January 13, 2018
It's game day. Actually, it's playoff game day. And, if you're an Eagles fan, you've been waiting four years for this one.
I'm not going to waste your time with an intro since you're probably pacing around your living room trying to pass the time until kickoff. I don't blame you. Instead, we'll let this Eagles hype video (starring Brian Dawkins) serve as the intro and then get right into the over/unders for the Birds' divisional round game against the Falcons.
That's the current total being offered over at Bovada. [In fact, all of our over/under numbers this week come courtesy of Bovada.] If you look at the season scoring averages for these two teams, that may seem a little low, but given the absence of Carson Wentz and the elevated play of the Falcons defense – not to mention an Eagles defense that's played its best at home – and it's hard to see a ton of points being scored in this one.
If the game stays under 41.5 points, that plays into the Eagles hands. Their offense probably won't be able to put up a ton of points, but if their defense can do its job, they won't have to. And if you look at our staff predictions, only one of us has the game hitting the over (Jimmy Kempski). He's also the only one of the three of us that picked the Falcons to beat the Eagles on Saturday. Both Kyle Neubeck and I have the total staying under 40 points, and we both have the Eagles advancing to the NFC Championship.
As we said, these projections are coming from Bovada, but that's not the only sportsbook offering over/unders for individual player props. Over at MyTopSportsBooks.com, they posted the passing yard props for all eight quarterbacks remaining in the postseason, and they actually have Foles with the lowest number of the group.
Tom Brady (Patriots): 263.5
Matt Ryan (Falcons): 241.5
Drew Brees (Saints): 235.5
Case Keenum (Vikings): 230.5
Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers): 226.5
Marcus Mariota (Titans): 225.5
Blake Bortles (Jaguars): 209.5
Nick Foles (Eagles): 200.5
As a reminder, Blake Bortles threw for a whopping 87 yards in the Jags' wild-card win over the Bills. So while it's not great to see Nick Foles projected to throw for fewer yards in the divisional round, it's also a reminder that you don't need MVP-caliber quarterback play to advance in the postseason. Not if your defense balls out. The Jaguars also didn't turn the ball over last weekend, and if the Eagles can do the same against the Falcons, it will go a long way toward a win.
Since 1970, HOME playoff teams . . .— Bob Vetrone Jr. (@BoopStats) January 13, 2018
186-17 (.916) -- Win the turnover battle
50-18 (.735) -- Turnovers even
51-102 (.333) -- Lose the turnover battle
. . . 8 #HTKEF . . .
Addendum to . . . 8 #HTKEF . . . Home playoff teams since 1970 when they do not turn the ball over --— Bob Vetrone Jr. (@BoopStats) January 13, 2018
Foles doesn't need to light the world on fire; he just needs to play smart and not make any dumb mistakes.
If I was setting the lines, I never would've set it this high. But if you combine the three rushing props for the Falcons, that's what Bovada has for them on the day:
Devonta Freeman (ATL): 59.5
Tevin Coleman (ATL): 32.5
Matt Ryan (ATL): 5.5
Despite allowing 133 rush yards per game over their final two regular season home game, the Birds have allowed just 69.5 yards per game on the ground at home this season. And if they can get back to the way they were playing before, when they allowed just one opponent to rush for more than 75 yards against them at home, it could make for a difficult afternoon for the Falcons.
Odds are, Matt Ryan is going to make some plays this afternoon. He's a former MVP and has an absolute monster on the outside in Julio Jones. It's going to happen. But if the Eagles can keep the Falcons behind the sticks by stopping them on first and second down, they can make life a lot more difficult for Ryan. It was a big part of how they were able to knock off the Falcons last season while holding one of the NFL's best offenses to just 15 points.
Speaking of Matt Ryan ... did you know he grew up in the Philly area and was an Eagles fan? Can't believe more people aren't talking about this.
Anyway, I think the defense gets the job done in this one. They are, after all, the No. 1 rushing defense in the league.
The Eagles are averaging two takeaways per game at home this season and have forced six in their last two games of the regular season. But the Falcons aren't going to make it easy. In their last four games, three of which have come on the road, Atlanta has turned the ball over just twice. Total. In four games.
That's not going to make it easy for Jim Schwartz defense, but if you look back at last year's meeting between these two teams, you'll see that the Eagles only needed one turnover in that win. They probably won't get five like they did against the Raiders on Christmas night – although that would certainly help – but I do think they get more than one. After all, it's part of the reason I think they'll come away win a win on Saturday.
Bovada has 62.5 rushing yards as the number for Ajayi. Personally, I think that's low as there's a good chance the Eagles hop aboard the Jay Train in this one. He's rested. He's been successful against the Falcons this season. And he's currently their best and most complete running back.
I also think they'd be wise to get Ajayi involved in the passing game, even if only for a few screen passes to keep Atlanta's defense honest.
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