When the Eagles are on Offense:
Speaking of Michael Vick, he needs to do a better job of reducing his turnovers. He had another three turnovers against the Lions, a team that had allowed three turnovers all year up until visiting Lincoln Financial Field. Unfortunately for Vick the Falcons defense is good at forcing turnovers. The Falcons have intercepted 10 passes, including one that was taken back for a touchdown by former Eagle Asante Samuel. They have also forced nine fumbles and recovered seven of them. Vick needs to be aware that there will be a lot of pressure on him to control the turnovers but get the ball out of his hand quickly as well. Defensive end John Abraham has six sacks on the year and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will keep the Eagles guessing with his different blitz options. The Eagles offensive line, which has struggled this year, needs to be prepared for the Falcons trying to confuse. Against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Week 2, the Falcons did not get set until right before the snap to hide their formations from an audible at the line of scrimmage. Vick has been a pocket passer this year as 90% of his attempts have come from inside the pocket and he has only seven completions outside of the pocket.
When the Falcons are on Offense:
Ryan takes shots deep down the field which actually works in the Eagles favor. Eagles’ opponents are completing just 31% of their passes of 15 yards or more which is the best mark in the NFL. His top targets are big, big guys. Tight End Tony Gonzalez (6’5” 247 lbs.) leads the team with 43 receptions. Wide receivers Julio Jones (6’3” 220 lbs.) and Roddy White (6’0” 211 lbs.) have 30 and 37 receptions respectively. Ryan likes to spread the ball around to these three receivers. Gonzalez and Jones have been targeted 54 times each and White has been targeted 53 times. Each of the three has four touchdowns. White and Gonzalez each have 31 first down receptions and Jones has 20 first down receptions. There is not simply one receiver to focus on for the Eagles defense this weekend but three receivers. It will be interesting to see how new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles blitzes and adjusts to the Falcons over the course of the game.
As it has been mentioned before, the weather appears like it will be a factor in Sunday’s game. If the passing game becomes an issue and both teams are forced to use their ground game, the Falcons might struggle. In their last game on October 14th against the Raiders, Turner had 11 carries for 33 yards. The Falcons rank 29th in the NFL in rushing averaging just 86.5 yards per game. By comparison the Eagles rushing defense is ranked 13th in the NFL. The Falcons will look to go to the air with their attack.
Special Teams and Prediction:
I don’t think the Eagles are going to play a clean game for the simple fact that they have played only one clean game all year (vs. the Giants on 9/30). The Falcons are going to pressure Vick and the Eagles offensive line. I expect the game plan to feature a decent dose (I can’t say heavy dose because Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg still run the offense) of LeSean McCoy and a lot of three step drops and quick throws from Vick. On the defensive side of the ball, I expect to see a constantly changing defense with blitzes and…. Wait for it…. Sacks! If Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson was able to sack Ryan three times while his teammates got to him another four times, I think the Eagles break their sack drought in a big way this week.
The Eagles and, more specifically, Andy Reid need this game way more than the Falcons need the game. I do not think it is a stretch to think that the Eagles play like a team backed up against the wall. Despite the Falcons talent, and this will not be an easy game, I think the Eagles win.
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