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Four Critical Matchups In The Falcons-Eagles Game

Tomorrow, tomorrow. There's a game tomorrow. It's only a day away!

I don't need to tell you this is an important game, at least as early season games go. Win this one and the Falcons are 1-1, at least tied for the NFC South lead and feeling good after beating a team widely regarded as one of the best in the NFL. Lose and they're 0-2, at least tied for the cellar in the NFC South and submarined by a team that has had their number over the last couple of seasons. 

Smacked in the mouth by the Bears last week, the Falcons won't lack for motivation. If they can establish the ground game, buy Matt Ryan some time and apply pressure to Michael Vick, they can pull this off. If they come out flat, there's little doubt the Eagles will eat them alive.

As for the four matchups I find to be most important, you'll find 'em after the jump. Make the leap! 

LeSean McCoy vs. Falcons Defense

I've covered this in some detail, but the Falcons really need to put the brakes on McCoy.

Yes, Michael Vick is extremely dangerous. Yes, so is DeSean Jackson. But no one combines talent with traits that have traditionally given the Falcons headaches like the running back Eagles fans call Shady. He's fast, elusive and has great hands for a running back. If he gets into the open or catches a pass in the flat, the defense is going to have to step up in a big way.

Stopping McCoy means playing him much closer than Brian Van Gorder is comfortable with. It's going to involve excellent penetration from the front seven on running plays, so they can bring him down before he can get rolling. And it's going to involve the linebackers making stops when McCoy does get out of the backfield and into the second layer of the D.

It's all very doable, but the Falcons will have to overcome their soft zone and tackling liabilites to get it done. Watch this one closely.

Michael Turner vs. Eagles Run Defense

The offensive key to this football game is Michael Turner. If he runs rampant, the Falcons probably win. If he's contained, the odds become a lot longer.

To understand why, you have to look at the Eagles defense. The defensive line is well-stocked with guys like Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin and Trent Cole. They're all very talented players, but in Cole and Babin's cases, at least, they're better rushing the passer than stopping the run. Their linebackers are by far their weakest link, with guys who are largely unproven or just mediocre.

That makes for a prime opportunity for Turner, who managed 100 yards on 10 carries against the Bears last weekend. If the line can spring him—and despite their struggles against the pass, they did fine in Week 1—he could have a huge day. If the Falcons are controlling the clock and wearing down the defense with Turner, it opens up the passing game. It also keeps the defense off the field, which is a huge plus.

C'mon Burner.

Falcons Offensive Line vs. Eagles Pass Rush

To springboard off of the Turner point, the Falcons have to block well. It's critically important that they stop the Eagles' pass rush.

There's a ton of talent up front on Philadelphia, as I've mentioned. Trent Cole is quietly one of the best pass rushers working in the NFL today. If the Falcons have to become one dimensional and pass like they did against the Bears, the Eagles would seem primed to tee off on Matt Ryan. They certainly did against Sam Bradford and the Rams last weekend.

So the line must step up, as we noted earlier in the week. Hopefully guys like Garrett Reynolds and Sam Baker bring their A game, Mike Mularkey gets Ovie Mughelli and Reggie Kelly involved to chip in. It's going to be impossible to keep the Eagles from getting into the backfield altogether, but a strong performance would go a long way toward keeping the offense moving.

Matt Bosher vs. Eagles Special Teams

This will likely be here until Bosher proves he can boot it like we all hope he can.

The reason for that is simple: The new kickoff rule should help the Falcons, who are prone to the occasional massive special teams lapse, but only if they get touchbacks. To this point, Bosher just hasn't  been able to do that. Paired with his anemic 38.4 yard average on five punts against the Bears, this is a cause for concern.

The Eagles don't need any help on special teams, so Bosher will need to step up and deliver some dynamite kicking. You know, without the actual dynamite.

Sound off on these matchups. Do you agree?