Divisional Game Roster Comparison: Eagles vs Falcons
9 January 2018 Eagles News
The Eagles will play their first playoff game of the season on Saturday, January 13 after receiving a bye week for their stellar team performance during the regular season and getting the No.1 seed in the NFC.
The Eagles played the Falcons in 2015 during Week 1 and Week 10 in 2016 but were a completely different team in both instances than they are now. Here will be a comparison of positional groups to see who stacks up better in this playoff matchup.
QB: Nick Foles or Matt Ryan
This one should be obvious to most people. Ryan came back down this year from his MVP season the year prior, but has steadily brought the team to 10-6 through the passing game. Foles meanwhile has only played in 4 games this season and hasn’t looked too sharp outside of Week 15 against the New York Giants.
RB: Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement & LeGarrette Blount or Devonta Freeman & Tevin Coleman
There’s no doubt about it that both of these team’s running back crew are talented and among the top tandems in the league, however I give the edge to the Eagles here. The running game for the Eagles has been the driving force of this team and arguably helped make Carson Wentz an MVP candidate this year. Their ability to take the pressure off of the quarterback along with the diversity in skills that each running back possesses gives them my vote. Atlanta’s running backs both have large motors and can be dangerous in the passing game, but their play has not eased the play of Matt Ryan who has been under pressure far more often this season.
WR: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith & Nelson Agholor or Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu & Justin hardy
If you look at both lists of wide receivers and go down the line in order comparing the two, each receiver has similar traits and skills as his counterpart. The red zone physical receiver, the deep threat and the speedy “middle-of-the-field” slot receiver. While the two groups are similar, the edge goes to the Falcons. The Eagles receivers have stepped up and have improved from last year, but have still suffered from multiple drops throughout the season.
TE: Zach Ertz, Trey Burton & Brent Celek or Austin Hooper & Levine Toilolo
No doubt this one goes in favor to the Eagles. Ertz has earned his first Pro Bowl and has been the safety blanket in the Eagles’ offense. They have also received additional help from Burton when Ertz was down and Celek is a veteran run blocker. Hooper is the pass catcher of the two tight ends in Atlanta, but neither really have a dominant role in a passing offense that runs through Julio Jones.
OL: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks & Lane Johnson or Jake Matthews, Ben Garland, Alex Mack, Wes Schweitzer & Ryan Schraeder
A lot of names mentioned above, but not very much time needed for discussion here. The Eagles were 3rd in total rushing offense. The Falcons were 13th. The Eagles were 1st in rushing first downs. The Falcons were 30th. The Falcons held their own and were fruitful in their passing game, but with a larger margin falling on the run games between the two, Eagles get the pick here.
DL: Vinny Curry, Tim Jernigan, Fletcher Cox & Brandon Graham or Brooks Reed, Dontari Poe, Grady Jarrett & Derrick Shelby
There’s no doubt that the Eagles defensive line gets this pick. The Eagles had the No. 1 run defense in the league vs the Falcons at a very respectable No. 9. Also, the depth on the defensive line led to a strong rotation that provided a strong pressure package for defensive coordinator for Jim Schwartz. It’s almost an unfair advantage for the Eagles since the falcons run a 4-3 defense but we’ll get to that in the next comparison.
LB: Mychal Kendricks, Dannell Ellerbe & Nigel Bradham or Deion Jones, Vic Beasley, Duke Riley & De’Vondre Campbell
The biggest difference between the two team’s set of linebackers is speed. The Falcons defense gets the nod here based on their fast linebacker play. The Eagles really have never been the same since Jordan Hicks’ injury early in the season and the position has been plagued ever since. Joe Walker has been out with a neck injury and they brought in Ellerbe for veteran play, but Hicks is the heart of that defense.
S: Rodney McLeod & Malcolm Jenkins or Ricardo Allen & Keanu Neal
If I had to describe the two pairs of safeties, I would say that Eagles safeties are more of coverage heavy and Falcons safeties are hard hitting run stoppers. This one is tough, but I will give this one to the Eagles based solely on the versatility and depth of the group. Jenkins has played phenomenally as of late and deservingly so has received his second Pro Bowl Honors as a member of the team. Eagles safeties have been asked to do much more this season than just play their designated role and have filled in nicely when the positional group was struck with adversity.
CB: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson & Sidney Jones or Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Brian Poole & Blidi Wreh-Wilson
The only reason I give the Falcons the edge here is because of recent play. Trufant and Alford have really held it down in the passing game for the Falcons as of late and the Eagles cornerback identity has been scrambled all season and hasn’t really found its groove. Sidney Jones has returned but the team has only received a small sample size of his play. The pass defense/secondary on the Eagles has benefitted greatly from the defensive line play, but stand-alone it’s been a random give and take.
From the comparisons above, the Eagles have a slight advantage (5 to 4) over the Falcons. Being underdogs at home against a 6th seed opponent should give plenty of motivation for the Eagles team to come out victorious and prove doubters (and Vegas) wrong.
The divisional round begins at 4:35pm ET on NBC on Saturday, January 13th at Lincoln Financial Field.