Two teams facing an early fork-in-the-road moment will meet at Lumen Field in Seattle on Sunday. The Atlanta Falcons (0-2) and the Seattle Seahawks (1-1) will battle it out in a must-win game for both teams if they want to avoid falling into a deep hole after three weeks.
Atlanta almost pulled off a big 28-3 comeback win of their own on Sunday as their furious rally came up just short in a 31-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Marcus Mariota completed 17 of 26 passes for 196 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. The interceptions need to be cleaned up if the Falcons are going to rattle off a winning streak of any sort in 2022. Drake London continues to live up to his promise as a top-10 pick for Atlanta. London caught eight passes for 86 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets. The defense held the Rams to 65 rushing yards while creating three turnovers. A.J. Terrell and Mykal Walker led the defense with a combined 16 tackles, two pass breakups, and an interception.
Whatever could go wrong did for the Seattle Seahawks in a 27-7 loss on the road to San Francisco last Sunday. The running game was non-existent, as Seattle generated a mere 36 yards on the ground, which is a recipe for getting blown out. Three turnovers were another culprit in the loss, including an ill-timed halfback pass by DeeJay Dallas ending a potential touchdown drive. Geno Smith failed to get the offense in the end zone, which brings that streak up to six quarters without a touchdown. The only score of the day came on special teams when Michael Jackson returned a blocked field goal 85 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 20-7. It was quite a humbling afternoon for the Seahawks at the hands of the 49ers, which was more dominating than the final score would indicate.
Atlanta (0-2) at Seattle (1-1)
Three Things to Watch
1. Atlanta offense
The Falcons have an excellent opportunity to get things rolling on offense this week against a work-in-progress Seahawks defense. Mariota can get the ball rolling by taking care of the football and avoiding unnecessary interceptions. London should test Tariq Woolen and the rest of the cornerbacks with his playmaking abilities.
One thing that head coach Arthur Smith won't be able to get away with is not getting the ball to tight end Kyle Pitts throughout the season. Smith made some pointed comments after the Rams game when asked about the lack of targets.
"Kyle is a huge part of our offense. ... Other guys made plays," Smith said, via Tori McElhaney of the team's official website. "It's not fantasy football. We're just trying to win. We will continue to look at everything and try to get better."
Understandably, Smith would feel that way since he has tended to play the hot hand on any given day. Fast forward to Sunday, and you can expect some early targets for Pitts to get him in the game's rhythm as four catches after two games won't cut it.
2. Seahawks' offensive struggles
The only way Smith or Drew Lock will have a shot to truly work is to have a strong tone-setting running attack. After two weeks, Seattle is dead last in rushing yards with just 112 yards on 33 attempts. This is not just a byproduct of a rough day against the 49ers — the Denver game was an issue as well at only 76 rushing yards.
Atlanta's run defense is middle of the pack, so expect offensive coordinator Shane Waldron to try and get Rashaad Penny and Kenneth Walker III going early and often. Pass protection needs to be better this week to give Smith time to throw the football and get DK Metcalf going. Metcalf is off to a slow start with 11 receptions for 71 yards and no touchdowns and has the potential for much more.
3. Atlanta defense
If you are a defensive player for the Falcons, this week feels like one of those "get right" games. They are going up against a Seattle offense that hasn’t scored in six quarters and could start pressing if they have another slow start. Expect Atlanta to attack Smith off the edge and test rookie tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas. This would keep Smith in the pocket and not allow him to beat them with designed quarterback runs.
Another option for the Atlanta defense is to dare the Seahawks to run the ball down their throats. If the Seahawks get that done, then you tip your hat to them. If they don’t get the running game going, they should be able to have a field day against Smith and force a couple of turnovers.
We will learn a great deal about both teams and where they stand after three games. Atlanta should be 1-1 considering that they blew a 26-10 lead at home against New Orleans in Week 1. Seattle must respond in a big way as the rebuilding process continues for head coach Pete Carroll. The Falcons were better offensively in the first couple of weeks, which should give them an advantage over the Seahawks. On the other hand, Seattle should play better and with more energy, but it won’t be enough on Sunday. Atlanta wins its first game to improve to 1-2, but it won’t be easy at all.
Prediction: Falcons 23, Seahawks 17
– Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Contributor Network.
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