When: Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET (FOX)
Where: Atlanta's Georgia Dome
Line: Falcons by 3
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
1. Seattle's big test: The Seahawks survived their first playoff game without free safety Earl Thomas. But their upcoming matchup will be a massive test for a secondary that is still trying to figure out how to play without its star center fielder. With a powerful running game and deep-threat wide receivers, the Falcons have the type of offense that could really expose the Thomas-less Legion of Boom. The pressure will be on Thomas’ replacement, Steven Terrell, to not get caught out of position.
2. Jones vs. Sherman, Part II: Get ready to relive the Week 6 matchup between Falcons receiver Julio Jones and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, and the infamous non-call against Sherman on a deep ball for Jones late in the fourth quarter. Replays showed Sherman grabbing Jones' arm, but he was not flagged for pass interference on a play that could have put Atlanta into field-goal position in a game Seattle eventually won 26-24. But this matchup is bigger than just that one play. Jones had seven catches for 139 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting, and it will be interesting to see if the Seahawks once against assign Sherman to shadow Jones all over the field and how Thomas' absence will impact matters.
3. Focus on Ryan: Falcons QB Matt Ryan was named first-team all-pro last week ahead of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, making him the front-runner to win the MVP award in a few weeks. Ryan earned his all-pro nod based on his ridiculous regular season (4,944 yards, 69.9% completion rate, 38 touchdown passes, 7 interceptions, league-best 117.1 passer rating). But it would certainly quiet his naysayers if he can finally find some playoff success. He has just one postseason win in five playoff appearances — against Seattle, coincidentally, in 2012 — and needs to prove he can shine when it really counts to garner even more respect.
Follow Lindsay H. Jones on Twitter @bylindsayhjones