacks to 179.8 yards per game.
Atlanta’s defense hasn’t been able to get on track all season, allowing 27.2 points and 364.9 total yards per game. But they could derail Seattle’s run, considering some injuries along its offensive line.
Starting center Max Unger is listed as out with a concussion, and back-up right tackle Breno Giacomini is doubtful, putting Wilson in danger of taking even more sacks. The Seahawks have let up 27 sacks this season, the sixth worst mark in the NFL.
Betting Odds: Seattle is favored by 7 points.
Over/Under: 45 points
Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Where To Watch Online: NFL Sunday Ticket
Prediction: Seattle 34, Atlanta 20