Of the four NFL playoff games this weekend, the Seahawks and Falcons are the only teams that did not face off in the regular season. The Seattle Seahawks are riding a six game winning streak including a wild card win in Washington last weekend, which was their first road playoff win in nearly thirty years. The Atlanta Falcons are the NFC’s top seed with a 13-3 record and home field advantage throughout the playoffs coming off a well-deserved bye weekend following an impressive 2012 season.
The home team typically has the advantage in these big games, but when you look closer at the numbers, the Seahawks have a great chance to pull off the upset on the road. Bloomberg Sports has conducted research on the play of offensive and defensive lines for each NFL team this season. According to the data set, the Seahawks are the 6th ranked team this season in Net Hits, the difference between the number of hits the offensive line has allowed and the number of hits the defensive line has made, while the Falcons are the 19th ranked team. Seattle has hit the opposing quarterback 39 more times than they have allowed Russell Wilson to get hit this season, while the Falcons have allowed Matt Ryan to be hit 6 more times than they have hit the opposing quarterback. According to the Bloomberg Sports Pocket Watch Analytics, the Seahawks offensive line is ranked 3rd overall in seconds between the snap and contact, allowing Russell Wilson an average 3.15 seconds before being hit. Compared to the Falcons offensive line, which is ranked 11th in the NFL and allows Matt Ryan an average of 2.98 seconds between snap and contact, the Seahawks’ offensive line can provide the time needed for Russell Wilson to exploit the Falcons’ secondary.
The Seahawks are one of the NFL’s most prolific rushing teams with the third most rushing yards this season (2,579). Conversely, the Atlanta Falcons have been less than stout against the run, allowing the 4th most (4.8) yards per rushing attempt and the 12th most (1,971) rushing yards in the NFL this season. This does not bode well for the Atlanta defense, considering the Seahawks led the NFL in rushing attempts per game this season.
The Falcons’ offense has been carried by having one of the NFL’s best passing attacks, ranking 6th in total passing yards (4,509), 5th in passing touchdowns (32) and 6th in yards per game (281.6). Unfortunately for the Falcons, the Seahawks have allowed the second fewest passing touchdowns (15) in the NFL and also boast the league’s 8th best passing defense with 18 interceptions.
This game is going to be a tough uphill battle for the Falcons, but Atlanta’s saving grace just might be the fact that Seattle’s best defensive lineman (Chris Clemons) is out for the remainder of the playoffs with a knee injury. If Atlanta can stop the run and provide Matt Ryan with pass protection, they just might be able to hold off the NFL’s hottest team. The flight from Seattle to Atlanta might be a long one, but the Seahawks have the personnel on both sides of the ball that can help them celebrate their second consecutive road playoff win and seventh in a row.