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Why the 2018 Week 1 tilt against the Eagles does and does not give us hope for the Falcons defense

The team’s consecutive great showings against Philadelphia might be worth talking about.

Atlanta Falcons v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Here’s a fun fact: In the Falcons’ 2017 playoff game against the Eagles and subsequent Week 1 2018 opener against Philly, their opponent managed a combined 33 points. In both their brutal beatdown of the Vikings and Super Bowl win over the Patriots, the Eagles scored more than 33 points. To add on to that, only two other teams held the Eagles to fewer points during the regular season than the 18 Philadelphia squeaked by Atlanta with in Week 1.

I bring this up because, well, Will McFadden at did so first.

The case for the Falcons being a potentially great defense hinges more heavily on those two Eagles games than any of us would care to admit. It was borderline astonishing how hard they put the clamps on Philly in the playoffs, and continuing that against the Eagles after an offseason of prep was impressive. After that, injuries quickly robbed the Falcons of any reasonable shot at being more than a decent defense, and unexpectedly poor performances from stalwarts did the rest. It showed that Atlanta is capable of putting up a stone wall against a very good football team, and with a fully healthy unit and the additions of Adrian Clayborn and Tyeler Davison, it’s reasonable to hope they can do so again. You don’t have to squint all that hard to see the talent level, and Dan Quinn’s coaxed some quality defense out of this team before.

The case against believing is the sample size, really. The Falcons of 2017 were pretty darn good but still excelled more at slowing teams down than consistently stopping them, and there’s no longer a Dontari Poe or peak Robert Alford or 100% absolutely healthy Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen available. The Falcons are betting more heavily on young talent than they did in years past, and while the flashes are always there, we still have yet to see this team put together great defensive performances for more than a couple of games in a row. I have hope hope that’ll change, but it’s hope in the most literal sense, given that we don’t have a rich history to draw from.

In conclusion, the Eagles are clearly the best offense in the NFL and the Falcons will surely treat the rest of the league like they treated Philly in the season opener, no further questions.