Monday Night Preview: Will Seattle or Atlanta Keep Pace in the Loaded NFC?
The Week 11 edition of Monday Night Football features the 5-4 Atlanta Falcons visiting the 6-3 Seattle Seahawks. Each of these teams enters this week on a good note, winning important games the week prior.
Despite winning records, Atlanta and Seattle rank third and second in their respective divisions. In a loaded NFC, a win in this game will be crucial to gaining ground within each team's division and the NFC wildcard. With this in mind, here are a few matchups likely to influence the outcome of tonight's game.
Quarterback has been a position of strength for both of these teams in 2017.
Russell Wilson has been brilliant for Seattle, accounting for 19 passing touchdowns and a mere 6 interceptions. Our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric bears this out. Among 16 quarterbacks with at least 300 drop backs, Wilson ranks fifth with a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.18. Wilson also adds value with his legs, accounting for the third-most rushing attempts and second-most rushing yards among quarterbacks.
On the other side, Matt Ryan has regressed from his 2016 MVP season -- which was to be expected -- but he remains an above-average passer. Based on NEP, Ryan ranks eighth among the aforementioned group of quarterbacks with a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.14. However, based on Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs contributing to a positive NEP -- Ryan hasn't missed a beat, ranking first with a rate of clip of 52.87%.
Running Back Breakdown
With Devonta Freeman (concussion) out for Week 11, the Falcons will lean on Tevin Coleman. According to NEP, Coleman has a Rushing NEP per rush of -0.03, which ranks slightly above the league average of -0.06. Coleman also adds production in the receiving game, catching 17 of 25 targets for 203 yards and a pair of receiving scores. With Freeman's absence, Coleman should be in line for a busy night.
Seattle's backfield has turned to an uninspiring committee of Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, and J.D. McKissic, with C.J. Prosise and Chris Carson on injured reserve. McKissic currently leads the backfield with a Rushing NEP per rush of 0.02, but he's done that on a mere 21 rushing attempts. He may have earned a larger share of the playing time, though, with Lacy and Rawls disappointing with a Rushing NEP per rush of -0.22 and -0.38, respectively.
Despite McKissic's efficiency, our snap counts project a mere 29.99% of the snaps to go his way as he has served mainly as Seattle's passing-down back. In addition, we predict early-down work to be split between Rawls (40.65%) and Lacy (17.91%).
Per our schedule-adjusted metrics, Seattle currently has the NFL's 10th-best defense, while the Falcons come in at 17th.
Atlanta has regressed defensively this season, ranking 18th against the pass and 23rd against the run, per our metrics. Seattle has played pretty well, ranking 12th against the run and 5th against the pass. Despite this strong defensive showing to date, injuries to key starters Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Cliff Avril may hurt Seattle down the stretch -- although they will get back Earl Thomas for this one.
Ultimately, whether or not Seattle can compensate for their key losses on defense may potentially decide the outcome of this game.
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