You’ve heard a lot about what we think about the upcoming matchup, from our apprehension to reasons for optimism. Now we get reasons for optimism from none other than Brandon Gowton over at Bleeding Green Nation, who was kind enough to answer our questions yesterday about his favorite team.
Today, he gives us his reasons why the Eagles are going to lose this one against the Falcons. All of these are insightful, compelling, and undoubtedly correct, as we’ll see Sunday night. A big thank you to Brandon for taking the time this week, and below is his read on the game ahead.
1) The Eagles start too slow
First quarter scoring was a huge issue for the 2018 Eagles. They only managed to muster a league-low 2.6 points in the first 15 minutes of the game. Pretty pathetic.
Unfortunately for the sanity of Eagles fans, the team similarly struggled to get off to a hot start in Week 1. The Eagles scored ZERO first quarter points against Washington before finally getting a touchdown with just under five minutes remaining in the second quarter.
The Eagles eventually heated up by scoring 25 points in the second half but they can’t regularly count on staging a comeback like that. Especially when they’re going down to a hostile environment to play a desperate team. The Falcons need this win much more than the Eagles as they try to avoid dropping to 0-2.
A big reason why the Vikings were able to comfortably beat the Falcons in Minnesota is because they got off to a fast start. They established a lead and pounded the rock to kill the clock. The Eagles won’t be able to run the ball as much as they should want to against this Falcons defense if they continue to start slow.
The Eagles have the talent to start fast. It doesn’t seem like an impossible ask. And yet, it’s hard to believe they’ll actually play well from the jump until we see it first.
2) The pass defense can be exposed
The Eagles’ pass rush just wasn’t good enough in Week 1. Three of the team’s top four defensive ends combined for ZERO sacks and ZERO quarterback hits.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz absolved the defensive line a bit by shifting blame onto the secondary. He said the Eagles need to cover better.
In any case, the bottom line is the Eagles can’t win this game if their pass rush isn’t getting home. A big reason why Matt Ryan has been stymied in his last three games against the Eagles is because they’ve pressured him a ton. In the last three Eagles versus Falcons tilts, Ryan has been sacked nine times and hit a whopping 31 times. That’s an average of three sacks and over 10 hits per game!
Looking at this matchup, there’s some reason to believe the Eagles can have success against the Falcons’ offensive line. But, as with the fast start point in reason No. 1, it’s a “I’ll believe it when I see it” thing right now.
Case Keenum passed for 380 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a 117.6 passer rating against Philly. Washington rookie receiver Terry McLaurin logged five receptions for 125 yards and one touchdown in his first NFL game. Those numbers would’ve been even worse for Philly had Keenum not just overthrown McLaurin on a deep attempt in the second half.
I think it’s safe to say Ryan and Julio Jones are much better than Keenum and McLaurin. That duo could put up some big numbers against the Eagles’ secondary on Sunday night.
3) The Falcons have home field advantages trends in their favor
The Eagles are 3-0 in their last three meetings with the Falcons, yes, but all of those games took place in Philly. The Eagles are only 1-3 in their last four trips to Atlanta. The sole win came when the Falcons were starting Chris Redman in 2009.
The Falcons are 60-32 at home since the Matt Ryan era began in 2008, which comes out to the league’s ninth best home winning percentage during that span.
Another record related to Ryan’s reign regards (holy alliteration, Batman!) the status of the Eagles as two-point road favorites this week. The Falcons are 11-5 against the spread in 16 games as home underdogs since Ryan took over as Atlanta’s starting quarterback. That 69% (nice) coverage percentage ranks third best in the NFL since 2008.
On the flip side, the Eagles are only 4-6 against the spread (tied for 26th best cover percentage) as road favorites since the Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson eras began in 2016.
The Eagles were previously home underdogs in their last three wins over the Falcons. Now the roles are reversed and it’s Atlanta who will be motivated to pull off the upset.