- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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1. Beast Mode. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch has reached 100 yards rushing in 11 games this season, counting playoffs. He faces a Falcons defense that allowed 100-plus yards to Tampa Bay's Doug Martin (142), Arizona’s LaRod Stephens-Howling (127), Carolina's Cam Newton (116), Washington’s Alfred Morris (115) and Denver’s Willis McGahee (113). The Falcons never had a running back with more than 103 yards in a game. Michael Turner had 103 against Carolina in Week 4 and 102 against Dallas in Week 9.
2. QB options. The Seahawks have enjoyed great success with option runs featuring Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson. They had 110 yards on 11 such carries during their wild-card victory over Washington. The Panthers' Newton had a 72-yard touchdown run during a 30-20 victory over the Falcons this season. He had 202 yards rushing against Atlanta this season, more than any other player gained against the Falcons.
3. Opposites. These teams from the Southeast and Northwest have more than geography to differentiate them. The Seahawks have the second-youngest roster in the NFL, counting players on various reserve lists. The Falcons have the fifth-oldest roster. The Seahawks have the NFL’s best strength of victory percentage (.534), meaning the teams they defeated had a higher winning percentage than the teams anyone else defeated. The Falcons played the NFL’s easiest schedule. The Seahawks had the NFL's highest percentage of called running plays (49.8) this seeason. The Falcons had the seventh-lowest percentage of called runs (35.1).
4. Wilson cools off. Seattle's rookie quarterback led the NFL in Total QBR (84.1) from Week 10 through the conclusion of the regular season. The 36.7 QBR score he posted against Washington in the wild-card round was his lowest in a game since a Week 7 defeat at San Francisco. That included a 9.7 QBR number on 17 dropbacks when the Redskins pressured with five or more pass-rushers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Falcons ranked fifth in QBR allowed (29.4) when rushing five or more defenders. They pressured on 29.3 percent of dropbacks, right near the league average.
5. Injury impact. The Seahawks lost starting defensive end and leading pass-rusher Chris Clemons to a potentially serious knee injury Sunday. Clemons played 86.4 percent of the Seahawks' defensive snaps on his way to 11.5 sacks during the regular season. No defensive lineman or linebacker played a higher percentage for the Seahawks this season. Losing Clemons would likely force rookie Bruce Irvin into an every-down role, a big adjustment with consequences against the run. No other defensive lineman on the team has played more than 62 percent of the snaps.
16hEric D. Williams
14hEric D. Williams