My first 3 thoughts are players who I thought could be hidden heroes that could step up much like Paul Richardson did vs the Lions. Feel free to add your own or discuss my guys. Fortunately, those are relatively short.
My last 2 thoughts are more factors I think that could help the Seahawks prepare for the Falcons. Those thoughts are long and definately way too drawn out as I tended to ramble on a lot.
On a phone, so didnt really want to condense after writing and simplify. If only I could just be brief in the first place. Sorry. Some of you love the word porn and some of you loathe it, I know.
#5. CJ Prosise, I think I heard he will be available for this game, he might be somewhat limited nonetheless if Rawls stays upright and rolling, Seahawks don't need Pro to get the touches he did against the Patriots. Move him around, dial up a big play, strike it early, and he can be an effective decoy for the rest of the game. For you Huskies fans, think Chico McClatcher. Prosise can be a game changer, for numerous reasons I think Le'veon Bell. And he's a guy who if healthy definately gives this offense and Wilson a pretty good weapon.
#4. Tanner McEvoy, he's been quiet in recent weeks despite being awesome in his opportunities. I think he would be a mismatch against Falcons lack of some length in their back 7 especially if the are focused in taking Baldwin and Graham away. McEvoy is the guy who can ninja some big yardage especially if their young Defense bites off play-action or Quinn chooses to blitz. If this was a game to open up the play-book to add another offense weapon, it would be this game against a high powered offense.
#3. Luke Willson, much like McEvoy I feel he could represent a mismatch. I remember Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy making big plays against the Falcons in playoff game in '12... different teams but same concept. Falcons have speed on defense but lack the aforemention length and experience. The Falcons is likely to do three things on D:
1) sell out vs the run i.e. run blitz to harass both Wilson and Rawls
2) focus on taking away Graham and
They are going to try to force Wilson into his 3rd or 4th reads, not give him the time to do so, and force errant passes or tipped passes with bodies in throwing lanes. See games vs GB and Arizona in prior years. And they do not want Seattle to dictate T.O.P. with its ground game. So, they'll be stacking that box and challenging the Seahawks offense to execute.
So, Willson, even he continues to chip and release to help the Oline, I feel like he's going to find himself with a lot of free real estate to exploit in the middle of the field. Out of all our players, I get the best feeling where I can see him scoring on 1 or 2 long receptions just because he was completely unaccounted for.
#2: Lions WRs. I think they represent well in comparison to what the Falcons have on offense. Not physically imposing players. A lot of quick guys that can get open. I know Stafford was hindered but Lions WR were dropping passes for a reason. It wasn't the cold. Play-off Kam Chancellor is scary, and his presence is going to make Falcon players fear going into the middle. If the rest of the defense plays with the same fear instilling tenacity that's going to get Falcons WRs to over think thier catch or timing which will lead to drops. This especially the case if the Seahawks front 7 can dominate like they did in the first half of the regular season game for a complete game. Losing Thomas sucks but having Frank Clark active for this game and having Bennett for the an entire game (knock on wood) is going to help disrupt and challenge Ryan. Obviously, Freeman and Coleman represent a different challenge than Zenner but the Seahawks handled them well without guys like Clark, Bennett for half a game, Mike Morgan, and Chancellor.
So I think guys like Marvin Jones Jr, Tate, Ebron (especially) and Boldin was a good warm up to Julio Jones, Mo Sanu, Gabriel, and not sleeping Tolilo (sp?) this time around and perhaps Austin Hooper. This is definately a game where Shead, Lane, Terrell need to step up on Chancellors and Sherman's level of dominance. And that matchup against the Lions was a solid test for them in terms of some of the quickness they'll see out of this Falcons group.
#1: Experience + Some Other Stuff I'll Write A Novel About
This is the biggest one to me. Seahawks have came out flat in the first half of every divisional road game under Pete Carroll. Bears, Falcons, Panthers. And lost.
This team is definately much more talented than the 2010 team that couldnt figure out the Bears or Soldier Field in January.
It's arguable that this team is on par with 2012 team but experience is ten fold. Seahawks aren't going into Atlanta on back to back road trips after playing the Redskins on thier crap field which took out Clemons and Seahawks rolled into Atlanta with virtually no pass-rush. Bennett, Avril, and Clark are much better than Irvin. Id even argue that Marsh today as a Leo is comparable or better to a rookie Irvin, in what was his first start in that Leo role where we saw little push from Irvin and him get manhandled in the run game. So the pass-rush essentially at least 3 reasons better that day and possibly 4x as good. Add in Wagner and Wright where they are today as rushers and you can see where that experience and depth is going to be much more favorable.
Then last year it was another back to back road trip, first was against a Vikings team in 0-10 degree weather in what was a physically overwhelming game. You listen to some of the comments by the players and you could tell that game was not only draining but hard on bodies. Then the Seahawks traveled to Charlotte with a tilt against the NFCs best, 15-1 Panthers where they got throughoughly dominated in the first half. Anyone watching this game could tell the Panthers field was giving the Seahawks problems. For whatever, reasons Seahawks don't do particular well on open air grass fields especially in wet or cold environments.
Come back to this play-off picture. The Lions wasn't a very physically imposing opponent and the game was played in the security and familarity of the CLink. Seahawks aren't coming off a particularly emotional win like 2010 vs Saints then going on the road and playing in the cold. The Seahawks aren't also coming off physically overwhelming games in back to back road trips like they did in '12 and '15.
Seahawks are coming into this Falcons game, relatively healthy, and considering last year... emotionally and physically steady. They don't have to battle a grass field, they don't have to battle the elements, they aren't traveling back to back on the road, this isnt a 10 am start.
Falcons aren't the most consistent team in the NFC, or the best this season, or have great experience. We've already played them once this season and won. And that game shouldn't have been as close as it was if you figure in what Rawls, Prosise, and growth in the Offensive line can bring to the running game. A healthier, more mobile Russell Wilson. A full contingent of pass-rush with Clark and Bennett for a full game. And enable God Mode Kam Chancellor leading this defense and patrolling the secondary.
It's just a differently feel to me than prior experiences even from this year, I just don't think the Seahawks will fall flat and come out ready to roll. I think this game could be similar to the Patriots game. Where the Seahawks came to play. Patriots O is just as good as the Falcons, and Pats D led the league in scoring. They also came off a bye against Seattle. Only difference is you take away Lockett for more Richardson and perhaps McEvoy, and you lose Thomas and gain a Michael Bennett. And replace a malaligned Christine Michael with the furious and passionate Thomas Rawls. Seahawks won that game 31-24 in a shootout.
Falcons D isn't as close to as good especially considering how great their offense has been. See Cowboys D of a Defense that plays in combination to what their offense does for them.
All in all, I think past experiences going to this team to help prepare this team to come out strong in a big time game. I feel the lack of worry about external factors like back to back road travel + 10 am starts, field conditions, weather, a mentally, physically, and/or emotionally draining matchup the week before is going to give the Seahawks a healthier vibe coming into this game taking away some the mental and physical obstacles where the Seahawks have fell flat in the past in the first half.
This team will be ready. They know they cant dig themselves into a hole and they are in a good place, mentally and physically imo to play this Falcons team much like they did the Pats. Overall, I feel the Pats
are a more complete team, a better coached team, a more experienced team than the Falcons. And for whatever its worth the Georgia Dome is not as intimidating as a Foxboro.
In the end, the results have always been positive when the team plays like its back against a wall, when they feel disrespected and have a collective feeling of something to prove. At this point there is a lot of doubt in this year's Seahawks not being good enough, a lot of doubt about this D without Earl Thomas and its overall cohesion, a lot of doubt in the Offensive Line, a lot of doubt in Russell Wilson and his health and athleticism, alot of doubt in Bevell, a lot of doubt in this special teams, and especially a lot of doubt going on the road against a high powered offense and not coming out flat.
There's a lot to prove. Seahawks love to prove those doubters wrong more often than not.
I'm not going to predict a score, I will say the winner of this game is whatever team controls T.O.P. and plays better Defense.