Seattle gets its first test without Richard Sherman when Matt Ryan and the defending NFC champion Falcons come to town Monday.
2017 record: 5-4, third in NFC South.
Coach: Dan Quinn (24-17, three years in Atlanta and overall).
Series record: Seattle leads the regular season series 10-5, including a wild 26-24 victory at CenturyLink Field last October. Atlanta, though, then came back to end Seattle’s season with a 36-20 win in the divisional round of the playoffs in January.
Early line: Seahawks by 3 points.
QB Matt Ryan: A year after winning NFL MVP honors and leading the league in a number of passing categories, Ryan’s numbers are down across the board. Maybe standing out the most are his yards per attempt — an NFL-best 10.1 last year compared to 7.6 this year — and touchdown percentage (7.1 in 2016, 4.3 in 2017). He’s also already thrown more interceptions — eight — than he did all of last year (seven). But Ryan is also coming off one of his more efficient outings on Sunday against Dallas when he completed 22-29 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns and he has played well historically against Seattle — 14 touchdowns in six games against the Seahawks (regular season and playoffs) and three or more four times.
WR Julio Jones: A first team All-Pro pick each of the last two years, Jones’ numbers are also down quite a bit from last season. Specifically, he’s averaging 79.4 yards per game and 14.6 per reception this year compared to 100.6 and 17.0 in 2016. He also has just one touchdown. But Seattle won’t have Richard Sherman to put on Jones this time around (while Sherman typically has stayed on the left side he has often specifically shadowed Jones at times in games in the past).
RB Tevin Coleman: Coleman could be Atlanta’s feature back this week if Devonta Freeman is ruled out with a concussion. Quinn was unclear on that on Monday saying there was still a chance Freeman could play. Coleman, in his third season in the NFL, stepped in when Freeman left the game early Sunday and had a season-high 83 yards on 20 carries.
DE Adrian Clayborn: The 29-year-old had the best game of his seven-year career on Sunday with six sacks against the Cowboys — second-most in NFL history. Clayborn took advantage of an injury-riddled left side of the Dallas offensive line and Seattle also enters the week with questions about the left side of its line with tackle Duane Brown having missed much of the Arizona game with a sprained ankle. Brown has indicated he is okay but he may not practice much this week as the team attempts to get him ready for Monday and taking on Clayborn.
The Falcons have had a whirlwind of a post-Super-Bowl-runner-up season already. They won their first three games and looked as if there would be no reason to talk about a hangover. Then they lost four of five, including surprising home defeats to Buffalo and Miami in which an offense — now coordinated by former UW head coach Steve Sarkisian — that was the best in the NFL last season failed down the stretch. Then came what Quinn hopes is a return-to-form win Sunday in dominating Dallas 27-7 (though the fact that the Cowboys played without Ezekial Elliott and with a banged-up offensive line obviously can’t be discounted).
Sarkisian has taken heat for the fact that the offense hasn’t been as productive this season as last year – Atlanta is averaging just 21.8 points per game this year compared to 33.75 in 2016. The Falcons, though, still remain one of the better offensive units in the NFL — Atlanta’s average of 6.1 yards per play is tied with the Rams for third in the league, if down from the 6.7 of 2016.
Sarkisian is not the only familiar face making a return, though. Former Seahawk fullback Derrick Coleman is Atlanta’s only fullback and also a key member of special teams, former Wilson High and UW standout Desmond Trufant is a starter at cornerback, former UW receiver Marvin Hall is a backup for the Falcons (he had two targets without a catch against Dallas) and the Falcons also recently signed former Seahawk defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (Rubin has four tackles in three games with the Falcons).
BY THE NUMBERS
2 — Number of sacks Atlanta’s Adrian Clayborn had this season before making six Sunday against Dallas.
8 — The number of sacks he needed this season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, to earn a bonus of $750,000.
10 — The number of years since a player last had six sacks in a game. The last one to do it was New York’s Osi Umenyiora on Sept. 30, 2007.