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Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons preview

The Seattle Seahawks tee off against the reeling Atlanta Falcons this week at 10:00 am PST in the Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium. While the Seahawks sit at 5-2, good for 2nd in the NFC West, despite Pete Carroll’s incessant attempts to hamper his offense with uninformed decision making, Dan Quinn’s Falcons find themselves dead last in the NFC South at 1-6. It’s a lost season for Atlanta but there’s potentially enough ego (and job insecurity) on the line for Dan Quinn and Co. to give it their all this weekend. Although no ill feelings are known between the two franchises, it’s likely that both Carroll and Quinn would like to stick it to one another as the former coworkers — Quinn held the titles of Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach (2010) and Defensive Coordinator (2013/2014) under Carroll, in Seattle — once again face each other as equals. The Carroll vs. Quinn head coaching series currently sits a 2 Quinn wins to Carroll’s 1. It’s likely things move to 2-2 after this Week 8 tilt though.

Although Seattle’s dealing with its fair share of injuries, Atlanta looks to be even worse off. With Pro Bowl strong safety Keanu Neal shelved for the year due to a ruptured Achilles, the whole defense has suffered. Making matters worse, Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant (concussion) — the younger brother of former Seahawks Pro Bowler Marcus Trufant — and standout defensive lineman Grady Jarrett (abdomen) are not expected to play, having missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday. Falcons’ guard, James Carpenter (the former Seahawk) is also trending in the wrong direction for Sunday-availability with his knee injury. Most notably though, Matt Ryan has been unable to practice due to an ankle sprain. Former San Diego Chargers team doctor David Chao diagnosed him with a mild high-ankle sprain via video replay and thinks Ryan sit out this week. Given that the Falcons go on bye in Week 9, two weekends of rest would pay dividends towards his recovery. Should Ryan be held out, 38-year old Matt Schaub would make an unimposing start against the ‘Hawks.

Seattle’s defense is likely to be without safeties Bradley McDougald and Lano Hill, as well as rotational interior rusher Quinton Jefferson. To prepare for McDougald and Hill’s absences, the Seahawks’ front office decided to make an investment in the team’s long term defensive future by sending just a 2020 5th-Round pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for 2019 Pro Bowl alternate safety Quandre Diggs and a 2021 7th-Rounder. The stud 5th-year player is locked up through 2021 on a very team-friendly deal. Regardless of the currently injured safeties’ health, Diggs is easily the most talented member of the Seattle Safety Brigade. Capable of playing free safety, strong safety, and slot corner, Diggs should make an immediate impact on this team — assuming his questionable hamstring allows him to play. Revisiting our Analyzing the Seahawks Positional Need: Safeties piece, we can see that Diggs meets or falls just outside of four of the six physical requirements that we assessed Pete Carroll and John Schneider prefer a safety to have. 

CB Tre Flowers (neck), DE Ziggy Ansah (ankle), LT Duane Brown (biceps), and T George Fant (shoulder) all managed limited participation in practice on Wednesday. They’ll need to at least keep up that level of practice participation.

Although the team is on shaky ground, the Falcons’ receiving corps is loaded. Julio Jones ranks inside the Top 10 in the league in both receiving yards and touchdowns. A member of last year’s PFWA All-Rookie Team, wide receiver, Calvin Ridley has continued to make strides in his development as well. Adding to their future success, the recent jettisoning of Mohamed Sanu to the New England Patriots in exchange for a 2020 2nd-Round pick frees up significant targets for the both of them. Breakout 4th-year tight end Austin Hooper is second in the NFL in both tight end receiving yards and touchdowns. While the running game hasn’t been what it once was, Devonta Freeman is still a talented back who will give Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright plenty to think about all week long.

Prior to last week, Russell Wilson was largely considered to be leading the MVP race. Lamar Jackson and Aaron Rodgers may have recently pulled ahead of him though, through no fault of his own. Pete Carroll’s rejection of empirical data regarding offensive decision making continues to keep us from seeing Russell Wilson’s true pinnacle. Warren Sharp breaks it down well:

That being said, the Seattle Seahawks’ boneheaded offense should be able to manhandle this jarringly bad Falcons defense. Atlanta allows the 6th-most yards per game and the 2nd-most points per game. As a whole, it would not be surprising to see Chris Carson, Tyler Lockett, and DK Metcalf all clear 100 yards from scrimmage or more. As a result, Russell Wilson should have no issue getting his MVP campaign back on track. Expect a Seahawks’ victory in the neighborhood of 29 – 13.

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