Playoffs  

 

Russell Wilson tops Matt Ryan in playoff trustworthiness

The Seattle Seahawks are going to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta this weekend because they have the advantage at the quarterback position.

The Divisional Round

The playoffs continue this weekend, with the right to play on Championship Sunday at stake. NFL.com's analysts break down the divisional round:

» Kimberly Jones: Ravens at Broncos
» Bucky Brooks: Packers at 49ers
» Jeff Darlington: Seahawks at Falcons
» Albert Breer: Texans at Patriots

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You read that correctly.

I don't want to hear that Seahawks starter Russell Wilson is a rookie. That's what it says on the back of his bubble gum card, but he's wise beyond his years. He doesn't look like a rookie on the field. He doesn't prepare or lead like a first-timer.

Here's the only nugget that matters: Russell Wilson 1, Matt Ryan 0.

That is, Wilson has one playoff win and the Falcons' signal-caller has none.

Let me ask you an honest question. Dig down deep for a moment. Do you actually believe Ryan would've led his team to a road playoff win after falling behind 14-0, like Wilson did last week against the Washington Redskins?

There's no way. There's no chance. Precedent for Ryan in the playoffs tells you so.

Wilson, meanwhile, has been a model of efficiency and domination, rocking to the impressive tune of 26 touchdowns against just 10 picks during a remarkable rookie campaign. He's also peaking -- along with the rest of his team -- at the right time.

Seattle has won eight of its last nine games, riding a momentum- and confidence-building six-game winning streak that started with a Week 13 road victory over the Chicago Bears. During a wide-ranging interview on SirusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday, Wilson said that game gave the Seahawks an internal belief that they could win anywhere, busting the myth that they couldn't beat a good team on the road. Wilson said that attitude helped them deal with the adversity they faced last Sunday.

John Madden, who was listening to the interview -- in which Wilson also said he'd already studied film of Atlanta and had shared with the offensive staff some ideas about the plays he wanted to run this Sunday -- said the rookie reminds him of Peyton Manning in the way that "he sounds just like a player-coach." High praise, indeed.

Now, football isn't a quarterback competition. It's a team sport. As I wrote before and during the regular season, Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will give Atlanta its best opportunity to finally win a playoff game. His playmaking unit has been strong and versatile, led by Thomas DeCoud and William Moore, the only pair of teammates at safety this season with four or more picks apiece. Asante Samuel's postseason experience is a plus, as is John Abraham's.

But Wilson has piloted a Seahawks team that has scored at least 20 points in 10 straight outings. Wilson wins with his arm, his legs and a feel for the game that is incredible for a neophyte. (How about his block on that rushing touchdown last week?!) And he has help. Marshawn Lynch is in vintage "Beast Mode." I don't think Atlanta can stop it.



Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck are each up for Pepsi Max Rookie of the Year honors. The winner will be announced at the NFL Honors awards special on Feb. 2. Vote here ...

Ryan deserves credit for pasting and shredding the New York Giants this season, derailing the reigning Super Bowl champs' repeat bid. He's been brilliant getting the football to Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. He shattered team records for yards, touchdowns and completion percentage. He has 56 regular-season wins as a starter -- but none in the playoffs.

Will he be tight on Sunday?

Will the crowd get antsy if Seattle jumps out to a double-digit lead?

I loathe this matchup for Ryan against the Seattle defense, specifically these big, physical playmakers in the defensive backfield known as the "Legion of Boom." Yes, the injury to Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons is a big deal. But I think Bruce Irvin can step up. Bobby Wagner is a beast. I don't think Falcons running back Michael Turner will get going.

And there's this: Based upon Ryan's last two playoff games (against the Giants and Green Bay Packers), I don't trust him in a big spot.

I root for Ryan and the "big three" he forms with general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith. They cleaned up the mess left by Bobby Petrino and Michael Vick. I scream into the microphone quite often this time of year that NFL teams should look to find the next Dimitroff, the next great front-office leader currently tucked away in a team's player personnel or college scouting department. I want this trio to be validated.

Ryan is a franchise quarterback who has won a lot of games. He has something to prove in the month of January. He can silence guys like me once and for all on Sunday.

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But considering Seattle's defense, special teams, run game and Wilson, this is a bad matchup.

Yes, my man crush for Wilson is on display. I loved him as a player before he was drafted, when his critics were saying he was too small. I smiled when Seattle general manager John Schneider told us on the SiriusXM Blitz that he "wasn't leaving the draft without him." Wilson has dazzled this season, showing the leadership abilities and precision of a 10-year All-Pro veteran. He will continue to prove all of his haters wrong.

And Matty Ice's résumé will continue to melt.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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