SEAHAWKS’ OPPONENT THIS WEEK
Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
10:15 a.m., Sunday, Georgia Dome, Atlanta
This season: The Falcons, who won their first eight games of the season, claimed the NFC South Division and secured the NFC’s top seed and a first-round bye. Atlanta was 7-1 at the Georgia Dome.
Against the Seahawks: Seattle leads the all-time series, 8-5. The teams have never met in the playoffs. Atlanta won, 30-28, the last time the teams played – Oct. 2, 2011 at CenturyLink Field – but almost blew a 27-7 lead when Steven Hauska’s 61-yard field goal attempt with no time remaining fell short.
Stats and stuff: Coach Mike Smith has never won less than nine games in his five seasons with the Falcons, and he’s got the team in the playoffs for the fourth time. However, he’s also 0-3 in the playoffs, including 0-1 at home. … The week off should be beneficial to three defensive starters nursing injuries – end John Abraham (left ankle), cornerback Dunta Robinson (concussion) and strong safety William Moore (hamstring). The defense can use all the help it can get. Atlanta ranked 23rd in passing yards allowed (242.4 per game), 21st in rushing yards allowed (123.2 per game) but a surprising fifth in points allowed (18.7 per game). The run defense gave up an average of 4.8 yards per carry and led the league with eight runs of 40 or more yards surrendered… Abraham had 10 of the team’s 29 sacks. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas led the team with 97 total tackles while safety Thomas DeCoud led his more recognizable teammates in the secondary – Robinson (one interception) and Asante Samuel (five) – with six interceptions. … Offensively, the Falcons like to throw behind quarterback Matt Ryan, who has been the starter since his rookie season in 2008. Ryan ranked fifth in rating (99.1), fifth in yards per game (295), fifth in TD passes (32) and tied with Peyton Manning for first in completion percentage (68.6). Still, those are regular season numbers, and Ryan has yet to produce in the playoffs – compiling ratings of 72.8, 69.0 and 71.1 in three losses. … Ryan has a trio of dangerous receivers in Roddy White (92 receptions-1,351 yards-7 TDs), Julio Jones (79-1,198-10) and tight end Tony Gonzalez (93-930-8). … The running game, ranked 29th in the league in yards per game at 87.3, is led by Michael Turner – 800 yards and 10 TDs but a career-low 3.6 per carry – and the versatile former Oregon State star, Jacquizz Rodgers (362 yards rushing, 402 yards receiving).
Quotable: “We’ve got a zero in the win column in the postseason and until we get that rectified, they have some right in saying what they’re saying. But I think if we come out and play hard and play sound, I think we’ll get that first playoff win.”
– Safety Thomas DeCoud on the team’s previous postseason failures.
Sept. 9 Falcons 40, Chiefs 24
Sept. 17 Falcons 27, Broncos 21
Sept. 23 Falcons 27, Chargers 3
Sept. 30 Falcons 30, Panthers 28
Oct. 7 Falcons 24, Redskins 17
Oct. 14 Falcons 23, Raiders 20
Oct. 21 BYE WEEK
Oct. 28 Falcons 30, Eagles 17
Nov. 4 Falcons 19, Cowboys 13
Nov. 11 Saints 31, Falcons 27
Nov. 18 Falcons 23, Cardinals 19
Nov. 25 Falcons 24, Bucaneers 23
Nov. 29 Falcons 23, Saints 13
Dec. 9 Panthers 30, Falcons 20
Dec. 16 Falcons 34, Giants 0
Dec. 22 Falcons 31, Lions 18
Dec. 30 Bucaneers 22, Falcons 17