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Falcons offense vs. Eagles defense: Who wins this matchup?

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The offensive line needs to be less offensive if they’re going to succeed this week.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons are looking to bounce back offensively after a poor showing in Minnesota in week 1. Matt Ryan had a terrible game, but he has traditionally followed up poor performances with good ones over the course of his career. The team will need it, as the offensive line faces another formidable defensive front from the Eagles. Let’s see how this match-up shakes out.

Note: Assessments partially based on PFF scores

In the trenches

The loss of right guard Chris Lindstrom was unfortunate, but Jamon Brown is a capable starter at right guard. Alex Mack and Jake Matthews struggled against the Vikings, but these guys are also too good to turn in repeated poor performances. James Carpenter was quietly solid against Minnesota, which echoes his performance throughout his career. The rotation of rookie Kaleb McGary and Ty Sambrailo at right tackle worked well enough, though the team will probably give the rookie more snaps if he’s ready with his conditioning. Overall, this unit had a poor game in week 1, but the pieces are there to turn in a much better performance.

The Eagles come in having already lost Malik Jackson, so Timmy Jernigan will need to step up in his absence. Jernigan has been good in the past, but struggled in 2018 and is off to a rough start this year as well. Of course, on the other side is world-beater Fletcher Cox, who should terrify any opposing offensive lineman. Brandon Graham is another quality rusher on the edge, though maybe not at the same level as Danielle Hunter from last week. Derek Barnett is a player the Eagles keep hoping will break out, but is mostly serviceable as is. The loss of Jackson has certainly hurt, but there is still plenty of talent left on this defensive front.

The Eagles front four is comparable to what the team faced last week in Minnesota, though the slight edge would have to go to the Vikings unit. Cox and Graham can be a menace, though and the Falcons OL has not been inspiring so far. Let’s hope the entire unit turns in a better performance overall, or else we’ll be in for another long game. Slight edge to Philly here until the Falcons prove differently.

Advantage: Eagles

The skill positions

Matt Ryan was pretty bad in Minnesota, but his track record of bouncing back is highly encouraging for this game. The trio of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley won’t be held back every single week. There’s just too much talent there. Austin Hooper was one of the few bright spots in Minnesota and he has another good match-up again this week. Devonta Freeman struggled badly in Minnesota, so I’d expect the team to try and get him going in a meaningful way at home. Keep an eye on Ito Smith, who was arguably the better RB last Sunday. This is still a unit with a ton of talent and I would not expect them to turn in another poor performance. Slightly better protection on the offensive line could make all the difference in this game.

The Eagles linebackers and secondary allowed Case Keenum to throw for 380 yards and 3 touchdowns last week. They simply do not have the same talent as the Vikings outside the trenches. Their linebacking trio of Nigel Bradham, Zach Brown and Nathan Gerry are mostly decent. Brown and Bradham have shown flashes in past seasons, but their careers average out to mostly “okay.” At corner, Ronald Darby has been a good corner but is no Xavier Rhodes. Rasul Douglas on the other side had a good 2018 but struggled badly last week. In nickel sets, Avonte Maddox is definitely someone the team should target to take advantage of. Safety Rodney McLeod has been a good starter over the years and Malcolm Jenkins has been really good since he joined the Eagles back in 2014.

This match-up is where the Falcons need to make their bounce back. Simply put, these linebackers and secondary just do not compare to the Vikings unit in total quality. This is an opportunity for Matt Ryan and company to show that week 1 was indeed a fluke.

Advantage: Falcons

Overall

Playing in Minnesota to start the season was always going to be a tough assignment. Following up against the Eagles was not going to make things better, but this Falcons offense can do better than they did last week. The offensive line needs to hold up better and/or the coaching staff needs to put together a game plan to neutralize guys like Cox and Graham. If they can, I expect Ryan, Jones, Sanu, Ridley and Hooper to have a good evening. The home field advantage is enough to tip this in favor of Atlanta, but much will ride on how the offensive line performs.

Advantage: Falcons