I’ve been accused of overconfidence by Eagles fans, but I’m not taking this team lightly. Their defense is almost certainly going to cause problems for Atlanta, and their ground game is good and varied enough to be a problem. I guess I just can’t look past how horrendous Nick Foles has looked in two out of his three starts, and how big of a mismatch Foles against a quality Atlanta secondary really is on paper. I expect it to be close, frustrating, and probably a bit scary, but I also think Atlanta can and will win.
Falcons 20 - Eagles 16
How the Falcons hold up in the trenches will decide this game. No team is more loaded up front than Philadelphia. They have a plethora of talented players on both sides of the ball. It was concerning to see the Falcons look so overmatched against the Rams’ front four. The offensive line needs to fare much better in pass protection. That will allow Matt Ryan enough time to exploit a shaky secondary. Whoever gets off to a fast start will likely prevail. Both teams don’t want to play from behind. Giving Philadelphia’s front four more opportunities to get after the quarterback is a recipe for disaster. The same applies to Nick Foles being put in a position, where he must throw 30 or more passes. Trusting the scorching Falcons’ defense to force the game into Foles’ hands feels like the most likely outcome.
Falcons 20 - Eagles 13
Judging by the Falcons point guesses above, we’re all clinging to that takes-20-to-win stat pretty firmly, huh? The NFL never goes the way you’d think, particularly when it’s playoff time, so don’t expect all of your expectations to be met. There’s too much stress being put on Philly’s defense, which is a great unit that also gave up about 500 total yards to the putrid 2017 Giants offense a few weeks ago, and not enough respect being given to Nick Foles, a veteran QB who’s had two weeks to get ready for this start. This will be harder and not as hard as you think. But, instead of worrying about what Philly can or can’t do, why don’t we take a second and admire what Atlanta could do? They’re playing lights-out defense, and are doing enough on offense to win games (and, if you really squint hard, are steadily improving). Putting 26 on Los Angeles, and limiting its offense to 13, was a statement. Atlanta’s ready for a run. Philly will have its limitations offensively, and so might the Falcons. But, Atlanta’s playing great ball right now. If they stick to their plan and execute, they can beat anyone down the stretch. It’ll certainly be close, but Atlanta does what it needs to get to their second-consecutive NFC Championship.
Falcons 23 - Eagles 17
It feels like we’ve been worried about the Philadelphia Eagles all year. They are, after all, well-coached, have a top defense, and an exciting offense ran by Carson Wentz. Wentz went down, Legarrette Blount has been ineffective, and I’m still not sure what to expect out of Nick Foles. He’s only played in two full games against some very bad defenses, and the results were mixed. Next, the Eagles sat most of their starters in the last week of the season, meaning they last took meaningful snaps on Christmas. That’s usually not a recipe for success. No doubt they are a good team, but I can’t get terribly worried about this game.
Falcons 21 - Eagles 20
The Falcons took advantage (well, kinda) of some timely turnovers by the Rams, but we shouldn’t expect such fortune to always bounce our way. The Falcons have been great at avoiding turnovers in critical moments, highlighted by Matt Ryan’s incredible ability to take care of the ball. Minus the bonehead drop INTs, Matty is averaging one INT per more than 100 attempts. This’ll be important, since the weather forecast has turned nasty over the past 48 hours, and so we might have an ugly, grind it out type game. Luckily, that fits our style, and I expect us to do enough to hold off a late Eagles charge and head to the NFCCG once again.