The Seahawks are not only good enough to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday (10 a.m., FOX), they’re playing with house money.
There’s no pressure on these Seattle birds, who have not missed a beat since getting on a roll with a road victory over the Bears.
The Falcons are the No. 1 seeds, but haven’t been soaring like the Hawks. Atlanta is coming off a loss to Tampa Bay and has lost two of its last four games. There’s also the fact that Atlanta is 0-3 in the playoffs under current coach Mike Smith. The Falcons will be dissed big-time if they don’t win this one. Think they’re feeling a little pressure?
But if you’re a Seattle fans, there are questions. Here are six that come to mind?
Q1: Can the Seahawks overcome the loss of defensive end Chris Clemons, their best pass rusher?
As good as Clemons is, Seattle should be able get it done without him. This is an opportunity for first-round draft pick Bruce Irvin to make a name for himself on the national stage.
Q2: Can Seattle sustain the energy and focus that’s gotten them this far?
That’s the main concern. If you’re a Hawks fan, you’d like to think they’re peaking at the perfect time. On the other hand, you hope they haven’t peaked too early. It’s so difficult to maintain that edge, but I’m inclined to think a lack of energy or focus won’t be a problem. Considering what’s at stake, it shouldn’t. Plus, these guys look like they’re having too much fun to wear down now. One of the most impressive traits of this team once it got on its roll is how it’s been able to play from the first snap to the last without any letdowns. You gotta like this quote from Doug Baldwin, as told to Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times: “We’re going to be physical and consistent. And we’re going to do it until the other team can’t do it anymore.”
Q3: What about the matchup with Atlanta’s skills guys — quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez?
Seattle’s defensive secondary has pretty much controlled opponents all season, but this could be the toughest challenge yet, and the one question that worries me the most. Cornerback Brandon Browner could have trouble with the speed of White and Jones. Those two were targeted 28 times and caught 17 passes for 205 yards in a 31-28 win over Seattle on Oct. 2, 2011. And Tony Gonzalez still has the ability to come up with a big plays. And if they don’t get pressure on Ryan, well, you know what could happen.
Q4: Will the loss of kicker Steven Hauschka, who was put on injured reserve Wednesday, hurt the Hawks?
You never know. The guy they signed, Ryan Longwell, 38, has loads of experience but he hasn’t kicked in the league this season. And Hauschka has been as reliable as any kicker in the league. If it comes down to FGs, it might not be good for Seattle.
Q5: Is there a chance that the Hawks got a little lucky with the schedule makers late in the season? Have they played anybody really good?
I know, I know, I know. The 49ers were pretty good and Seattle put up 42 points on their rivals, but the Niners were beat up that day. The 58-0 and 50-17 wins were impressive, but they were over the Cardinals (who had eight turnovers) and Bills. Seattle struggled to beat the Rams 20-13 in its regular-season final at home and they beat a Redskins team that was less than full strength because of RG3’s knee. And Washington wasn’t all that great to begin with, having won the mediocre NFC West.
Q6: Can scrambling QB Russell Wilson stay healthy?
We saw what the Redskins turned into after RG3s knee injury. And as good as rookie QB Russell Wilson has been, he’s been sacked six times in the last two games. And if he was not able to do the best impersonation of Fran Tarkenton since, well, Fran Tarkenton, he would have several more. And if he’s a second late going into his slide, well, Seahawks’ fans don’t even want to think about that one.
Interested in flying to Atlanta? Sunday’s game at the Georgia Dome is sold out , but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that StubHub.com was offering 9,000 tickets that started at $60 for upper end-zone seats.
Odds to win the Super Bowl
The Seahawks and Falcons are both listed at 8-1 to win the Super Bowl. Denver, at 3-1, is the favorite to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans on Feb. 2.
Did you know?
Courtesy Steve Rudman of Sportspressnw.com comes this trivia: Since playoff seeding began following the 1990 season, just one No. 5 seed has defeated a No. 1 seed, in the 2007 divisional playoffs when Eli Manning led the New York Giants to a 21-17 upset of No. 1-seeded Dallas.
Seattle, a No. 5 seed, would like to duplicate what those Giants did. They defeated No. 2-seeded Green Bay 23-20 (OT) in the NFC Championship game and the AFC’s No. 1-seed, New England, 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.
Seattle’s also trying to become the third-straight wild card to win the Super Bowl, following Green Bay (2010) and the Giants (2011).
Packers or Niners?
OK, let’s say the Seahawks win. Who would you like to see them play in the NFC Championship game, the Packers or Niners? Either way, that’s a juicy matchup right? The Packers will want revenge for the Failed Mary play at the Clink earlier this season, and the Seahawks would get another shot at Jim Harbaugh (is there a more hated man in the NFL right now?) and the Niners.
Where are you watching the game?
Just wondering, where’s the best place to watch a Seahawks’ playoff game in Kitsap County? If one is looking to step out of his man cave and wants to join some fans, where do you go? The Cloverleaf and Arena are obvious options in B-town. The casinos are obvious places in the north end. Kelly’s 19th Hole usually draws a crowd in Chico. I would imagine All Star Lanes and Hi-Joy Bowl draw a crowd. What’s the best place in Belfair? Bainbridge? Anybody offering prizes and giveaways? Are there some sleeper joints out there that we should know about?
This is your chance to give your favorite place a little free pub.