ATLANTA FALCONS (5-4) AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (6-3)
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Century Link Field. TV: ESPN, Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters (field reporter).
KEYS TO THE GAME: After a 3-0 start, the Falcons have lost four of their past six games. But they are coming off an uplifting 27-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys that featured their third-best score of the season.
Matt Ryan and the offense have struggled under new coordinator Steve Sarkisian. After leading the league in scoring at 33.8 points per game in 2016, they are averaging a middling 21.9 this season.
But they catch the Seahawks at the right time: Seattle just lost cornerback Richard Sherman for the season and has a host of other injured defenders. Safety Earl Thomas is expected to return after missing two games, but strong safety Kam Chancellor is not expected to play, and several other top defenders (Frank Cark, Jarran Reed, et al.) are questionable.
The pressure is on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense to find success against the Falcons’ sixth-ranked pass defense. Grabbing an early lead would be a nice boost in order to manage the clock, slow down Atlanta’s pass rush (featuring six-sack man of the hour Adrian Clayborn) and keep the defense off the field.
The Falcons’ run defense was solid against the Cowboys and Seattle has had trouble running the ball all season, so it might be up to Wilson to make it happen. Lindyssports
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