Falcons at Eagles
ATL is 6-0 (4-0 vs AFC West)
The Falcons are 6th in points scored and points allowed.
They are 13th in yards gained and 22nd in yards allowed.
The Falcons have played a soft schedule. They have yet to face anyone with a winning record. Two of the teams have only a single win (KC, Carolina).
Atlanta is a good team, but that record is deceiving. There is nothing great about them. They don’t have an explosive offense or a stifling defense. They do have plenty of talent. I think the players are still getting used to the new coordinators and their systems. You can be impressed by the fact that Atlanta is 6-0 while still figuring things out. Just don’t look at the record and think this is a team to be scared of. This isn’t the 2009 Saints or 2011 Packers.
I checked out the OAK/ATL game. There certainly is a lot to like. When Matt Ryan is on, he can make some very impressive throws. However, I was somewhat disappointed by the passing attack. With weapons like Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez, I expected to see a really polished, explosive offense. The Falcons are good to be sure, but I guess I just expected more.
Ryan has completed at least 62.9 percent of his passes in every game. The Eagles are #1 in the NFL in allowing opposing QBs to complete only 52.7 percent of passes. Which side will win? I think Ryan will still do pretty well on the short and underneath stuff. He’s very accurate and has good targets.
The question here is how the Falcons play the Eagles. Do they fear the DL and keep guys in to block? If so, that takes away checkdown targets and makes it easier for the Eagles to cover the guys who do go out. I don’t know what to say in this area. Oakland only has 7 sacks on the year and the Falcons weren’t overly concerned with them. I know the Eagles also have 7 sacks, but as we’ve discussed…that is greatly affected by gameplans of the opposing teams.
Ryan was willing to really hold the ball vs the Raiders. I do not anticipate that being the case on Sunday. They could go with normal protections and try to throw quickly. Both White and Jones have big time RAC talent. That strategy would make a lot of sense.
The Falcons still want to run the ball, but the offense isn’t like it was. Shady McCoy has 111 carries this year. The Falcons top 2 RBs (Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers) have totaled 115 carries. The run game has been a mixed bag for them this year. Turner played well vs SD, CAR, but has struggled otherwise. In the other 4 games, he’s run for a total of 174 yards and 2 TDs. He’s averaging about 3 ypc. Not good.
Play action passes are dangerous. Tony Gonzalez remains a big time weapon on those plays, as well as the stud WRs. Defenses do need to be disciplined and this has been an issue for Kurt Coleman, among others. Eagles defenders need to really make sure of what they see. Better to be late in run support than out of place when a deep ball goes flying down the field.
I do think the Eagles can win up front. I was not impressed by the Falcons line. I’d love to promise this will mean lots of sacks or big hits on Ryan, but as we’ve seen in the last few weeks, that is very dependent on what the offense does. I did see LT Sam Baker get bull-rushed several times. Trent Cole did that to him repeatedly last year with success. I’ll be expecting Trent to try and do it again.
How will Todd Bowles deal with the Falcons WRs? He could play a lot of 2-man if he trusts the front seven to stop the run. Or maybe DRC gets Jones straight up and Nnamdi and a Safety will cover White. I do think we’ll see Nnamdi covering Gonzalez in some situations. It will be interesting to see Mychal Kendricks, rookie from Cal, going up against Gonzalez, veteran star from Cal. Kendricks was very good on TEs in the Lions game. This will be a whole other kind of challenge.
As for the Eagles offense…there are 2 big keys (in a general sense). We need Vick to play better. I hope the week off did him good. Sometimes stepping away from the game for a few days and clearing your head can be a huge help. We’ve already talked a ton about Vick so I’ll leave this alone.
The OL is the other huge issue. We found out today that Danny Watkins has a bad ankle and might very well miss the Atlanta game. Rookie Dennis Kelly would take his place. Reid said that Watkins ankle is a chronic issue. I’ll discuss that in a later post. The Falcons have one DT that scares me, Jonathan Babineaux. He generally was on the right side (our left). The other DTs are solid, but Babineaux is the guy that really jumped out as you watched tape. Evan Mathis will have his hands full. I think Kelly can do the job at RG if called upon. How good can he be? That’s they mystery. He did play OG on a regular basis in the summer so the Eagles have prepared him for this situation.
The top pass rushers are John Abraham and Kroy Biermann. Atlanta gets very creative with them. They play both sides. Sometimes they are down in a stance, other times they stand up. There are some plays when they line up on the same side. This all sounds good, but the results are mixed. Abraham is coming off a 3-sack game and there are times when they look good. However…
Atlanta is vulnerable against the run. They are 28th in yards allowed and 31st in yards per carry (5.2). Our buddy Jimmy Bama took the time to write up a good post on the Falcons porous run defense. Make sure to check that out.
The Eagles OL can win their share of blocking battles in this game. This should not be anything like what you saw in the Lions game.
I am nervous about the Falcons creative fronts being an issue for Vick and the OL. Biermann will literally do anything. He will line up wide and then rush up the middle. He will drop 20 yards downfield in pass coverage. He will fly off the edge on other plays. You do not know what to expect from him. I’m sure the Falcons will mix in some blitzes which attack the A-gap. Let’s hope Howard Mudd and Dallas Reynolds have those figured out by now.
I love LB Sean Weatherspoon. He’s become one of the top LBs in the league. Aside from him, the back seven is a very mixed bag. One major issue…tackling. Only seems fitting that the team who trades for Asante Samuel will struggle with tackling. Shady McCoy could give them some real fits. I hope we mix in some screen passes.
While Mike Nolan is new to the Falcons, we do know him well. He was the head coach in SF for several years when we faced them. He ran the Dolphins D last year. The Eagles coaches know how to attack him. He knows how to attack us. This all comes down to timing and execution. Who calls the right play at the right moment? Which set of players executes better?
Andy Reid has a great record vs the Falcons. He’s only lost twice. Once was the 2005 season opener when Jeremiah Trotter was suspended for the game after a pre-game fight. The other loss was last year. Both were in Atlanta. While those stats sound good, you have to remember that the Eagles were the better team in most, if not all, of those games. This time, the Falcons look to be the better team.
We all know Reid is 13-0 after the bye. He loses some edge here since the Falcons are also coming off the bye.
And a major X-factor is the weather. We don’t know what Sunday will be like. The old Falcons would have been better set for a rainy, muddy game. The new Falcons? I don’t know. How will the Eagles adjust? God only knows. Andy has confused us before. He’s also done the right thing at times. If there was ever a day to run the ball, Sunday sure seems like it.
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I wrote about Penn State for my SB Nation Philly column. Bill O’Brien is one impressive coach.