John Abraham expected to play for Atlanta Falcons


The Atlanta Falcons' divisional-round win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday was impressive, but the team's defense struggled throughout the day to rush the quarterback. That problem only got worse when their best pass rusher and the NFL's active sacks leader, John Abraham, sat out the second half with an ankle injury.

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Falcons coach Mike Smith said Wednesday that he expects Abraham to start in this weekend's NFC Championship Game. That's the good news. The bad news is Abraham didn't practice Wednesday, and the Falcons are making alternative plans if Abraham isn't playing at full capacity Sunday.

"This (49ers) is the best offensive line that we have faced all year," Smith said Wednesday.

This isn't just coachspeak. The 49ers' offensive line really is the best unit in the league overall. They absolutely stoned the Green Bay Packers last week, allowing very little pressure on Colin Kaepernick. (Right tackle Anthony Davis gave up a few pressures, but that's about it.) San Francisco mauled Green Bay in the running game. This Falcons defense is resourceful, but it's not a great pass-rushing group to begin with. 

It's worth noting that Abraham is currently in a sacks drought. He hasn't had one since Nov. 29, when he took down New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees during a 23-13 Atlanta victory.

So many of Kaepernick's big plays come after he has had time to survey the field. He can either go vertical or improvise with a run. He only figures to get more time if Abraham isn't healthy.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.