Seattle Seahawks vs Atlanta Falcons
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA
Sunday 8:35am AEDT on ESPN and 7mate
The Seahawks come into Atlanta on the back of a dominating win over Detroit but face a much tougher test in the 11-5 NFC South Champion Falcons. This will boil down to a game between an elite offence versus an elite defence.
The Falcons led the league for the regular season in points per game (33.8), ranked second in yards per game (415.8) and third in passing yards per game (295.3). Yet the passing game is where Atlanta will cause the most damage.
Quarterback and MVP candidate Matt Ryan has played out of his skin this season. He led the league in yards per attempt (9.26) and QBR (117.1) while completing at 69.9% and averaging over 300 yards per game, third and second in the league respectively.
Wide receiver Julio Jones has been reaping the rewards of Ryan’s form, leading the league for the regular season in yards per game at 100.6 and will presumably matchup against Seattle corner Richard Sherman for most of the game.
With an offence that’s been hamstrung by injury throughout the season, ranking just 18th in points per game, Seattle’s much touted defence has been their saving grace this season. They’re third in points allowed (18.3) and fifth in yards allowed per game (318.7).
A major issue for the Seahawks has been the loss of safety and defensive leader Earl Thomas for the season with a broken leg. Thomas’ absence leaves a big hole in the middle of the Seattle secondary.
Seattle will need their offense to be firing against an overmatched Atlanta defence that’s ranked just 28th in passing yards allowed and 27th in points allowed per game.
Tip: Falcons by 7.
Houston Texans vs New England Patriots
Gillette Stadium – Foxborough, MA
Sunday 12:15pm AEDT on ESPN and 7mate
This one is probably the least interesting of the four games, as the 9-7 Texans come into Foxborough as 16-point underdogs and having never beaten the Patriots. Even in the absence of Tom Brady, they were swept aside 27-0 back in September – an ominous sign heading into this do-or-die encounter.
New England’s (14-2) defence is the stingiest in the league, allowing just 15.6 points per game during the regular season to be the best in the league. Houston’s offensive game on the other hand has been abysmal for a playoff team, ranking 27th in total yards and 28th points per game.
The Texans have been forced to go back to using Brock Osweiler at quarterback, who has a QBR of just 55.3 and averages a miserly 197 yards – the third worst in the league among qualified players.
One thing the Texans do have behind them is the best defence in the league, ranked first in yards allowed at just 301.3. Meanwhile the Patriots offence has been bolstered by the return of wide receiver Danny Amendola.
Tip: Patriots by 20.