Seattle Seahawks have been nightmarish lately, and face their 2012 playoff nightmare in the Atlanta Falcons

The Seahawks played a game on Sunday that was just another close game in which they needed second-half adjustments to pull a victory from the clutches of defeat. In this case, the team that they played is one of the worst teams in the NFL, and because of that, for many Seahawks fans Sunday’s victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers feels like a loss.

There was a lot to be discouraged by, one of those things being play-calling, and in the red zone the lack of Sidney Rice may have been apparent. Rice is a physical presence and an excellent red zone target. I’m clearly a larger fan of Rice than the median Seahawks fan, namely because I try to always view things through the lense of context, but even I won’t tell you that Rice being healthy solves all of the Seahawks problems on Sunday.

The left side of the offensive line is awful without Russell Okung. Promising steps taken by James Carpenter have been erased during Okung’s absence, culiminating in Carpenter’s mid-game benching on Sunday. Paul McQuistan was put back in his rightful spot on the interior offensive line.

And Breno Giacomini has taken the popularity arc of Benjamin Button if Benjamin Button was a tyrannical czar of a wartorn country. Once vilified for an occasional holding call or for being over-aggressive, Giacomini might receive a standing ovation upon his return to the active roster.

Neither Giacomini or Okung will play on Sunday, but they’ll be welcomed re-additions to the starting lineup when they return.

Percy Harvin is also expected to make a return at some point soon, but he didn’t practice today, and despite not being officially ruled out of Sunday’s tilt against the Falcons, he seems unlikely to make his return.

In a post last week about Sidney Rice I noted that while Harvin’s return to the team may be a net gain from where they were when Rice was healthy, he doesn’t fill the exact same role as Rice. Jermaine Kearse, however, has shown similar ball skills, and while he doesn’t quite have the size that Rice does, the second-half of this season could cement Rice on the team’s roster for a while. When Harvin returns the team will have their three top receivers all under six feet tall, so Kearse’s frame and ball skills may put him in positions in the red zone where he can attempt to win some battles with the ball in the air. I wouldn’t expect Kearse to turn into Joe Jurevicius, but if he excels he’d fill that role at a very low price.

This year’s Falcons aren’t last years Falcons. This is a preview of both the Seahawks and Falcons.

These Falcons are missing both Julio Jones and Roddy White. These Falcons don’t have Michael Turner, and of their running back trio of Jacquizz Rodgers, Steven Jackson, and Jason Snelling, nto one is averaging more than four yards per carry. Tony Gonzalez is still around, but if we learned anything from the bad Chiefs teams he played on, he can’t be everything for an offense.

Matt Ryan has thrown 10 interceptions in eight games, including seven in the past two games, and while his near-5,000 yard and 30 touchdown pace may be somewhat imposing, withing the context of a league that is passing for more yards than ever, and on a team that has been trying to pass their way back into games for much of the season, it’s a lot less impressive. He’s played three career games against Seattle including last season’s preseason victory over the Seahawks, but has yet to post a dominant game against the team, yielding three interceptions and averaging less than 250 yards per game.

The aforementioned Jones is out for the season, while White is eyeing a Week 10 return. White has played five games this year and caught only 14 balls without getting in the endzone. Obviously his targets figure to skyrocket without Jones on the field, but coming off a high ankle sprain, the Seahawks may get a much-diminished version of him.

 

Injuries

Seattle

Breno Giacomini, OT (Knee) – Giacomini finally practiced on Wednesday, though he was limited, and won’t play this weekend.

Red Bryant, DE/DT (Concussion) – Bryant didn’t practice on Wednesday, and while the Seahawks have been run on like crazy the last two weeks, his absence would be a big one.

Max Unger, C (Concussion) – Unger missed practice on Wednesday, and combined with a potential Carpenter benching, the Seahawks could be short 80 percent of their starting offensive line.

Marshawn Lynch, RB (Knee) – Lynch has been on the injury report for various leg ailments, but it seems more like the persistent appearance of Tom Brady on the New England Patriots injury report.

Atlanta

Corey Peters, DT (Knee) – Peters didn’t practice Wednesday.

Peria, Jerry, DT (Toe) – Jerry was limited in practice on Wednesday, but played last week under similar circumstances.

Sam Baker, OT (Knee) – Baker was limited in practice on Wednesday, but played last week despite limited practice reps.

Roddy White, WR (Hamstring/Ankle) – White practiced for the first time last Friday, but didn’t play in Week 9. Uncertain for Week 10.

 

Stats (all from Football Outsiders)

Quarterback Russell Wilson Matt Ryan
DVOA 3.7% 22.0%
DYAR 247 756
QBR 55.5 66.2
RushDVOA 22.3% N/A
Running backs Marshawn Lynch Jason Snelling
DVOA 5.8% 1.0%
DYAR 99 16
Robert Turbin Jacquizz Rodgers
DVOA -8.1% -7.2%
DYAR -1 4
Wide Receivers Doug Baldwin Harry Douglas
DVOA 33.8% 15.2%
DYAR 152 126
Golden Tate Julio Jones
DVOA 6.5% 2.6
DYAR 84 70
Tight End Zach Miller Tony Gonzalez
DVOA 8.1% 5.8%
DYAR 28 61
Team Defense Seattle Atlanta
DVOA -17.5 11.1%

The Falcons have a good passing offense and one of the league’s worst defenses. The Seahawks have been inconsistent, but at full strength and efficiency should be able to dictate tempo on both sides of the ball against a team like this. The Seahawks aren’t at full strength, and this is an early game on the road.

 

Predictions

If Roddy White plays, he’s ineffective.

Tony Gonzales crosses the century mark.

Jermaine Kearse both drops an easy pass and makes a crazy catch.

Bruce Irvin sacks Matt Ryan.

Seahawks win 21-17.