For the first time since 2012, the Atlanta Falcons are headed to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday. Atlanta is coming off of a great division win at Tampa Bay last week, while the Eagles are coming off of their fourth loss in five games.
Atlanta’s defense has shown signs of improvement but was dealt a blow with the injury of Desmond Trufant, who is listed as day to day with a shoulder injury. The Falcons have not truly stopped anybody for a full game yet despite some signs of improvement, and the Eagles, who started off very well on offense, have slowed down the last few weeks due to some mediocre offensive line play and receiver play. This game will be decided by the Falcons offense, more than anything, but the defense will have the chance to make some plays to win the game.
These match-ups will be key for the Falcons defense—here’s how we see them shaking out.
In the trenches
The Philadelphia Eagles have the 10th most experienced offensive line in the NFL, with 308 starts between their starting five. Over the course of the season, the Eagles have given up 17 sacks and 43 hits on the quarterback. One important note: in three of their four losses, the Eagles have allowed three or more sacks, while they have allowed two or less (mostly less) in their four wins.
In terms of the run game, the Eagles have not had a 100-yard rusher in any game this season, but they average about four yards per carry. Jason Peters and Brandon Brooks have had good seasons, thus far, but the other three members of the line have been inconsistent—especially since Lane Johnson was suspended for violation of league rules.
This match-up will really come down to how the Falcons defensive line plays in the passing game. If Vic Beasley and company can generate some pressure on Carson Wentz—who has come back down to Earth since his hot start—they should be able to get enough stops to win the game. The Eagles are 18th in the league in total rushing attempts, and, as we mentioned earlier, they aren’t particularly great at it. Atlanta is improving around the line of scrimmage and they’ll need to continue to do so in order to win this match-up. Neither one of these teams is great in the trenches, but the Eagles have better players at a couple of positions and that gives them a slight edge here.
Advantage: Eagles [slight advantage]
If Desmond Trufant was not hurt, the Falcons would have a pretty favorable match-up here. However, some uncertainty abounds in Atlanta’s defensive backfield due to Trufant’s bad shoulder. Luckily, though, Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell and Keanu Neal have been playing very well, and their pure athleticism should be key against an offense like the Eagles. Philadelphia’s receiving corps has been somewhat unreliable lately, as they have dropped 14 passes this season at the rate of 5.1 percent of passes thrown their way—third worst in the NFL. Jordan Matthews is a skilled receiver but doesn’t really have the ability to take a game over. Darren Sproles,though, will give the Atlanta defense someone to watch every time he is on the field, as he is always only one move away from a big play.
Atlanta’s defense needs to be ready for a massive dose of short yardage passes and quick hitters against the Eagles. If the Falcons can stay close to opposing skill players and make solid tackles, they should be ok. They may even be able to force a turnover or two.
This offense has the capability to move up and down the field little by little and to really tire out a defense with their short passing game. This will make it tough to get Carson Wentz on the ground, but teams have shown that it is possible against this offensive line. While the advantage in the trenches is not massive for Philadelphia, I think it exists, but Atlanta owns the edge at skill positions. With Trufant banged up and the athleticism of some of the Eagle’s players, I think the Eagles offense holds the advantage as a whole, but I think the defense does just enough to let the offense win the game. Nonetheless...