Julio Jones: Atlanta’s x-factor

Julio Jones

You’ve been hearing all week about the Seattle Seahawks and their don’t-let-the-opposing-offense-gain-a-single-yard ferocity from the opening kickoff until the final whistle.

But there are holes in that logic.

The truth is, they’re a great bunch. They fly around and make a lot of really big plays, and lately, they’ve been getting off the field quickly so their offense can control the clock. Clutch plays have come in bunches, and their confidence hasn’t been shaken in a long time (save for maybe the first quarter and a half of last Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins, when they trailed 14-0 early).

However, Seattle’s defense hasn’t seen anything like the offense they’ll be matched up against this Sunday.

It’s true that the Falcons will need to run the ball a reasonable amount to balance their offense. And it’s true that Roddy White will have his hands full with Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who is the best cover corner in the league, based on some statistics.

But as Knox Bardeen wrote Tuesday on BleacherReport.com, Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner is going to have a lot of trouble with Julio Jones, the Falcons’ No. 2 receiver.

(Also read: More reasons why Falcons fans should be confident)

Look at Seattle’s recent opponents. When do you suppose was the last time Browner faced a No. 2 receiver that was as big and physical as Jones? Maybe it was the last time the Falcons faced the Seahawks, a season ago. And despite Browner’s imposing size, the stats would actually suggest he was a better player last year, the same season that Jones, a highly-unpolished rookie, had a field day against him. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan should have plenty of chances to throw to an open Jones on Sunday — he just needs to connect on those passes when he gets a chance.

Listen, I’m not saying Browner is going to be a lost puppy on the field at the Georgia Dome this weekend. He’s a professional; he could have a career day and be the reason why the Seahawks upset the Falcons. I will say this — he’s going to have a long day, and if last week’s battle in Washington, D.C. wore him down at all, it’s going to be a big day with lots of options all over the field for Ryan.

That includes guys like Harry Douglas, Tony Gonzalez, and even Jacquizz Rodgers. The Seahawks have to cover them all, and if the star receivers are catching deep passes and spreading the field, that task gets much more daunting.

The NFL Playoffs are all about matchups, and if the Falcons can exploit the Jones-Browner duel, the Falcons could be on to the NFC Championship while the other Birds are flying back west with broken wings.

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