Seattle got a bit of a reality check last Sunday when they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 30-16. Russell Wilson proved that he was human, throwing his first interception of the season to Marcus Peters, who returned it 67 yards for a score to give Baltimore 13-10 second-quarter lead. The Seahawks also didn’t have much of an answer for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' running game, as they gave up 116 yards to Jackson on 14 carries. DK Metcalf’s fourth-quarter fumble resulted in a Marlon Humphrey 18-yard return for a touchdown that iced the game for Baltimore. Those two critical turnovers showed just how little of a margin for error there is in the NFL, especially for Seattle.
Atlanta has been in a free fall all season long with five straight losses after a 24-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2. The Falcons were overwhelmed by a desperate Los Angeles Rams team, 37-10 last Sunday afternoon. Quarterback Matt Ryan left the game with an ankle injury and is questionable for this week’s game. The lack of a running game cost Atlanta against Los Angeles too; they were only able to generate 38 yards on 15 carries. The frustration of a season getting away from them is another issue for the Falcons, as Devonta Freeman was ejected for punching Aaron Donald in the third quarter while trailing 20-3.
Seattle at Atlanta
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks secondary
General manager John Schneider got active in the trade market on Tuesday when Seattle acquired safety Quandre Diggs from the Detroit Lions for a 2020 fifth-round draft pick. Diggs was a Lions' team captain and has the capability to produce at a high level with three interceptions in 2017 and '18. This season has been a bit more of a struggle since Diggs has been battling a hamstring issue. Two things sparked this move by Schneider to go out and get some help for the defense. First, injuries to Bradley McDougald and Lano Hill created opportunities for rookie Marquise Blair, who got his first start last Sunday. Blair is a very physical player who should pair well with Diggs in the secondary and start to bring back more of an aggressive element to the Seahawks. The other reason was Tedric Thompson giving up a 50-yard completion over his head to Miles Boykin during the opening possession last week against Baltimore. Giving up a deep ball like that is the ultimate cardinal sin as a defensive back for coach Pete Carroll.
2. Seahawks' offensive balance and pass rush
The Seahawks have a great opportunity to get right this week when it comes to taking care of the fundamentals. First, the running game couldn’t get rolling last week against a fired-up Ravens defense. Chris Carson had 21 carries for 61 yards and wasn’t able to wear down Baltimore in the second half. Atlanta ranks 21st in rushing defense at 113.7 rushing yards allowed per game, so opportunities should be plentiful for Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to establish the run. This will then set up Wilson to go to work throwing the football in play action to Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown, and DK Metcalf. It will be important for the receivers to do a better job of creating separation, as Wilson had the throw ball away 12 times last week. Defensively, the Seahawks' inability to get sacks continues to be a problem; their 11 sacks on the year ranks just for 26th in the NFL. This week should be a great opportunity for their defensive line to generate more pressure since neither Ryan nor backup Matt Schaub will be very mobile. The lack of mobility of the Falcons quarterbacks should help Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah get more opportunities for sacks this week.
3. Which Atlanta team is going to show up?
Head coach Dan Quinn is on the hot seat with the Falcons sitting at 1-6. The defense, Quinn's specialty, has struggled all year long, which adds fuel to the speculation that owner Arthur Blank will eventually move on from Quinn. The front office has started the fire sale this week by trading wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to the New England Patriots for a second-round draft pick. One has to wonder if the other players rumored to be on the trading block will mail it in or play out of their minds to encourage a trade. Hence, getting off to a fast start will be important for the Falcons if they are going to have a shot to pull off a huge upset. The nightmare scenario is falling behind 17-0, which would allow the Seahawks to tee off defensively and turn the crowd against them very quickly.
If you are going to be a playoff team in the NFC, there is very little room to give away games when as the favorite. Seattle should be able to start fast and methodically pull away for a decisive win. Wilson will get back on track, throwing the football and connecting on about three explosive plays in the passing game to threaten 300 yards. The defense will do a solid job and create a couple of turnovers against whoever starts at quarterback this week. Bottom line, the Seahawks will have enough focus on the road in Atlanta to get the job done to set themselves up for another winnable game next week at home against Tampa Bay.
Prediction: Seahawks 30, Falcons 17
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.