Up next: Atlanta Falcons

When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m., Qwest Field

Record: 11-2 and first in the NFC South after winning their seventh consecutive game Sunday

Where they rank: No. 9 on offense (8th rushing, 13th passing); No. 17 on defense (13th rushing, 24th passing)

Series: Seahawks lead 8-3. The Falcons won the last meeting 44-41 on Dec. 30, 2007, at the Georgia Dome; but the Seahawks won the past two at Qwest – the 2004 season finale and their 2005 home opener.

Star power: Matt Ryan. There is a long, and impressive, list of candidates – Roddy White, who leads the league in receptions (99) and receiving yards (1,219); Michael Turner, who is fourth in the league in rushing (1,174) and has scored 11 touchdowns; John Abraham, who has more sacks (11) than any defensive lineman in the league. But the line forms behind Ryan, because of the position he plays and the way he plays it. The Falcons’ third-year QB is completing 63 percent of his passes (300 of 475) and has 3,147 yards, with 22 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. He has thrown at least one TD pass in 12 consecutive games.

As Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez put it earlier this season, “This is Matt Ryan’s team, and it’s going to be his team for a long, long time. He’s the hardest-working guy on our team. And he’s coming into his own about saying and doing what’s best for this team. His best is coming. I see it every day.”

Bing Stat Comparison: Bing.com, the official decision engine of the Seahawks, provides us with a statistical comparison of the key positions in this weekend’s matchup:

To perform your own statistical comparison visit Bing.com and search for any two players of the same position, such as “John Carlson vs. Tony Gonzalez“.

Unsung hero: Turner. It might sound ludicrous to label Turner as “unsung.” But after a “subpar” season in 2009 (871 yards), Turner has stormed back. He has scored six touchdowns and averaged 110 rushing yards the past four games. It’s all part of his plan, which started with Turner shedding 15 pounds during the offseason. “Michael is on a mission to bounce back from a subpar year,” is the way coach Mike Smith put it during training camp. Turner’s take? “The Burner is still here,” he said. “I’m not a one-year wonder.” That was a reference to his 1,699-yard, 17-TD season in 2008, when he was voted to the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Falcons – and first as a starter after playing behind LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego.

On the spot: The Falcons’ run defense. It ranked sixth in the league two weeks ago. Then, the Falcons yielded 151 rushing yards to the Buccaneers two weeks ago, including 103 by LeGarrette Blount; and 212 to the Panthers on Sunday, including 133 by Jonathan Stewart. Hardly Ducky. The Falcons had allowed two 100-yard rushers in their first 11 games, but have surrendered that many in the past two – to two former University of Oregon backs. The Seahawks have been inconsistent running the ball this season, but they have rushed for 84 and 161 yards the past two weeks, after running for fewer than 60 in four of their previous five games.

Burning question: Could the Falcons possibly overlook the Seahawks? They do, after all, have a game against the Saints next week that likely will determine which team wins the NFC South and possibly who has the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a bye in the first round; while the other opens the postseason on the road. Then there’s the cross-country trip, and the fact that this is the Falcons’ third road game in as many weeks. The team will travel to Seattle on Friday and is planning to work out at Qwest Field on Saturday, weather permitting. Since 2000, only four of 35 teams that have faced back-to-back-to-back road games have completed the sweep – the Jaguars in 2001 and 2005; the Eagles in 2005; and the Giants in 2009.

Familiar faces: WR Brian Finneran entered the league in 1998 as an undrafted free-agent with the Seahawks, but was released before the regular season started. Backup SS Erik Coleman played at Washington State, while P Michael Koenen is from Ferndale and played at Western Washington University. Secondary coach Tim Lewis held the same position with the Seahawks last season.

The last word: “We are going out there for one thing and that’s to get a win.” – LB Michael Peterson

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