September 12, 2019
The Eagles sure like to make things interesting. After falling behind 17-0 (and then 20-7) in the first half against Washington in their season opener, Philly's high-powered offense finally decided to wake up, scoring 25 unanswered points to go up 32-20, and ultimately winning 32-27.
That may not be the way many saw the Eagles' Week 1 matchup playing out, but the result (a win) was exactly what was expected. And each of our writers correctly picked the Birds to handle Washington in the opener. Only two, however, predicted that the Eagles would fail to cover the 10-point spread (Evan Macy and yours truly).
This week, however, oddsmakers are expecting a much closer matchup, with some books opening this game as a pick-em. Over at Bovada, the line has swung in the Eagles favor, and they're now a two-point favorite. The oddsmakers also predict there will be some scoring in this one, with the over/under of 52.5 being set more than a touchdown higher than it was in Philly's Week 1 matchup.
Can Carson Wentz and the Eagles remain undefeated against Atlanta under Doug Pederson or will Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the rest of the Falcons finally be able to get some revenge on Philly? Here's what you need to know for Sunday night's primetime matchup and how our writers see this one playing out...
TV: NBC | RADIO: 94.1 WIP
SPREAD: Eagles (-2) | TOTAL: 52.5 (via Bovada)
Because Matt Ryan was the league' MVP in 2016, and because they had the No. 1 offense in the league that year, and because they nearly won a Super Bowl, many still think of the Falcons as a good team, self included, until I actually dug a little deeper on them this season. More recently, I had a moment of clarity. This team stinks.
Conclusion: When you stink in the trenches on both sides of the ball, you're going to stink.
I am pretty firmly in the "Eagles will run away with this game" column after seeing what both brought to the table in Week 1. The Eagles showed a definite weakness both in the first half (on both sides of the ball) and with their defensive front, but they were able to overcome both — and a few fluky plays — to move to 1-0.
Atlanta was torn apart on the ground last week and I predict the Eagles will be very effective giving the ball to Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard this week. I think the defense will do enough to win, while the offense continues its momentum from the season opener.
This game could honestly go either way. The Eagles are on the road for the first time this season and the Falcons need to pick up a win to avoid going 0-2 to start the season. But there's just something that tells me the Eagles have the Falcons' number. It's true. The Birds have won three straight against Atlanta, including the divisional round of the playoffs back in January of last year. The Falcons were the favorites in that one, and came within a few yards of ending the Eagles Super Bowl run before it even really got started. Instead ... well, we all know what happened next.
But it's more than just that. Doug Pederson simply owns the Falcons and Jimmy Kempski can prove it with the kind of next-level analysis you won't get anywhere else...
In the Doug Pederson era, the Eagles are 3-0 against the Falcons, but they are only 4-3 overall against bird teams.— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) September 11, 2019
2016: Falcons, W
2016: Seahawks, L
2016: Ravens, L
2017: Cardinals, W
2017: Seahawks, L
2017: Falcons, W
2018: Falcons, W
It's worth noting, however, that each of those three wins for the Eagles came at home, and they've lost each of their last two games in Atlanta. But that was before the Pederson/Wentz Era even started.
On a more serious note, Julio Jones will probably be the most talented and dangerous player on the field Sunday night, and he's had some success against Philly in the past, averaging 119.4 yards per game and scoring three touchdowns in five regular season games against the Birds. But, perhaps one of my favorite Jim Schwartz quotes is relevant here. It's an answer to a question about stopping Jones and came prior to the Eagles playoff game against Atlanta during the 2017 season, and it still holds up.
"I think here's the point: The point is to try to win the game," Schwartz said. "I think that we have to keep our eye on that. If Julio Jones has 350 yards receiving and we win the game, that's what it took to win the game. If he has 10 yards receiving for the game-winning touchdown, then that wasn't enough."
In that game, the Jones finished with nine catches for 101 yards, but it was the one catch he didn't make — on fourth and goal with time expiring — that made the real difference in the Eagles' 16-15 win. And that's the real question here: Can Jim Schwartz' defense make the plays when they count most? They struggled mightily in the first half against Washington with blown coverages and missed tackles but were able to flip the script in the second half and shut down Case Keenum and Co. If they can avoid those early struggles in this one — and they'll need to — they should be able to escape Atlanta with a primetime win.
The Vikings made an absolute mockery out of the Falcons last week, which cuts two ways. Atlanta is going to come out hungry wanting to avoid an 0-2 start, but, you know, they were also bad enough to get dominated in the opener.
For all the complaints I tend to have about Jim Schwartz, his defenses have done a pretty good job at keeping the Falcons off of the board when they’ve played, allowing just 38 points total in three straight wins over the Dirty Birds. Atlanta’s shaky offensive line should allow the Eagles to get by without the services of Malik Jackson.
I think this might be Miles Sanders’ proper introduction to a national audience. Expect some more big plays from the Eagles’ offense this week.
Atlanta simply has too much to lose this early in the season. I also have to think big-time revenge is on the minds of the Falcons, who haven't beaten the Birds since 2015. I think parts of the Falcons' 28-12 loss to Minnesota last week were an aberration.
This Atlanta team is far better than that. I can't see the Falcons getting into another 28-0 hole especially in their home opener.
When the schedule was released this was one of the games I had put as a loss. After watching the slow start last week, I’m nervous the secondary will have a tough time stepping up against Julio Jones and the talented Falcons receivers.
However, if Philly can keep the ball out of Matt Ryan’s hands and have a balanced run/pass approach to keep the momentum they built on in the second half last game, I’ve changed my mind and I think the Eagles could edge this one out.
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