The Atlanta Falcons are squaring off against the Philadelphia Eagles tomorrow, and there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about that matchup. There are, for the optimistic, also plenty of reasons to feel confident.
To help us feel even better, Brandon Gowton from Bleeding Green Nation stopped by to give us three reasons why the Eagles are going to lose this game from his Philly-centric perspective. All are good reasons, and we’re sure he’s absolutely correct.
#1: Super Bowl Hangover
The Eagles will be dealing with a Super Bowl hangover. But not so much mentally as physically. Philadelphia’s roster is far from being 100% healthy heading into the 2018 season. Carson Wentz, who easily could’ve been the regular season MVP if he didn’t get hurt in mid-December, is obviously out for this game. Starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is opening the season on the NFI list. 2017 special teams captain Chris Maragos is on the PUP list. Then there’s the fact that two of the Eagles’ top four wide receivers, Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins, will be out on Thursday night. That leaves Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, Shelton Gibson, DeAndre Carter, and Markus Wheaton as Nick Foles’ options at wideout. And then there are other guys who are healthy enough to play but might not be at 100%. Take Super Bowl hero Brandon Graham, for example, who had offseason ankle surgery and spent most of training camp on the PUP list. Old veterans such as Jason Peters and Darren Sproles are coming off ACL tears that took place in 2017. A number of players, such as Agholor and Corey Clement, will be ready for Thursday after missing significant time in training camp. As a result, this Eagles offense might lack cohesion out of the gate.
#2: The Nick Foles factor
I mentioned in our Q&A exchange that Foles is a very high variance quarterback. He’s obviously capable of achieving some great things: Super Bowl MVP, seven touchdown passes in one game, etc. But he’s also capable of looking downright awful at times. He stunk up the joint in preseason this year.
Foles figures to be better with Peters instead of Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who was an absolute sieve this summer, at left tackle. He’ll also benefit from Doug Pederson actually game-planning for an Eagles opponent unlike in preseason. But it’s still very possible he has some struggles. We saw him not look very good in the first half of the Eagles-Falcons game earlier this year. If Keanu Neal manages to pick off that terrible pass attempt instead of having the ball go off his knee, the Eagles probably don’t even win that game. If Bad Foles shows up on Thursday night, it could be tough sledding for the reigning Super Bowl champs.
#3: The Eagles defense could be vulnerable in the slot
Rookie corner Sidney Jones has shown some nice potential as a nickel cornerback to this point, yes, but he also hasn’t had to go up against arguably the best receiver in the game in Julio Jones. If I’m the Falcons, I’m looking to test Philadelphia’s 2017 second-round pick early and often. This will be the first time Sidney, who turned 22 years old this offseason, is playing in an NFL game that actually matters. It remains to be seen how he’ll respond to the pressure while playing at a position that is relatively new to him. There could be some growing pains for the Washington alumnus.