Eagle Eye View: Eagles vs Falcons Divisional Playoffs
12 January 2018 Opinion
For a week, Eagles fans have been told to doubt their team, to expect their team to lose and we’re not going down that easily. There is a lot of fight and football left in our birds.
Let’s take a look at the rosters for Saturday’s divisional playoff match up:
After a stellar MVP campaign, Carson Wentz will not be at the helm on Saturday. It is unfortunate but the Eagles were able to give his backup time to adjust and prepare for this opportunity. So far? Most people will tell you Nick Foles’ performances were not all that inspiring. I’m here to tell you I see things a bit differently. The offense struggled as a whole against the Raiders, it wasn’t just Foles. However, when the defense stood up to the challenge time and time again, Foles was clutch at the end of the game as the clock was ticking down. He made crucial passes and moved up the field to get in field goal range for Jake Elliott to take the lead. Foles also made a clutch throw against the Rams defense to kill the clock and hold the Rams’ offense from getting back the ball. I’m not saying he is Wentz. I just realize he has qualities and skills as a quarterback to get the job done more than others may suggest. If Foles is able to start strong after a lot of preparation, the run game will most definitely be the more effective against the Falcons defense.
Matt Ryan has been here before. In fact, he’s played in 9 playoff games. Although he had great success last season, the Falcons offense has not been the focal point of this Falcons team. He had 218 yards and one touchdown in the wildcard game against the Rams defense with a quarterback rating of 101%. Although those stats are impressive, the Falcons struggled in the red zone and although they owned the time of possession, the Rams still had more total offensive yards. Ryan will play well if Eagles defensive line isn’t able to disrupt him without blitzing. He was under a lot of pressure vs the Rams last week so we’ll see how he handles the Eagles Saturday.
Big V must have a solid game against the Falcons pass rush. Foles will need to depend on his blind side to get the ball out. With a solid offensive line, Goff was sacked 3 times in the game last week. We cannot afford to have Foles hit that much. Protection will be key. Home field advantage will go a long way for Foles to ensure his protections are correct against what he sees from the Falcons defense. Stefen Wisniewski is back at the starting left guard position since injuring his ankle against the Rams. He did not play in the Giants or Raiders games and like all the starters, he barely played in the Cowboys game. Foles will have the starting OL in tact as he takes on the playoff competition. The other 3 guys on the line are (or should be) pro bowlers so I expect them to kick ass. With a lot of focus and practice, I expect to see a large improvement in the snaps from Kelce to Foles on Saturday as well.
The Falcons offensive line recently took a hit losing their starting LG for the season due to an injury. Overall, they are a solid line ranked in the top 10 by PFF and I largely believe that is due to their starting center Alex Mack. In the 2016 match up, the Eagles defensive line and Falcons OL went to battle and Ryan was sacked 2 times. Ryan was sacked 3 times by the Rams last week. Eagles have faced quality OL competition throughout the season, they’ll need to step up their game to get to Ryan and reduce/eliminate run plays.
The Eagles defensive front ended the regular season with 38 sacks. They’ve been rested and getting healthier over the past few weeks and now it is time to get back to work. Early on in the season, the boys upfront were dominating, wreaking havoc on QBs and creating opportunities for turnovers, look what they did in week 1 against the Redskins and Kirk Cousins. We need to see them bring all of that Saturday. We need to see them do what they do best and shut down the run game. By eliminating Freeman and Coleman’s effectiveness and tackling them for losses, the Eagles defense can play a large role in pinning this offense back and creating better field position for the Eagles offense.
The Falcons defensive front has come on strong at the end of the regular season and showed it wasn’t a fluke against the Rams high-powered offense last week. They hit hard and get the ball quickly. They had 39 sacks in the regular season (8 of those sacks were against the Cowboys). Needless to say, they can get to Foles if the offensive line isn’t playing up to their capabilities and at least initially, he will need to be quick getting the ball out out of his hands.
Eagles secondary is always knocked for being weak but it is one of the most improved areas on our roster this season. The Eagles secondary had 19 total interceptions in the regular season. The Falcons have a lot of receiving threats and the secondary cannot afford to give up the big plays like they did to Gabriel last season. This core was tackling so well at the beginning of the season and we need to see that again against th stiff competition.
The Falcons defense has 8 total INTs in the regular season and did not pick off Goff in last week’s wildcard game. Desmond Trufant is back and healthy for the team after missing a large portion of last season and he is playing at a high level. The real ball hawk on the team is Deion Jones. He leads the team’s interception totals with 3 on the season including a game winning pick in the red zone over the Saints a few weeks back. Foles will need to respect the talent of these players but he can be an effective passer and should not fear them.
Jay Ajayi already put up solid numbers earlier this season against this Falcons defense but he will need the passing game to be effective in order to create some running room. In that Dolphins game, Jay Cutler had a QB rating of 76.7%, I think Eagles fans can muster that much faith for Foles to manage that at home. I think Corey Clement, Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor are the big targets in the passing game with several key catches from Jeffery to keep the chains moving. Falcons are a physical team and Eagles offense will need to be ready to go early.
Devonta Freeman will be going up against several of his FSU teammates this Saturday. Nigel Bradham, Timmy Jernigan and Ronald Darby know how difficult it can be to bring down the 5’9 RB. Tackling will be key in keeping Freeman from being effective but he is just one part of a nasty two-headed running game monster for Atlanta. Tevin Coleman is speedy and can make big plays if given space. The Eagles defense must not allow him to get any breathing room. As we saw last season, the Falcons are loaded with weapons and can be dangerous on the ground and in the air. Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel are a talented WR trio but I strongly believe the Eagles CBs can match up well enough within Schwartz’ scheme to reduce their impacts.
The Falcons are getting hot at the right time and most people believe they will beat the Eagles with a struggling Nick Foles. They are a talented team but I believe a competitive game is in store for the Philadelphia crowd Saturday. The weather conditions, fan noise, dominate run defense will all play in the Eagles favor and they must take advantage of that. Beating the Falcons without Wentz can be done and I believe the Eagles can and will win.