Falcons, Seahawks clash in key Monday night game
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The Atlanta Falcons head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in a key Monday Night Football matchup with NFC playoff implications at stake.
Both teams are coming off wins.
The Falcons (4-5) looked like defending NFC champions by dominating the Dallas Cowboys.
The Seahawks (6-3) played an NFC West opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, last Thursday night and even though the team suffered through major injury losses still found a way to win the game.
Both teams are not only fighting to win their respective divisions but, if not, to at least stay in the wild-card discussion.
For the Seahawks, the 11-day layoff could not come at a better time. In the win over the Cardinals, starting cornerback Richard Sherman was lost to a ruptured Achilles. The injury, which Sherman has been nursing all season, will cost the All-Pro player the rest of the 2017 season.
Sherman was contrite after the game "When it goes, it goes."
This is the second time in back-to-back seasons the Seahawks have lost a member of the Legion of Boom for the year with an injury.
Last year, safety Earl Thomas was shelved after breaking a leg in December. The defense never recovered.
The 2017 version of the Legion of Boom needs to hope that Sherman's replacement, cornerback Jeremy Lane, can at least hold his own versus a dynamic passing attack of the Falcons.
Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones is fifth in the NFL with 715 receiving yards on 49 receptions. Tight end Austin Hooper and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu both have more than 30 receptions and each has three touchdown grabs.
Quarterback Matt Ryan is eighth in the NFL in passing yards with 2,372. In the win over the Cowboys, Ryan became the fastest quarterback to 40,000 yards passing in league history.
"I've been fortunate to play with a number of great players throughout my 9 1/2 or 10 years here," said Ryan, who was the third player selected in the 2008 draft out of Boston College. "I have been fortunate to be on some really good teams and to be able to stay healthy. I'm proud of that. I hope that there's another 40,000 in there and I can keep playing for a long time."
The Falcons are 11th in the NFL in passing yards per game at 251.6 but balance the air attack out with a solid rushing attack. Atlanta is ranked 13th in the NFL on the ground, rushing for an average of 116.4 yards per game.
But just as Seattle will be without one of its best players, Atlanta will be without one of the best running backs in football, Devonta Freeman.
The former Florida State star will miss the game while trying to pass through the concussion protocol. This is the second concussion Freeman has sustained this season, so the team must be extra cautious with him.
The Falcons will need Tevin Coleman and his 4.8 yards per carry to be the workhorse in Freeman's absent.
Atlanta's offense will be facing one of the stouter defensive units in the NFL. Seattle is ranked seventh in the NFL in only allowing 18.3 points per game. The group is ranked 13th in pass defense (217.9 yards) and ninth against the run (101 yards).
Seattle has a good defensive front, but Atlanta's offensive line played well against Dallas.
"I don't know what they were ranked in the league in terms of sacks, but we knew coming into it that they were going to be a really good pass rush to go up against," Ryan said of Dallas' defense. "I thought our guys did a great job."
Seattle's offense is quarterback Russell Wilson, who is second in the NFL in passing yards (trailing only Tom Brady) with 2,543. Wilson has also has accounted for 20 total touchdowns, 19 coming through the air.
Early in the season, the Seahawks had major blocking issues with the offensive line, so they traded high future draft picks to secure the services of left tackle Duane Brown, formerly of the Houston Texans.
Brown enters the game as questionable with an ankle injury and will be facing defensive end Adrian Clayborn, hot off a six-sack game. Seattle had better hope Brown is healthy enough to contain the red-hot Clayborn.
Clayborn leads a Falcons defense that is very good in their own right. Seattle has not shown much in terms of a rushing attack, which is good for the Falcons.
If the unit has a weakness, stopping the run is the issue. The Falcons give up 113.7 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 19th in the league. But against the pass, the Falcons rank sixth in the NFL, allowing only 198.2 yards through the air.
Atlanta is a top team in overall defense. The Falcons are ranked seventh in total yards allowed per game at 311.9.
Updated November 16, 2017