January 12, 2018
Less than 24 hours from kickoff at Lincoln Financial Field, there's little left to write about Saturday's NFL divisional round game between the Eagles and Falcons. Every angle has been covered, and I know this because earlier I read a story about who would win in a fight between an actual eagle and an actual falcon.
[Spoiler alert: The eagle would own the falcon.]
Now, in the time left before the Birds' first playoff game since 2014, there's nothing left to do but wait ... and decide which team we think is going to advance to the NFC Championship Game.
You all know that the Eagles are home underdogs against the defending NFC champs – unless, of course, they're not – and how the team has rallied behind that in the days leading up to their playoff opener. Whether or not that makes a difference come game time remains to be seen, but if our staff predictions are any indication, that us-against-the-world mentality might work out just fine for Doug Pederson's team.
Here's what you need to know for Saturday's game, and how we see things playing out in South Philly.
TV: NBC | RADIO: 94.1 WIP
SPREAD: Falcons (-3) | TOTAL: 41.5 (via Bovada)
Earlier on Friday, we took a look at how other local and national writers see this week's game playing out. You can check that out, here.
Prior to the season, the definitive strength of Eagles' roster was the defensive line, until it became Carson Wentz. Now it's the D-line once again. If Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, and Beau Allen can control the line of scrimmage in the run game while consistently getting in the face of Matt Ryan in the passing game, they can create turnovers, making it easier on the offense.
Offensively, the Eagles' line is the clear strength. They need to find ways to open up running lanes against packed boxes while providing great protection for a quarterback who can't function without it.
Make no mistake, the Eagles are better in the trenches, and as such, they can win this game. Still, for me, I just can't get past the fact that heading into this matchup, the difference in quarterback play drastically favors the Falcons, and that's going to be very difficult to overcome.
Please don't harm my family.
I don’t think there is an athlete in history I have less belief in than Nick Foles. If Atlanta strolled into Philly and rolled this team on Saturday afternoon, I can’t even tell you I would be surprised.
But sports are goofy, and I think something as simple as the Eagles being told they’re expected to lose can help make the difference against the Falcons. Stubbornness and pride can carry you pretty far, and the Eagles have more than enough talent to win a home playoff game against a dome team. With the voice of the Linc behind them, they can squeeze out a victory without an MVP at QB.
This season has been too much fun to end already. Give me the Birds in a squeaker.
I've flipped back and forth on this one no fewer than a dozen times, and I'm still not sure this is the prediction I want on the public record. To me, this is more or less a toss-up, but I think it's going to be decided in the trenches. I know that's cliche and I probably sound like your dad talking about how football was played back in his day, but I really think the biggest Eagles (literally) are going to have the biggest impact on the game.
Offensively, a clean pocket is going to be key for Nick Foles. More important, however, may be a potent rushing attack to take some of the pressure off the Eagles quarterback. If they can get that working against the Falcons to chew up some clock – and keep Matt Ryan and Atlanta's offense off the field – it will be a huge advantage.
On the other side of the ball, the defensive line needs to get after Ryan and make it
difficult impossible for him to just sit in the pocket and pick the Birds' secondary apart. The Falcons, unlike in past seasons, have a quality ground attack of their own, but one of the Eagles biggest strengths this season has been stopping the run. If they can play at that same level on Saturday in addition to generating pressure on passing plays, they should be able to keep the score low enough to give the offense a chance.
Of course, they can help out even more by scoring some points of their own. And I could certainly see that happening. I'll take the Eagles in a close one.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin
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