As this game draws near, I’ve seen pretty incredible confidence by both the Eagles and Falcons fanbases. Both teams are constructed soundly and have reason to be confident, yes, but only one of these teams can win what looks to be a slugfest in Philadelphia. Brashness is probably unwise for both of our fanbases.
That said, one of these teams is going to reward that confidence with a win. I’m hopeful it will be Atlanta, but as is reasonable for a playoff matchup of this magnitude, I’m equal parts optimistic and deeply worried about how this one will go.
Here’s my typical one reason to feel confident and one reason to worry about the Eagles. As always, I’m eager to hear yours.
One reason to feel confident: Atlanta’s pass defense
Let me be very clear on something: If the Eagles have to lean on Nick Foles to win this game, they aren’t going to win this game. It would take an incredibly surprising performance from Foles to convince me otherwise, and if he destroys the Falcons, things are probably going to go very poorly.
But even if Foles plays reasonably well, Atlanta’s pass defense should be good enough to make him look pretty lousy. The Falcons have a stronger pass rush than they did in the past, for starters, and they have some tremendous players in the secondary. The Eagles have real threats in the passing game that I don’t want to ignore, but I have enormous confidence in this defense to get the job done, and Foles is maybe 25% of the quarterback that Carson Wentz is.
One reason to worry: The Eagles pass rush
By now, you’ve probably seen that the Falcons had a better sack output than the Eagles in 2017, which might give you some confidence. I’m here to assure you that confidence is a little misplaced.
Atlanta may well destroy Nick Foles, who is not good at evading pressure. Philadelphia almost certainly will pressure Matt Ryan, who is playing behind an offensive line that struggled plenty with Aaron Donald and the Rams a week ago. The Eagles have a strong, deep defensive front, and they generate tons of pressure even if they don’t always finish with a sack.
What does that mean for Matt Ryan? The veteran quarterback has arguably never been better at evading pressure, but if it’s constant he’s going to be taking hits and he’s going to have to get rid of the ball more quickly. At best, that’s going to force him to make suboptimal throws or get rid of the ball at times, which is enough to slow or kill drives. At worst, he’s going to make a costly mistake or two, and it’s only going to take a couple of turnovers to swing the outcome of this game.