In April, when NFL schedules were finalized, the Seahawks’ game against Atlanta loomed as interesting but not necessarily must-see TV.
But now that it’s October, Seattle’s game against the Falcons at CenturyLink Field at 1:25 p.m. looks as intriguing as any left on the Seahawks’ schedule.
Atlanta, coached by Dan Quinn – Seattle’s defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl seasons of 2013-14 – is 4-1 after a largely dominant 23-16 win at defending Super Bowl champion Denver on Sunday.
The Falcons also bring to town one of the most prolific passing attacks in the NFL led by quarterback Matt Ryan, who on Sunday threw for more than 200 yards (267) for the 44th straight game – one off the NFL record of 45 set by Hall of Famer Dan Fouts – doing so against a Denver defense that entered the day allowing the lowest passing efficiency rating in the league at 61.3.
That was just ahead of Seattle’s 65.6 rating.
Atlanta, which led the NFL by averaging 479 yards in total offense per game entering the weekend, gained 372 on Sunday against Denver, a game in which it took a 20-3 lead into the fourth quarter before hanging on.
Seattle, meanwhile, had its bye weekend but still moved into the lead in the NFL in total defense on Sunday at 264 yards per game after the Ravens, who had been leading at 256 per game, gave up 310 to Washington.
In other words, it’s a matchup of what might be the best offense in the NFL right now going against what might be the best defense.
That the Seattle-Atlanta game suddenly looks like maybe the best of the weekend in the NFL in week six also serves as the latest example of the folly of trying to judge a schedule in the spring – not that we didn’t try at the time.
Which got us to thinking that, as the Seahawks come off their bye and enter a stretch of 12 games in 12 weeks to end the regular season, that we should update our ranking of the attractiveness of the games left on the schedule.
Included is a comparison to where we rated it when dates and times were announced in April.
1. at New England, Nov. 13. (Original rank: 1).
All the obvious story lines aside, the challenge the Patriots present make this still the most enticing game on Seattle’s schedule, especially after what Tom Brady did in his first game of the season Sunday.
2. Atlanta, Oct. 16 (9). Will Richard Sherman cover Julio Jones? (Probably). How will the Seahawks handle the receiving of running back Tevin Coleman? (Carefully). This will be a fun one.
3. at Green Bay, Dec. 11 (5). Remember when it seemed like sort of bad luck that the Seahawks had to go to Green Bay while Arizona got to go to Minnesota? Now that the Vikings are the only undefeated team left it’s hard to complain. But the game against the Packers looks as tough as ever.
4. Philadelphia, Nov. 20 (14). Yes, the Eagles blew one Sunday against Detroit. But Carson Wentz still looks like the real deal and the Eagles have been stout on defense, allowing 266.75 yards per game after Sunday, just behind the Seahawks.
5. Carolina Panthers, Dec. 4 (2). Once the marquee game on Seattle’s home schedule, the Panthers’ stumbling 1-3 start and injuries to QB Cam Newton have taken off a little of the shine. But everyone in Seattle will still be fired up for a little revenge.
6. at Arizona, Oct. 23 (6). Arizona has surprisingly struggled. But the win over the 49ers Thursday and the Rams loss to Buffalo on Sunday showed that the Cardinals are still probably the greatest threat to the Seahawks in the NFC West. Arizona could take another step back into contention on Sunday when it hosts the lackluster Jets.
7. Buffalo, Nov. 7 (13). The Bills, the opponent for Seattle’s lone Monday night game this year, have been one of the strangest teams in the NFL. They appeared left for dead after an 0-2 start and since have beat Arizona at home and New England and the Rams on the road by a combined 42 points. Looking each week like a more dangerous game than anyone thought at the time.
8. at New Orleans, Oct. 30 (7). The Saints are 1-3 and might be 1-5 by the time this game rolls around, as they host Carolina and play at Kansas City the next two weeks. But Drew Brees going against the Legion of Boom will be fun to watch as will Jimmy Graham making what he hopes will be a triumphant return.
9. Arizona, Dec. 24 (4). Given the current state of the Cardinals, it’s hard to know how much this game will mean. But the Seahawks will surely remember that Arizona has won two of the last three in Seattle.
10. Los Angeles, Dec. 15 (8). Seattle’s Thursday-night game will be memorable if nothing else for featuring the team’s color-rush uniforms. That, and the fact that the Rams have beaten Seattle three straight times, even if it’s hard to count on the Rams still being in the division race by then.
11. at Tampa Bay, Nov. 27 (10). The Bucs are the only team to beat Atlanta, a Week 1 result that eventually may look like one of the bigger anomalies of the season. But the long trip and Jameis Winston will present more than enough reason for anxiety.
12. at San Francisco, Jan. 1 (12). The 49ers almost certainly will have nothing to play for. Whether Seattle does will determine if this is more than a glorified exhibition game.
Games already played and where we had them ranked in April (3, at Rams; 11 at Jets; 15 Miami; 16 49ers).