The Seattle Seahawks spent much of the days following their last victory grousing about playing on a short week, but there will be no such complaints when they host the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. Seattle will be playing for the first time since losing All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman for the season in a win over Arizona on Nov. 9.
The Seahawks, who are one game behind the first-place Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West, suffered a rash of injuries in their matchup at Arizona -- the most prominent being the ruptured Achilles sustained by Sherman. “It’s definitely going to be weird,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said of playing without lock-down corner Sherman. “I’ve never played a game without Richard. He’s definitely going to be missed.” Atlanta, which had lost four of five before dominating Dallas last weekend, also is expected to be without a marquee player after running back Devonta Freeman sustained a concussion against the Cowboys. It will be a rematch of last season’s NFC Divisional Round playoff matchup, won by the Falcons 36-20 behind three touchdown passes from reigning league MVP Matt Ryan.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Seahawks -3. O/U: 44.5
ABOUT THE FALCONS (5-4): Atlanta is averaging a dozen points fewer than last season’s league-leading average of 33.8 and had failed to score more than 17 in its last four losses before posting its highest point total since Week 3. Backup Tevin Coleman, who rushed for a season-high 83 yards after Freeman was injured early last week, ran for 57 yards on 11 carries and had a receiving score in last season’s playoff win over Seattle. With Sherman out, expect Ryan to make a concerted effort to get the ball into the hands of star wideout Julio Jones, who has 49 catches but has reached the end zone only once. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn is coming off a monster game with a franchise-record six sacks.
ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (6-3): Sherman is not the only member of Seattle’s vaunted secondary that could be out -- safety Kam Chancellor suffered neck stingers in the last game and was still being evaluated, although fellow safely Earl Thomas is expected to return after missing two games (hamstring). Running back Eddie Lacy is expected to return after sitting out one week with a groin injury, but the ground game has been ineffective since rookie Chris Carson was lost for the season. Russell Wilson has carried the offense, leading the NFC with 2,543 yards while throwing for 19 touchdowns against six interceptions. Doug Baldwin has a team-high 54 catches while tight end Jimmy Graham has six TDs in the past five games.
1. Wilson is averaging 330.3 passing yards while tossing 11 TDs over the past four games.
2. Jones has 18 receptions for 266 yards in two career matchups versus Seattle.
3. Graham has 55 catches and eight touchdowns in eight regular-season games against Atlanta.
PREDICTION: Seahawks 26, Falcons 20