Before the LIVE BLOG starts at noon from the Georgia Dome, here are five things to mull over.
1. What’s at stake. The NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons (11-5) face the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1, 1-0 in playoffs) in the NFC divisional playoffs at 4:35 p.m. today at the Georgia Dome. The winner advances to the NFC championship game, which is set for 3:05 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22.
The winner will play the winner of the Green Bay at Dallas game. That game will either be in Atlanta or Seattle. If Dallas wins, the game will be in Dallas.
The winner of the NFC title game advances to Super Bowl LI, which is set for 6:30 p.m. on Febuary 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston.
2. Review of the previous meeting. Seattle beat the Falcons 26-24 on Oct. 16 in Seattle. The Falcons lost when they couldn’t hold a fourth-quarter lead. The game ended with a controversial non-call on an apparent pass interference by Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman.
3. 3 key matchups to consider:
Seahawks CB Richard Sherman vs. Falcons WR Julio Jones: Jones dominated Sherman in the previous meeting with seven catches for 139 yards and touchdowns. Sherman will not have free safety Earl Thomas to help with Jones in combination coverages. Jones is coming back from a toe injury and should be close to 100 percent healthy for the game. It’s being billed and Jones vs. Sherman 2.
Seahawks MLB Bobby Wagner vs. Falcons RB Devonta Freeman: Wagner was a force in the previous meeting with 14 tackles as the Seahawks held the Falcons to 52 yards rushing, their second-lowest total of the season. Wagner led the NFL in tackles with a franchise-record 167 tackles. Freeman rushed 12 times for 40 yards and Tevin Coleman was held to 10 yards on five carries. Freeman rushed for 1,079 yards and averaged 4.8 yards a carry while scoring 11 touchdowns. With a late 24-23 lead the Falcons couldn’t run out the clock, were forced to throw and had an untimely interception.
Seattle RT Garry Gilliam vs Falcons DE/OLB Vic Beasley: Gilliam successfully moved to tackle during his senior season at Penn State. He was signed as an undafted free agent in 2014 became a starter in 2015. “Beasley has four multiple-sack games that account for 11 of his 16 sacks, and all of them came against subpar tackles that have an average PFF rating for the season of 56.8,” according to Pro Football Focus. “Beasley was good this year, but not as good as his sack total suggests.”
4.Series record. 17th overall meeting, 2nd playoff meeting. The Seahawks hold a 16-5 advantage. The Falcons won the only meeting in the playoffs when they beat the Seahawks 30-28 in the divisional round of the playoffs in Jan. 2013. The Falcons are 3-5 in Atlanta against Seattle.
5. Tale of the tape. Here’s how the Falcons and the Seahawks matchup up according to their regular seasons statistics:
2016 Regular Season Statistics Rankings
33.8 (1) Points/Game 22.1 (18t)
415.8 (2) Total Offense 357.2 (12)
120.5 (5) Net Rushing Yards/Game 99.4 (25)
295.3 (3) Net Passing Yards/Game 257.8 (10)
30:11 (18) Possession Average 29:36 (23)
25.4 (27) Opponent Points/Game 18.3 (3)
371.2 (25) Opponent Total Offense 318.7 (5)
104.5 (17) Opp. Rushing Yards/Game 92.9 (7)
266.7 (28) Opp. Passing Yards/Game 225.8 (8)
+11 (4t) Turnover Differential +1 (16)
The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov get into the Julio Jones-Richard Sherman matchup, the Falcons run defense, the team’s areas of concern and where the Falcons have the advantage.