Aug 22, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back DeMarco Murray (29) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been a long, long wait, but after an active and laborious offseason, it’s nearly time for the new look Philadelphia Eagles to take the field. The Eagles squares off against a Falcons team that managed a paltry 6 wins over the course of 2014, failing to make considerable noise in what was the weakest division in professional football. Given the recent history of the two clubs, it’s no surprise that the Eagles open as 3 point favorites despite playing on the road at the Georgia Dome. While the Falcons should be somewhat better than they were a year ago, I have trouble seeing them unseating the Eagles on Monday night.
The strength of the Atlanta offense is undoubtedly the duo of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, who combine to form one of the more potent QB-WR hook-ups in the league. The Eagles secondary will be tasked with keeping Jones in check, who poses a significant test right out of the gate. Jones’ 106.2 ypg average was good for second best in the NFL last season, while his 31 receptions of 20+ yards was by far the highest figure in the league. The Eagles defense struggled with limiting “X-plays” in 2014, so naturally, Jones will provide a good litmus test; we’ll quickly learn whether or not the face-lifted secondary of the Eagles is more well equipped to limit prolific receivers than it’s predecessor.
While the Ryan-Jones connection is notably troublesome for opposing defenses, the Eagles defensive front should pose an even greater impediment to the Falcons offense. Atlanta boasts arguably the poorest offensive line in the league, while sporting an unknown commodity in its backfield. The potent Eagles front seven should be able to wreak havoc on the sieve-like Falcons line, and Matt Ryan will be forced to bear the weight of the offensive responsibility with a lack of a viable rushing attack. I’d expect the Eagles defense to have it’s ups and downs, but they should be able to limit a somewhat one dimensional Falcons attack.
The Eagles should come out firing on all cylinders in this one, putting points on the board early and often against a uninspiring defensive unit. When it comes down to it, the Eagles are the superior team in all three phases –offense, defense, and special teams– with the biggest discrepancy in talent being along the teams’ respective lines. Most NFL games are won and lost in the trenches, and the Eagles have a massive advantage in this regard. The Eagles should control the game on the ground, and take well calculated shots downfield in the passing game, pulling away somewhere around midway through the 3rd quarter.
Final Score Prediction: Eagles 34, Falcons 20
Game MVP: DeMarco Murray – 21/118/1 on the ground, 2/20 as a pass-catcher.
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