With Seattle's 26-6 victory over the Lions on Saturday night, they secured a rematch in Atlanta. You may remember that these two teams met in 2012, a year the Falcons made it to the NFC Championship game, breaking their winless playoff “curse.” Atlanta came away with a narrow 30-28 victory, but both of these teams have changed since then.
For starters, Atlanta was turning the ball over quite frequently back then. The team accumulated 18 turnovers in 2012, 14 of which were interceptions thrown by Matt Ryan. In 2016, the team only has 11 turnovers, and is playing at a much higher level. They have the highest-scoring offense in the NFL right now, and are absolutely lethal through the air. They have developed a much stronger running game than they had in 2012, no doubt due to the additions of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman.
What's tipping in Atlanta’s favor right now is their total unpredictability. Matt Ryan has shown that all of his receivers are capable of making big plays. This is a far cry from 2012, when the Falcons only offensive weapons were Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, and the aging Roddy White. This season, Matt Ryan has thrown a touchdown pass to 13 different receivers. That alone is an NFL record, but goes to show that no matter what, each and every play can break big.
Defense is going to be immensely important in Saturday’s game. Everybody knows how elite Seattle’s defense can be. When playing at their best, they can be a quarterback's worst nightmare. This season, they have forced 33 turnovers (11 interceptions; 22 fumble recoveries), only 3 less than in 2012. They were, and are, a force to be reckoned with.
Atlanta has never been known for their defensive play. 2012 was a year in which the defense was playing some of their best football, and Falcons fans should take comfort in the fact that 2016 has shown much of the same. The defense is far from perfect, but under Dan Quinn’s leadership, they have shown that they are capable of causing pressure and forcing turnovers. These things will be key against the likes of Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin.
These teams also met earlier this season in Seattle. 2 points again decided the game, this time in Seattle’s favor. In that game, Ryan went 27 and 42 for 335 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. The team rushed for a total of only 52 yards and forced three fumbles.
Each time these teams meet, it is a hard fought and highly entertaining matchup. Be sure to tune in to FOX on Saturday, January 14th at 4:35 p.m.