Everyone knows about the recent misfortunes of the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs, and as a result, the fanbase shouldn’t be getting cocky.
But there’s no reason why Falcons fans shouldn’t be confident heading into Sunday’s second-round showdown with the Seattle Seahawks at the Georgia Dome.
To look ahead, you first have to look back — to the Seahawks’ first-round victory over the Washington Redskins. They were good enough to get a really tough road win, but they weren’t all that impressive. They weren’t dominant enough to give Falcons fans pause, at least. Not when you consider how they were taking no prisoners at home, beating teams by 29 and 58 points in the final four weeks of the regular season. It’s really tough for a west-coast team to win a game on the other side of the country, so Seattle deserves plenty of credit for that.
Now, they have to do it again. And I don’t think they can.
The Falcons are a very good football team, and they seem to elevate their play in the biggest games of the season. Circled on the home schedule were three games: Denver, New Orleans and the New York Giants. The Falcons won all three, allowing a combined 34 points to those three teams’ future-Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks. The Seahawks have a nasty, physical defense that will be a tough challenge for the Falcons, but Atlanta’s defense is just as ferocious. Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch is going to get his yards, but the Falcons will get after rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. I assure you defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has something special for him.
Let’s mix in a few more variables. The Seahawks are coming off a street brawl in Washington, D.C. while the Falcons sat at home and got plenty of rest. In their win over the Redskins, Seattle lost a starting defensive end and forced injured kicker Steven Hauschka to push his injured calf muscle, and who knows if he’ll be able to go on Sunday. If they have a highly-unreliable kicker in a close game, that will benefit the Falcons.
Doctors believe #Seahawks DE Chris Clemons has a torn ACL, agent Donal Henderson told me. MRI in morning. “It’s loose. We think it’s an ACL”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 7, 2013
#Seahawks K Steven Hauschka suffered a calf injury. “We don’t know where it’s going yet,” coach Pete Carroll said.
— Danny O’Neil (@dannyoneil) January 7, 2013
Finally, let’s not forget that the Falcons are good in the Georgia Dome. Really good. And one playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers a few years ago isn’t going to change that. Seattle feeds off a raucous 12th Man standing behind them and frustrating opposing offenses. That won’t be the case on Sunday — as a matter of fact, it will be the opposite. They’ll be the ones having to deal with crowd noise. The Dome gets as loud as any stadium in the NFL, especially when there’s 71,000 Falcons fans and few opposing fans to detract from that maximum noise.
The Falcons have come up empty in the last three postseasons, but two of those games were on the road and the other loss was to the aforementioned Packers. This might be the best shot Matt Ryan and Co. have to get the monkey off their backs, so there’s every reason for Falcons fans to be amped and confident for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.
It’s time to break the streak and end all this talk about postseason struggles.