For the past year, there might have been more immediate priorities, but no one on the Atlanta Falcons has been allowed to forget about this day, their next playoff appearance. They have been constantly reminded, by fans, by the media, of the team’s recent past of playoff shortcomings, even while winning games to help get them back to the postseason. If Atlanta comes up short again in the playoffs, it won’t have been for taking this game lightly.
Russell Wilson already has more playoff victories than Matt Ryan. In some cases, using postseason wins is a disingenuous way of trying to prove the superiority of one quarterback over another. Leaving postseason histories aside, you could make a fair argument that Wilson is already better than Ryan. The two QBs finished fourth and fifth in passer rating in the regular season, Wilson having the slight edge. The playoffs is always largely about the cult of the quarterback, but there’s obviously much more at play here.
Atlanta’s defense may not show it in total yardage, but they were fifth in the leaguein points allowed. Seattle’s, of course, was first in that category. How Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner match up with Roddy White and Julio Jones is the most compelling matchup of this game. For Atlanta, John Abraham is expected to play after he sprained his ankle two weeks ago playing in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Buccaneers. Abraham had 10 sacks this season and no one else on the team had more than four. If Abraham is severely limited, Mike Nolan is gonna have to do some creative things to get pressure on Wilson.
The Ray Lewis farewell tour has hogged almost all the media spotlight, but another less reprehensible sure-fire Hall of Famer is attempting what could be one last charge for the Super Bowl. In the case of Tony Gonzalez, that also means getting his first career postseason victory. Part of the reason the media hasn’t romanticized Gonzalez’s sendoff as much might be because he’s yet to definitively say that he’s walking away after this season. Still, this could be the end for a guy who revolutionized his position. Were it not for Tony Gonzalez, there wouldn’t be a host of other tight ends with gaudy receiving stats and a past that included playing basketball, something announcers are always quick to beat into the ground.
If you can get past an opening anecdote about Bill Belichick lighting a fire in Gonzalez by criticizing his blocking in the Pro Bowl, this Joe Posnanski piece about the end of Gonzo’s career is worth a read.
Sorry if there’s too much focus on Atlanta drug rap about the Falcons on the top. In the spirit of fairness, Seattle has a white rapper who gets melodramatic about the city’s sports teams.
That seems like a fitting contrast between these two places.