Matt Ryan is still seeking his first playoff victory has he leads the Atlanta Falcons against the streaking Seattle Seahawks Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome in an NFC Divisional Playoff.
The winner meets the San Francisco 49ers, who smoked the Green Bay Packers on Saturday.
In three postseason starts Ryan has thrown four interceptions compared to three touchdowns, and hasn’t surpassed 200 yards passing in a single game, all losses for Atlanta. Now holding down the NFC’s No. 1 seed, Ryan and 13-3 Atlanta can redeem their embarrassing 24-2 loss last year to the eventual champion New York Giants.
Perhaps looking to stay sharp before their bye, Ryan played all of Atlanta’s final regular season game, going 28-for-44 for 238 yards and a touchdown in a 22-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Atlanta did limit the carries to running back Michael Turner, who had six attempts for 18 yards and a score. Turner rushed for 800 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, the first time he’s gone for less than 1,300 yards in three years.
But the Falcons strongest threat comes from receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, maybe the best one-two combo of receivers in the league. Together White and Jones combined for more than 2,500 yards and 17 touchdowns.
How Seattle All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and All-Pro safety Earl Thomas pair up with Atlanta’s receivers could decide Sunday’s contest.
Sherman is tied for second in the league with eight interceptions, and Thomas has three of his own, as the Seattle secondary has surrendered just five passing plays of 40-plus yards, good for fourth in the league.
The Seahawks stormed back from a 14-point deficit last week to beat Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins 24-14, capturing their first road playoff win in eight tries.
Third-round pick Russell Wilson is now the only rookie quarterback left in the playoffs, going 15-for-26 for 187 yards and a touchdown, while running back Marshawn Lynch posted a dominated 132 yards and a score on 20 carries. Wilson’s block downfield in the fourth quarterback sprung Lynch’s 27-yard touchdown run and put Seattle up for good.
One drawback in Seattle’s win was the loss of defensive end Chris Clemons, who tore his ACL and was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. Behind Clemons on the depth chart is 26-year-old rookie Bruce Irvin.
The game kicks-off at 1 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast by FOX.
Betting Odds: Atlanta is favored by 3 points.
Over/Under: 46 points
Prediction: The loss of the Clemons puts more pressure on Sherman and Thomas, but both have risen to the occasion and should contain Atlanta’s White and Jones. The game should come down to the running backs, with Lynch posting another dominate game and Seattle moving on to San Francisco.
Predicted Score: Seattle 30, Atlanta 17