4:05 PM ET, December 19, 2010
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA
Led by a potent and efficient offense, the Falcons are inching closer to securing home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs, while the Seahawks, who have an inconsistent and turnover-prone offense, are sputtering in the mediocre NFC West.
Atlanta looks to win its eighth straight and clinch a playoff berth Sunday when it visits a Seattle team trying to avoid losing for the sixth time in eight games.
The Falcons (11-2), wrapping up a stretch of four road games in five weeks, own the NFC's best record and have a one-game lead over New Orleans in the South. Atlanta, which hosts the Saints and Carolina in the final two weeks, can clinch home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs by winning two of its last three.
The Falcons can also clinch a playoff berth with a win over Seattle, or a loss by either Chicago, Green Bay or the New York Giants.
"With three NFC games left, it's important. All the games are big now," defensive end John Abraham said after last Sunday's 31-10 win at Carolina. "All the games can put us in a good situation. We want to have that home-field advantage and for us we have to keep winning."
Seattle (6-7) could have home-field advantage for a wild-card game despite the possibility of finishing with a losing record.
The Seahawks, tied with St. Louis atop the West, could have put themselves in a favorable position by beating San Francisco last Sunday, but a 40-21 loss has left them in a tough spot. Seattle now needs either a win over Atlanta or Tampa Bay next week and a victory over the Rams at home in the regular-season finale to likely secure its first division title since 2007.
That's no easy task, considering the Seahawks have only two victories in their last seven games.
"It continues to be the challenge that we're trying to find our game, find it each week and see if we can do it," coach Pete Carroll said.
The Falcons are having no such problems.
Ryan is averaging 247.4 passing yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions during the seven-game winning streak, while Turner has rushed for 708 yards with 10 TDs. Turner ran for three scores last Sunday while recording his third 100-yard game in four weeks.
Ryan could be the one having a big game this weekend, as Seattle's pass defense ranks 30th in the NFL at 266.0 yards allowed per game. The Seahawks let San Francisco's Alex Smith, who was making his first start since Oct. 24, throw for 255 yards with three touchdowns last week.
"We feel like we're a good football team, that's for sure," Ryan said. "We are a confident team."
Carroll doesn't feel the same way about his squad.
While his defense struggled to slow down Smith and the 49ers, Matt Hasselbeck threw four interceptions and fumbled once.
Hasselbeck has eight interceptions in his last three games for the Seahawks, who have 16 turnovers in their last six. The Falcons have turned the ball over three times in their past six contests.
"I don't feel the consistency of growth, particularly here at the end of the season when everyone is working hard," Carroll said. "Everyone is the recipient of playing together so long you should be playing better and better and better as you go along and it doesn't feel like that."
Seattle's turnover woes could pose as a major problem against an opportunistic Atlanta defense.
The Falcons are tied for sixth in the league with 17 interceptions and have scored 84 points off 24 turnovers.
Hasselbeck, one victory shy from his 70th which would tie him with Dave Krieg as Seattle's winningest quarterback, will have a healthier receiving corps.
Mike Williams (ankle sprain) and Ben Obomanu (hand laceration) will return after sitting out last week. The Seahawks are already going to be without Deon Butler after he broke his leg while making a touchdown catch against the 49ers and was placed on injured reserve.
This will be the first meeting between these teams since Atlanta's 44-41 win Dec. 30, 2007. The Falcons had lost the previous four meetings and haven't won in Seattle since 1997.
More from ESPN.com
S Thomas on PUP list to start Seahawks camp
Seattle Seahawks All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas is starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list.
Bennett shows, Chancellor skips start of camp
Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner all took different approaches Friday to show displeasure with their contract situations with the Seattle Seahawks.
Falcons-Seahawks: 10 observations
After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in this week's Falcons-Seahawks matchup.
1. Atlanta needs to run the ball and control the clock: The Falcons are expected to win this game, even on the road. They can't take too many chances here that would swing the odds back to Seattle's favor. So they'll want to keep it on the ground, for starters. Look for Michael Turner, Jason Snelling -- and then a repeat of that -- as they try to neutralize that crowd.
Recent Blog Posts
- Setting the schedule for Day 2 of Atlanta Falcons training camp
- Falcons rookie running back Tevin Coleman just focused on himself
- Dan Quinn says Falcons still interested in tackle Jake Long
|Avg Points Allowed||18.6||25.9|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||ATL|
|Rush Yds Allowed||ATL|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Seattle leads 3-2|
|Dec 30, 2007||ATL 44, SEA 41|
|Sep 18, 2005||ATL 18, @SEA 21|
|Jan 2, 2005||ATL 26, @SEA 28|
|Dec 15, 2002||ATL 24, SEA 30|