Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Condotta takes a look at the Seahawks’ divisional-round opponent Saturday, the Atlanta Falcons.
When, where: 1:35 p.m. Saturday, Georgia Dome, Atlanta.
Falcons’ record: 11-5, first in NFC South.
Coach: Dan Quinn (18-14, second year with Falcons).
By the numbers
196: Difference in points scored by Atlanta (540) and Seattle (354) this season.
114: Difference in points allowed by Atlanta (406) and Seattle (292) this season.
7-12: Atlanta’s all-time playoff record.
8-3: Russell Wilson’s all-time playoff record.
Series record: The Seahawks lead it 10-6 after a 26-24 win over the Falcons on Oct. 16 at CenturyLink Field. Seattle is 2-3 against Atlanta in the Pete Carroll era, including post-season games. Seattle lost the first three to Atlanta under Carroll, including a 30-28 last-second defeat in the divisional playoffs following the 2012 season. But Seattle has won the past two, a 33-10 win in 2013 in Atlanta and the game in October.
Early line: Falcons by 4½ points.
QB Matt Ryan: Ryan is among the favorites to win the NFL MVP award after a season in which he threw for a career-high 38 touchdown passes and a career-low seven interceptions. A couple of the interceptions helped cost the Falcons’ games (as did one that doesn’t count in the stats — an interception on a two-point play that turned a game against Kansas City). The 31-year-old also has a history of underperforming in the playoffs. The Falcons are 1-4 in his five playoff games — the only win the 2012 divisional playoff against Seattle — throwing two interceptions three times and seven overall. Ryan is 1-2 in three home playoff games with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.
WR Julio Jones: The sixth-year receiver was a first-team All-Pro pick for the second consecutive year after leading the NFL with an average of 100.6 receiving yards. He was second in receiving yards with 1,409, gaining 139 of those against the Seahawks on Oct. 16, which was his third-highest total of the season. One big question: How often will the Seahawks try to have Richard Sherman cover Jones exclusively? Jones had three catches for 40 yards when covered solely by Sherman in October (the other four catches coming in zones or when matched up against other defenders).
RB Devonta Freeman: The third-year running back was one of six Falcons to receive a Pro Bowl invitation after rushing for a career-high 1,079 yards this season (a career-high 4.8 yards per carry) with 11 touchdowns. The 5-foot-8, 206-pounder also is a dangerous receiver with 54 receptions for 462 yards this season. Freeman made headlines last week when he was quoted saying he thinks he’s the NFL’s best all-around running back. Saturday will be his first playoff game.
LB Vic Beasley: The second-year player out of Clemson — who once said former Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin was a player whose game he liked to emulate — had a breakout season, leading the NFL with 15½ sacks. Though the Falcons like to move Beasley around, he more often lines up on the left side of the defense, meaning he generally would be matched up with Seattle right tackle Garry Gilliam.