The Falcons, the No. 1 seed in the NFC, are set to face either Minnesota (sixth seed), Seattle (fifth) or Washington (fourth) in the divisional round of the playoffs at 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13th at the Georgia Dome.
If Minnesota upsets Green Bay, they would face the Falcons. If Green Bay wins, the Falcons would host the Seattle-at-Washington winner. San Francisco is the No. 2 seed.
In order for the Falcons to advance past the divisional round, they must stop one of the league’s top rushers. They could face Minnesota and Adrian Peterson (2,091 yards, first in the league), Washington and running back Alfred Morris (1,413 yards, fourth) or Seattle and running back Marshawn Lynch (1,590 yards, second).
The Falcons’ run defense has been spotty all season. They held Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin to 50 yards on 21 carries in their first meeting. In the season finale, he rumbled for 142 yards on 28 carries.
In a 24-17 victory over the Redskins on Oct. 4, Morris rushed for 115 yards on 18 carries. Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was held to seven yards on a carry before he was knocked out of the game on a clean hit by linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
The Falcons posted victories over Seattle and Minnesota during the 2011 season.
They held Lynch to 24 yards on eight carries in a 30-28 victory on Oct. 2, 2011. Peterson didn’t play in a 24-14 win over the Vikings on Nov. 27, 2011 at the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons gave up 123.2 yards per game during the regular season, which ranked 21st in the league. They held five teams — Philadelphia (92), Dallas (65), Tampa Bay (50), New York Giants (97) and Detroit (79) — to less than 100 yards and won all five of those games.
“As a staff, we’ll spend one day over the next three days on a specific team,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said on Monday. “That’s how we’ll do it. The wy we are going sequence it, Washington will be the last one that we do because we have some familiarity with having played them earlier in the season. We’ll focus on the other two teams that we have not played on Wednesday and Thursday.”