Seattle's five keys to beating the Falcons

ATLANTA -- The game on Sunday against the Falcons is one the Seahawks should win, but it’s one they easily could lose if they fail to play up to their normal standards in several key areas.

The Falcons are a much better team than their 2-6 record would indicate, having weathered numerous injuries to several key players at skill positions. And Atlanta is 2-2 at home.

The line for the game started at 6.5 in favor of Seattle, but has dropped to 5, which means most people are betting on the Falcons.

So what are the things the Seahawks need to do well to win at Atlanta? Here are five of them:

1. Stuff the run: Seattle has allowed 200 or more yards rushing in each of the past two games to teams (St. Louis and Tampa Bay) that aren’t known for great running games. Improving in that area has been a major point of emphasis at practice this week. One thing you might see more of is K.J. Wright at middle linebacker and Malcolm Smith on the outside, along with Bruce Irvin. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner has taken some heat this week in the media for his play against the run since returning from an ankle injury, but Wagner may not be 100 percent healthy. And the Seahawks will have to get it done without defensive lineman Red Bryant, who is one of the team’s best players against the run. Bryant is out with a concussion.

2. Keep dangerous Russ out of danger: The patchwork offensive line showed some improvement last week when Russell Wilson wasn’t sacked, but he was hit five times and looked a little beat up afterward. Wilson said Thursday that he’s fine, but when asked if he would say if he wasn’t OK, Wilson replied: “Probably not.” The O-line will go with three backups this week since center Max Unger is out with a concussion. Lemuel Jeanpierre will start at center.

3. Go Beast Mode: One way to make sure Wilson doesn’t get mauled is to do what the Seahawks do best, hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch and let him establish the team’s power running game. The O-line had its best effort of the season in run blocking last week against Tampa Bay, with the help of fullback Michael Robinson, when Lynch rushed for 125 yards on 21 carries, including 44 yards on the game-winning series in overtime.

4. Make morning time the right time: The Seahawks are playing their fourth road game this season that has a 10 a.m. PT start, but Seattle is 2-1 in those games. And the Seahawks are 4-1 on the road in 2013. However, this is their third road trip in the past four games and fifth time away from home in the past seven games.

5. Don’t let Roddy get rowdy: Atlanta wide receiver Roddy White is returning after missing the past three games with hamstring and ankle injuries. There is no love lost between Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman and White, who have criticized each other many times. That continued this week when Sherman was asked about the challenge of facing White. “What challenge?” Sherman said, which of course, is a direct challenge to White and could get him pumped up for the showdown with Sherman.