The Seahawks are coming off a tough victory on Thursday Night Football against the Arizona Cardinals and are returning to primetime television against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. Seattle needed the extra time off, as they are battling injuries. 15 Seahawks showed up on the injury report, with seven of those players not practicing Thursday.
The last time these two teams faced off was in last year’s playoffs in the Divisional Round, with the Falcons coming away with the 36-20 victory. This year’s game will also have a huge effect on the playoffs. The Seahawks (6-3) are currently the 6th seed in the NFC, with the Falcons (5-4) right behind them as the 7th seed. But Seattle is also still in the hunt for the NFC West, title, siting one game behind the Los Angeles Rams. With a lot on the line in this game for both teams, there will be a lot of factors to keep an eye on.
Will Dan Quinn unleash his defense against his former team?
In last year’s playoffs, the Atlanta defense sacked Russell Wilson three times and hit him seven times. With the Falcons coming off an eight-sack performance, Quinn could decide to try to cause havoc in the Seattle backfield this week. The Seattle offensive line has been very inconsistent in 2017, and it has caused Wilson to run for his life most of the season. The addition of the Duane Brown was expected to be a huge help to the line, but he did not practice Thursday. If he cannot play Monday, the Atlanta defense could have another dominant performance.
Adrian Clayborn had a five-sack performance against Dallas’ backup left tackle, and he could be facing another backup Monday with Matt Tobin. If Tobin fills in, Seattle will need to give help to him to slow down Clayborn. But if help goes to the left side, that could leave Germain Ifedi by himself against Vic Beasley. Beasley has four sacks this season, but is one of the best speed rushers in the NFL, which have caused issues for Ifedi. Transitioning from playing guard last season, Ifedi has been prone to let speed rushers get him around him rather easily, and it has forced Wilson to run, a lot.
With injuries on Seattle’s offensive line, Quinn could also decide to bring pressure from different areas of the field. The Cardinals utilized Ifedi’s struggles by blitzing defensive backs off his edge, and they were able to get home. If Quinn does bring extra pressure, Wilson will have to be on the move. But defense’s like Quinn’s like to bring upfield pressure, which can let the quarterback find room to run. Wilson may have to rely on his feet more than his arm this week.
The Injured Legion of Boom
The main three players of the Legion of Boom are dealing with injuries. Richard Sherman is done for the year because of a ruptured Achilles. Questions surround Kam Chancellor as he was undergoing tests on Thursday for a neck injury, and his status for Monday night is uncertain. And Earl Thomas is expected to play with after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury. These injuries have left questions across a usually stout Seattle secondary.
Bradley McDougald will start at safety if either Chancellor or Thomas will not play. And Jeremy Lane is expected to start in place of Sherman. These injuries have come at a bad time, as the Seahawks have to face off against one of the most potent passing offenses in the NFL. Julio Jones continues to be one of the best receivers in the NFL, and it’ll be up to Lane or Shaquill Griffin to slow him down. In two games against Seattle last season, Jones caught 13 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns. And that was with Sherman on the field.
But Jones is not the only receiver to keep an eye on, as Matt Ryan continues to spread the ball around the field. Taylor Gabriel is a big play threat with his break-away speed. He can easily get behind a secondary, which could be a problem for a Seattle secondary that is missing multiple pieces. Atlanta also has Mohamed Sanu, who excels at making plays in the short and intermediate areas of the field. Sanu leads the Falcons in routes run per game and short-pass receiving touchdowns. For a defense that likes to keep passing plays short and in front of them, Sanu could be a tough matchup for this secondary.
How will the carries be distributed to the Seattle running backs?
The Seattle run game has been problematic. Wilson is currently the team’s leading rusher, with injured Chris Carson as the second leading rusher. Trying to find someone to make plays, the Seahawks promoted Mike Davis from the practice squad. Eddie Lacy has missed last week’s game because of a groin injury, but is expected to play this week. With those two in the fold, there is also Thomas Rawls and J.D. McKissic. So, who will be the primary carrier come Monday?
Pete Carroll has put a lot of faith in Lacy, as he has said many times this season that he wanted to get Lacy going. But coming off a groin injury, it’s unlikely he will be the primary back. Thomas Rawls has registered over 40 rushing yards in a game this season, so he may not get the go-ahead. And McKissic is better suited as a pass catcher out of the backfield instead of being used as a traditional running back. So, Mike Davis might get the most cracks at getting the run game going.
But will the Seahawks even rely on the run game? Last week against the Cardinals, the Seahawks practically abandoned their run game in the second half. The Seattle coaching staff may have realized that they will not be able to fix these issues this late into the season. Instead of leaning on the run game, the Seattle offense may sprinkle some run plays. With Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett up the middle for the Falcons, it may be best for Seattle to shy away from running the ball this week.