By Matthew Asher
The Eagles and Falcons are no strangers to each other. Despite not being in the same division, these two teams have played each other 30 times since 1966 and 10 times in the past 12 years. It wasn’t until last year’s 35-31 victory that Atlanta earned its first victory against Philly since the Matt Ryan era began. Overall, the Eagles lead the series with 17 wins, 12 losses and one tie.
With both teams coming of their bye week, the game should be a close game. The expression that stats don’t always tell the story is definitely true with these two teams. Philly’s offense gets the 7th most yards each game (379) while Atlanta 361.3 yards each game is 13th best. On defense, the Eagles have the edge again. Allowing 330.8 yards a game is the 12th best while Atlanta gives up 367.2 yards each contest, the 22nd most in the league.
So why is Atlanta 6-0 and Philly 3-3? Two reasons: points scored and turnovers committed. The Falcons score the 6th most points a game (28.5) and give up the 7th least points each contest (18.8) while the Eagles average the 3rd least points on offense (17.2) but yield the 11th least points on defense (20.8). Philadelphia may have more yards than Atlanta, but Atlanta definately makes better use of the yards gained.
The other reason for the records is the turnover ratio. Atlanta is the number 3 team with a +10 in the turnover department. While Philly is -9, the second worst ratio in the league. Only Kansas City with a -15 is worse.
With the firing of defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo, the Eagles defense may be off to a serious disadvantage. Falcons coach Mike Smith believes the key for another Atlanta win is to get off to a fast start. “We’ve not started fast the last three weeks,” Smith said. “It’s going to be imperative. When you’re on the road, I think it’s real important to start fast. You want to try and take the crowd out of it and have people sitting on their hands instead of cheering.”
If Atlanta starts out fast, Smith will only be partially correct about the crowd sitting on their hands. Ryan may have played college football for Boston College, but his hometown is Exton, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles from downtown Philly. Ryan does expect friends and family to come to the game but he’s not thinking of this game as a homecoming. “It’s obviously where I grew up and still have a lot of family up there,” Ryan said. “It’s always fun for them to be able to come to the game and maybe have a chance to see them afterwards for a second or two. Once you start playing, it’s like any other week and you have to be focused and prepared.”
Matt Ryan also believes that a fast start is crucial, but since Atlanta has had extra time off for this game, it’s essential the quick start occurs. “We haven’t done a great job of that the last couple of weeks,” Ryan said. “Smitty talks about it all the time. We want to start fast and maintain that throughout the game. Regardless of what they have going on, I think that’s a point of emphasis for us this week.”
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.