*Richard Sherman (CB) is out but not listed
Some important things to note from this injury report is the diminished “Legion Of Boom”. 2 of the top 3 members of the Seahawks secondary mean that mismatches will be all over the place. Earl Thomas, who has missed two straight games with a hamstring injury, is back and will try to take over Kam Chancellors role as the leader of the secondary. Hopefully with Sherman and Chancellor out, Sarkisian utilizes the TEs to get Thomas to cover him and forces the diminished secondary to cover our WRs 1-on-1. Eddie Lacy, after missing a few games, is now back and will most likely get the brunt of the carries but Seattle hasn’t had much success in the run game this year so it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Seattle’s starting LG is out and their LT is questionable but didn’t practice this week so it is unlikely that he will play. Adrian Clayborn has been licking his chops after every injury report has been released after having a 6-sack performance against the cowboys backup LT. Seattle’s strongside linebacker will also be out so look for Bobby Wagner to cover the strongside. Jarran Reed, Seattle’s starting DT, is also listed as questionable but that shouldn’t change much in the running game as Teron Ward and Tevin Coleman are both speed backs.
The only player listed as out on the official Falcons injury report is Devonta Freeman. He went out with a concussion on a hit by Andrew Hitchens last week and didn’t return. Tevin Coleman did well to fill in but Sarkisian needs to change his play calling from Devonta Freeman style runs up the middle to giving Tevin Coleman the ball on the outside. Duke Riley who hasn’t played since the Patriots game is listed as questionable but hasn’t had a full practice yet. Kemal Ishmael has done alright to fill in but Riley would be a nice step up. Matt Bosher did not practice on Friday and since it was no practice on Saturday we don’t know his official status but he is listed as questionable. Dan Quinn said, according to Jeanna Thomas, that he is very questionable to play and that our emergency punters are Matt Bryant and Mohammed Sanu. Matt Bryant has punted three times in his career, most recently last year when he punted twice for an average of 34 yards per punt. Sanu is one of the most versatile players in the NFL right now, He has thrown passes, caught passes, ran the ball, played defense, and played on special teams. The one thing he hasn’t done is punt the ball. He punted at Rutgers but has not yet done in the NFL.
Players to Watch
As a standard with Julio, he was injured this week and held out of Thursday practice but did participate Friday. He will play but we don’t know how it will affect him. It will be interesting to see how Sarkisian utilizes him against the diminished secondary of Seattle. Julio has rarely been targeted this year and only has one touchdown. If there’s ever a day when Sarkisian should target Julio more it is today. The diminished secondary will create more one on one opportunities for Julio streaking down the field.
Coming off a very impressive six Sack performance last week against Dallas, Play born might be going against another back up tackle depending on Duane Brown’s status, but it is unlikely that he will play. Look for Clayborn, Jarrett, and Poe to get after the left side with Seattle (maybe)missing their left tackle and definitely missing their left guard.
Seattle’s strong side linebacker is out and this is most likely going to affect the coverage aspect of the game. Austin Hooper has played very well this year and since Wilhoite is a great coverage man and it is most likely that Wagner will not be able to fill-in in coverage.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Call runs for Tevin Coleman, not Devonta Freeman.
Coleman was forced to run way too many inside runs last week and once we got him out in space he had a lot of yards. Hopefully Sarkisian will use this knowledge to get him out in space because Coleman is a speed back unlike Freeman who is more of a power back
2. Bootlegs/ Rollouts
Last year, Matt Ryan did very well throwing on the run to tight ends and crossing routes. Last week on a scoring drive when we got to the red zone, we call to bootleg plays with Austin Hooper going out on a flat route. The first play, Austin Hooper got 10 yards and the second play he got five for a touchdown. On one of the touchdowns by Tevin Coleman it would’ve been very easy for Matt Ryan to fake an outside handoff to Kevin Coleman and run the other way and easily scamper in for a touchdown. This was used last year very often but needs to be used more this year.
3. Get Julio Jones Involved
I know it sounds obvious, but Julio needs to break out this week and the only way to do that is if Ryan and Sarkisian target him. This week would be the best week to break out for Julio because of the diminished secondary of Seattle as well as how important this game is. Last week on Justin Hartley’s touchdown catch in the back of the Endzone Julio was used as a decoy. When you have the talent that is Julio Jones, as an offense of coordinator you can’t use him as a decoy in the end zone. We all saw what happened when you just threw it up to him in the end zone versus the patriots so who’s to say he can’t do that against a worse smaller corner.
1. Keep Russell Wilson in the pocket
Russell Wilson is a Seahawks leading rusher. Although that means that Seattle can’t really run the ball, it also means that Russell Wilson is a great escape artist. He is smaller than cam Newton but also faster and this will mark the third straight week in which the Falcons face a running QB. In the two weeks against Cam Newton and Dak Prescott the defense allowed two rushing touchdowns. It will be interesting to see who manual makes the QB spy for Wilson and also how he utilizes blitzes and changes the defensive end’s strategy to better keep contain.
2. Keep Jimmy Graham in check
Jimmy Graham, as a saint, absolutely destroyed the Falcons’ defense every time the Falcons play the Saints. The Falcons have always had trouble against tight ends but last week, Devondre Campbell kept Witten in and held him to no touchdowns and a minimal amount of yards. It will be interesting to see if Campbell continues guarding Jimmy Graham as Graham is a bit bigger than Witten. Doug Baldwin is their biggest wide receiver threat and it will be interesting to see how safety help from Kyoto Neal and Ricardo Allen is utilized to help Trufant keep Doug Baldwin out of the endzone. Baldwin also gets a lot of his yards when Russell Wilson is scrambling as cornerbacks struggle to keep him from running for the first down. A QB spy from one of our linebackers will help this as it keeps Trufant on Baldwin.
3. Get more interior pressure.
Usually I would say that Clayborn and Beasley as well as Brooks read on the outside need to get pressure but with them over committing to get pressure it will make it easier for Russell Wilson to get outside. So today is more important for Jared and Paco to get interior pressure and force him outside the pocket and into Reed and Clayborn’s hands if they stay home.
Falcons 31- 24 Seahawks
The bad news is that Chris Simms picked the Falcons to win. The falcons are 1-3 when picked by Chris Simms to win and 4-1 when picked to lose. I agree with Chris but I don’t believe it will be as close as he thinks it will be (23-21). I expect this to be a hard-fought and relatively close game but the Falcons will eventually pull away. The way for the Falcons to win this game will be to improve on the offense they had last week. They had great offensive rhythm going last week in the second half but need to have a full game of that same offensive power. The defense also needs to step up and limit their vertical attack. Seattle is one of the worst offenses in the league when it comes to rushing and so take away the pass and they virtually have nothing. Expect Julio Jones and the defense of line to have a big game today and the Falcons come out with a win and end up controlling their destiny for the playoffs. The referees will also have a huge impact on this game but at least Sherman won’t be there so this can’t happen again.
By: Reeves Guyton