During Mike Smith’s five-year tenure with Atlanta, the organization has experienced unprecedented success during the regular season. Before Smith and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff joined the franchise the year after the sagas of both Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino, the Falcons had never posted back-to-back winning seasons.
On Smith’s watch, however, Atlanta has enjoyed five consecutive winning campaigns. The Falcons have won 56 games compared to only 24 losses in the regular season.
But success in the NFL is not measured by regular-season accomplishments. Just ask the 2011 Packers, who went 15-1 before going one and done in the postseason.
Atlanta is winless in three playoff appearances under Smith, falling at Arizona, vs. Green Bay and at the New York Giants. Granted, all three losses came to teams en route to the Super Bowl, but the Packers and G-Men dealt out woodshed treatment to the Falcons.
In this exact scenario two seasons ago with homefield advantage throughout the playoffs wrapped up following a 13-3 ride from September through December, Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay to a 48-21 blowout win at the Ga. Dome.
Then in the Meadowlands last season, New York won a 24-2 decision over Atlanta as a three-point home favorite. For the third straight time in his postseason career, Matt Ryan failed to throw for 200 yards.
In three playoff losses, Ryan has completed 70-of-110 throws for 584 yards with a ¾ touchdown-to-interception ratio. Also, running back Michael Turner merely produced the following rushing totals: 39, 42 and 41.
Therefore, it’s clearly time for the Falcons to break through in January and they will have that chance Sunday afternoon when hosting Seattle.
This past Sunday night, some betting shops opened Atlanta (13-3 straight up, 9-6-1 against the spread) as a one-point favorite, but that number didn’t last long. Most came out with the Falcons favored by two and that was quickly adjusted to 2 ½.
As of Friday afternoon, most spots had Atlanta at 2 ½ with extra juice (-115 or -120) or three (even money). After opening at 45 ½, the total for ‘over/under’ wagers was 46. Gamblers can take the Seahawks on the money line for a plus-125 payout (risk $100 to win $125).
Atlanta dropped its regular-season finale vs. Tampa Bay by a 22-17 count as a three-point home ‘chalk.’ Smith played his starters but with an open date looming, his team obviously wasn’t 100-percent motivated.
It was the first home loss of the season for the Falcons, who went 4-4 ATS at the Ga. Dome. During Smith’s reign, they own a 21-11-1 spread record as home ‘chalk.’
In his fifth season, Ryan was at his best with a career-high 4,717 passing yards and a 32/14 TD-INT ratio. The Boston College product completed a career-best 68.6 percent of his throws.
Ryan has an arsenal of weapons with TE Tony Gonzalez and WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White. Gonzalez had a team-high 93 catches for 930 yards and eight TDs. White made 92 receptions for 1,351 yards and seven TDs, while Jones had 79 catches for 1,198 yards and 10 TDs.
Seattle (12-5 SU, 12-5 ATS) advanced to the NFC semifinals by overcoming a 14-0 deficit to score 24 unanswered points in a 24-14 win at Washington as a three-point favorite. Marshawn Lynch overcame a goal-line fumble to rush for 132 yards, including a 27-yard TD scamper to put his team ahead for good midway through the final stanza.
Russell Wilson connected on 15-of-26 passes for 187 yards and one TD without an interception. Wilson also rushed for 67 yards on only eight attempts.
Wilson has been the difference for the Seahawks, who already had a solid defense and running game before his arrival. The former minor league baseball player who played at both North Carolina St. and Wisconsin in college, has an incredible 17/2 TD-INT ratio since Week 9.
Lynch has been the NFL’s second-best RB this year behind only Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson. The University of California product rushed for 1,590 yards during the regular season with 11 TDs and a 5.0 yards-per-carry average.
Pete Carroll’s squad leads the NFL in scoring defense, giving up only 15.3 points per game. The ‘Hawks dished a shutout after allowing the Redskins to score touchdowns on their first two drives last week.
But Seattle will be without its best pass rusher, DE Chris Clemons, who suffered a torn ACL last weekend. Clemons posted a team-high 11 sacks during the regular season.
Atlanta is eighth in the NFL in total offense and seventh in scoring, averaging 26.2 points per game. The Falcons’ defense has been opportunistic, rating fifth in the NFL in scoring defense (18.7 PPG) despite ranking 21st against the run and 23rd against the pass.
The ‘under’ is 11-5 overall for the Falcons, cashing at a lucrative 7-1 clip in their home games. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have seen the ‘under’ go 9-8 overall, 5-4 in their road assignments. However, they have watched the ‘over’ cash in seven of their last 10 outings.
Dating back to 2007, Atlanta has won three in a row over Seattle with the ‘over’ hitting in each instance.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Eastern on FOX.