You’ll note that I didn’t mention Zach Ertz here, but consider him the pivotal fourth matchup. If the Falcons can shut down Sproles, Matthews, and Ertz, they’re going to win this one pretty easily, so long as the offense continues to deliver.
Brian Poole vs. Jordan Matthews
Dan Quinn has already said you’ll see Brian Poole moving around a bit, given that all the Eagles’ receivers are someone’s large adult sons. At least some of the time, though, Poole will wind up matched up against Jordan Matthews, inarguably the Eagles’ best receiver and a man who is both A) 6’3” and B) comfortable playing a slot receiver role.
Poole has played very well this year and looks like a long-term solution at nickel cornerback for Atlanta, but this will be one of his tougher matchups. Matthews drops passes, but he is big, fast, and agile, and he’ll be frequently targeted by Carson Wentz. If Poole draws him as his primary responsibility tomorrow, we’ll get a very good look at just how ready Poole is for primetime.
I think he’ll have a fine day, myself, but chances are Matthews will reel in a couple over his head. Nature of the business.
Darren Sproles versus the Falcons defense
I cannot stress this enough: The Falcons have to stop Sproles, who has been a burr in their collective butts too many times in the past. While Ertz looms as a problem because the Falcons still have their struggles with tight ends, Sproles can make things difficult because of his speed and elusiveness, whether he’s catching the ball or running it.
I don’t fear the Eagles offense in the way that you would fear, say, the Saints, who can simply sling their way to victory. I do fear Sproles, though, because he’s capable of scoring from anywhere on the field at worst, and even if the Falcons are up to the task of containing him, he’s a major nuisance.
Julio Jones versus the Eagles defense
There are teams who have the necessary combination of intelligent coaching and personnel to hold Julio Jones in check for a quarter, a half, or even occasionally an entire game. The Eagles are unlikely to be one of those teams.
With an attacking front four, in particular, the Eagles can certainly make life difficult for Matt Ryan, which may limit the opportunities Jones gets. But if Ryan has time in the pocket, expect Jones to have one of his biggest games of the season, and his success could certainly turn the outcome of this game.