The Atlanta Falcons went into Los Angeles and put the smackdown on the Rams last weekend. As a result, they’re moving on to Philadelphia to play the Eagles on Saturday in the NFC Divisional Playoffs
For the Eagles, the obvious injury news was quarterback Carson Wentz, who tore his ACL in Week 14 against the Rams. Philadelphia will be relying on quarterback Nick Foles to get them through this game and hopefully have a shot to get to the Super Bowl. That will mean getting through a tough Atlanta team that showed they’re no pushovers after last week’s win.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as we go into this game:
The Impact of the Defenses
While Atlanta had a big offensive game against the Rams, the real question mark of this team had been whether or not they had a Super Bowl hangover. The offense this season was not the same as we saw in 2016, where they ran over teams en route to a Super Bowl. However, the defense on the Falcons is becoming one of the NFL’s more highly rated units this season. If the Falcons are to move on, they’ll have to rely on their defense against this Eagles team.
Over its last six games, the Falcons have only allowed 16.3 points per game. They shut down some of the league’s best offenses in New Orleans and Los Angeles and they’re becoming a type of group that head coach Dan Quinn had when he was in Seattle as the defensive coordinator Look for the Falcons to load up and try to get to Foles early and often.
For the Eagles, their defense will have to be their savior to compensate for the absence of Wentz. It finished the season fourth in both points and yards allowed. In the last two games, the Eagles have surrendered a total of just 16 points. However, the defense gave up an average of nearly 30 points in the three games previous. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will have to trust his talent upfront to put pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and make him uncomfortable.
This is essentially a homecoming game for Ryan. He grew up in just outside Philadelphia and he knows exactly what kind of crowd to expect. Ryan is a veteran who understands the situation he’s in and I think he’ll drown out the noise and play well.
The quarterback questions are more so for Philadelphia. The offense has struggled over the past two game with Foles completing 47 percent of his passes. That’s going to be unacceptable against this Falcons team that gets after the quarterback. He’ll have to play better and make more timely throws if he’s going to be able to help put points up for this Eagles team.
Philadelphia is expected to get much warmer temperatures this weekend, compared to last weekend, but there is a chance of rain. For the Falcons, the warm weather of Los Angeles helped their running game. Freeman and Tevin Coleman should be able to do that, after combing for over 100 yards last week.
For the Eagles, LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi will carry the load. However, they’re not as quick or have the same big-play capability that Atlanta has with its duo. However, if the offensive line can create enough push, the Eagles can try and wear down this Falcons defense over the course of the game.
There’s no doubt that the Eagles are underdog in this game. They don’t have Wentz and have struggled on offense without him leading into the playoffs. On the other side, Atlanta looked great in its wild card win and Ryan is showing his MVP-form in these playoffs.
The Falcons have something to prove. We learned that last week against the Rams. Atlanta has the playoff experience and a major edge with Ryan at quarterback. I expect the Falcons to do major damage in Philly and come out with a win to move on to the NFC Championship game.