For the first time in a while, it's harder to find anyone picking the Seahawks rather than against them.
The Seahawks enter their divisional round playoff game in Atlanta as 4.5-point underdogs. It adds to a short list of the times Seattle has truly played the role of the ‘dog since 2012.
Most in the media don’t see it any differently. It’s a common refrain. A Seahawks defense that has taken an understandable step backward without Earl Thomas is facing the second-best passing offense by yardage and third-best offense by points in the NFL. They looked good against the Lions, but a tougher test awaits.
Columnist Larry Stone is this week’s resident optimist, but beyond him, the media has a bleak outlook for the Seahawks against the Falcons on Saturday.
THE SEATTLE TIMES
Bob Condotta: Falcons 27, Seahawks 17. “Seattle finally looked more like its old self with last Saturday’s 26-6 win over the Lions. But did that win show that all is well or did Seattle just wear down a team that was as flawed as any in recent playoff memory? If the running game can replicate what it did against Detroit, then this may turn out to be a pessimistic prediction. But the Falcons are playing well and at home and rested and healthy and they have the kind of offense to take advantage of the fact that Earl Thomas won’t be playing free safety Saturday.”
Jayson Jenks: Falcons 30, Seahawks 24. “The Seahawks can give themselves a real chance if they can run the ball like they did last week against Detroit. But the Falcons have the league’s best offense, and a big play or two could swing this game.”
Larry Stone: Seahawks 24, Falcons 21. “The Falcons are favored for a reason, but I feel like the Seahawks re-discovered their identity in the second half against Detroit and will ride that to an upset victory. I’d feel more confident if Earl Thomas were healthy, but the Seahawks beat this team despite an awful defensive breakdown, and can do it again.”
Matt Calkins: Falcons 31, Seahawks 20. “Atlanta’s offense has been in the best in the league for the past month, and I’m not sure Seattle has the horses to slow it down. The pain of losing Eal Thomas has been apparent against good quarterbacks, and Matt Ryan is as good a quarterback is there is in the league.”
Six of eight panelists pick the Falcons.
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Sheil Kapadia: Falcons 27, Seahawks 20. “Offensively, the run game needs a repeat performance from last week, when Thomas Rawls ran for 161 yards. Defensively, the pass rush has to dominate. In the end, this looks like a matchup in which Seattle just has too much to overcome.”
Vaughn McClure: Falcons 35, Seahawks 28. “Playing a Seahawks team without Earl Thomas, the Falcons should be able to hit big plays inside the Georgia Dome. Not to mention the Falcons are much healthier on offense, with star receiver Julio Jones looking much more explosive off a toe sprain, speedy wideout Taylor Gabriel back from an ankle/toe injury and rookie tight end Austin Hooper back from a sprained MCL. The Falcons might not be able to stop Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, but they can certainly outscore them.”
Chris Burke: Falcons 27, Seahawks 21. “Seattle is talented and experienced enough to win this game. At some point, though, those weaknesses along the Seahawks’ O-line and in the Thomas-less secondary are going to come to the forefront. Ryan has had an MVP season, and he will test that Seattle back line in ways Stafford was unwilling or unable to last week.”
Mike Florio: Falcons 24, Seahawks 21. “Seattle’s offensive instantly becomes more diversified with a potent Thomas Rawls and a healthy C.J. Prosise. But will that be enough against a Falcons offense that is as good as it’s ever been, with 9.3 average yards per pass and Matt Ryan performing at an MVP level? Ryan has struggled in past postseasons, but he’s never had a season like the one he had in 2016. With a defense that has improved quickly under head coach Dan Quinn, the Falcons can close out the Georgia Dome (unless Green Bay wins on Sunday) with a victory.”
Michael David Smith: Falcons 30, Seahawks 20. “I’d like Seattle’s chances better if Earl Thomas were playing, but as it stands I’m having a hard time seeing the Seahawks’ secondary keeping the Falcons’ passing game in check.”
Pete Prisco: Falcons 31, Seahawks 17. “Can [the Seahawks] cover well enough without Earl Thomas in the deep middle? I don’t think they can. The Falcons scored 540 points this season to lead the league as Matt Ryan appears on his way to the MVP. The Seahawks looked good beating Detroit in the Wild-card round, but this is a big step up in opponent.”