Of all the possible outcomes for the Atlanta Falcons, perhaps running into the Seattle Seahawks was the worst possible outcome. On the other hands, it's apropos that the path to the NFC Championship should be through a difficult team, to finally put a nail in the coffin of the stains of 'overrated' sung by so many. These are your three things to watch in Sunday's divisional playoff game.
1. Don't let the secondary push the tempo
The match-up between the Atlanta Falcons wide receivers, and Seahawks' cornerbacks is likely to be one of this week's best contests. Both are incredibly physical at the line of scrimmage, and both used to out-muscling their opponents. If the Falcons hope to get their passing attack working, they'll need to win this battle off the line.
NFL rules favor the offensive players, but if they hope to square off with the Seahawks and push them around, they;ll get beaten. The key is to attack the middle of the field with quick cuts and routes. It may hamstring the big play, but it will move the football.
2. Guard play is critical
Seattle have talented edge rushers, but it's ability to pressure up the middle that sets them apart. Atlanta's guard play needs to ensure that the defensive tackles can't push into the center of the pocket, because as talented as Matt Ryan is, he still struggles with pressure around him.
If Atlanta can stonewall the DTs, they win the trenches -- and by extension, the game.
3. Open field tackling
Marshawn Lynch will get his, it's inevitable. Where he really damages teams is when they are unable to tackle him in the open field, something the Falcons have struggled with this season. There's more to it than simply 'wrapping up', but they'll still need to concentrate heavily on keeping Lynch's gains under 5 yards, wherever possible.