Both Seattle and Atlanta have disappointed this season, but which of the two teams has the best chance at salvaging their season?
With five of the six NFC playoff spots already clinched, there is just one Wild Card spot still up for grabs. The Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons are both looking to salvage their disappointing seasons by making the playoffs. If there was ever a year for a sixth seeded team to make a run, this feels like the year given the inexperience of the quarterbacks of the other playoff teams.
Injuries to Aaron Rodgers and Carson Wentz have opened the door for the rest of NFC to make a run to the Super Bowl. With those two out, it leaves Nick Foles, Case Keenum, and Jared Goff as the top three seeded teams heading into Week 17. They have a combined one game of playoff experience. The door is open for whoever gets into the last playoff spot, but who is a bigger threat: Seattle or Atlanta?
They have both been mediocre teams thus far, but for different reasons. Atlanta just hasn’t played as well as expected, while Seattle has dealt with countless injuries. Seattle, behind Russell Wilson‘s phenomenal play, has actually performed pretty well considering they are without arguably their top two defensive players in Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, who both went down with season-ending injuries.
After impressively beating a Wentz-led Eagles team that was rolling, Seattle suffered back-to-back losses to Jacksonville and Los Angeles. They were able to get back on track last week in Dallas keeping their playoff hopes alive, but it wasn’t a particularly impressive win. This season has proven that Wilson needs more help. If they do make the playoffs, he would have my MVP vote, but I’m not sure they have the talent to line up and beat any of the teams they would play in the postseason, especially on the road.
Atlanta, on the contrary, does have the talent to match every team they could potentially play. After having a historical offensive season where they scored the seventh most points in regular season history, the Falcons have struggled tremendously to recapture that success. In fact, Matt Ryan has looked like a completely different player.
With 38 touchdowns, nearly 5,000 passing yards, and a 69.9 completion percentage, Ryan was the clear choice for MVP last year. This season he is 17th in the league with 19 touchdowns, which has him tied with Jay Cutler and Deshaun Watson, who hasn’t played a game since Week 9. Without Kyle Shanahan calling the plays, there is just something missing for the Falcons offense.
Seattle has had similar problems with their offense this season. Their run game has been horrendous. They are 21st in rushing yards per game with 101.9, but if you take away Wilson’s 36 rushing yards per game they would rank dead last. This has forced Seattle to be one dimensional allowing opponent’s pass rush to expose an offensive line that has allowed Wilson to be sacked the fourth most of any quarterback in the league.
In the past when the offense has struggled, the defense has been able to carry the load. Without Sherman and Chancellor, the defense still ranks top 13 in YPG and PPG, but it simply isn’t good enough to compete against the best teams the NFC, which was on full display in their 42-7 loss to the Rams.
Atlanta’s defense has allowed them to keep their playoff hopes alive. They are 11th in points per game with 20.3 and 10th in yards per game with 323.1. However, they have had trouble forcing turnovers all season long. They are currently tied for 30th in that aspect with 13, which is only ahead of the winless Cleveland Browns who have 11.
With the defense playing better than last year, it felt like just a matter of time until the offense got back on track and the Falcons became the Super Bowl favorites we expected them to be. It might be time to accept the fact that this offense isn’t going to be the same, but if Atlanta is able to put it all together, there is no doubt they have the talent to make a run.
More likely than not, both of these teams will be watching from home come the divisional round of the playoffs, but Atlanta is the healthier, more talented, and by far the more dangerous of the two teams.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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