Divisional Round Tale Of The Tape: Atlanta Falcons At Philadelphia Eagles
- QuarterbackThe Falcons have plenty of firepower, and when Matt Ryan is on his game, he can light up the scoreboard by stringing touchdown passes together. Ryan is a smart, veteran quarterback who excels at reading defenses and is a very accurate passer. However, if the defense can hit him hard early in the game, it can result in a couple of shaky series.A little over a month ago, the Eagles appeared to be the best team in the NFC by a significant margin. However, when quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a torn ACL, the Eagles hit a major roadblock. Backup quarterback Nick Foles has had success in the past, but the Eagles have not been able to move the ball consistently in the final two games of the season and they may struggle here.
- OffenseThe Falcons were not as consistent in the regular season as they were a year ago, but they still have plenty of talent with running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman along with wideouts Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Freeman and Coleman both run with power and speed, while Jones is one of the three best receivers in the NFL. Sanu is a wonderful secondary option.The Eagles were able to develop a strong ground game during the regular season with former Patriot LeGarrette Blount and ex-Dolphin Jay Ajayi, and head coach Doug Pederson is hoping the duo will be able to ignite the offense is Foles is struggling. Alshon Jeffery has a big body and long arms and can make catches on 50-50 balls, while Zach Ertz is going to catch anything he can touch.
- DefenseThe Falcons played perhaps their best defensive game of the year in their 26-13 victory over the Rams in the wild-card game. They were able to limit Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff and prevent Todd Gurley from asserting himself. Middle linebacker Deion Jones had a game-high 10 tackles and demonstrated his talent and ability. Vic Beasley can come around the corner and get to the passer.The Eagles are not a superstar-laden defense, but they excelled as a unit and finished fourth in yards allowed. Nigel Bradham led the Eagles with 88 tackles from his outside linebacker position, while fellow linebacker Mychal Kendricks was right behind with 77 stops, 2.0 sacks and six passes defensed. Defensive end Brandon Graham is the team’s best pass rusher with 9.5 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Falcons typically have an advantage over most opponents because Matt Bryant is one of the most dependable placekickers in the NFL. Bryant made all four of his FG attempts against the Rams, while punter Matt Bosher averaged 51.2 yards per punt.The Eagles are likely going to need a huge performance from their special teams in this game since their offense has been having problems. Rookie Jake Elliott has been a tremendous find, making 26-of-31 FG attempts after taking over from Caleb Sturgis.
The Falcons seemed to feel the impact of a Super Bowl hangover at several points this season, but they have played two strong games in a row. They should have an edge over an Eagles team that peaked earlier in the season.