Facing the Atlanta Falcons is no pushover for the Philadelphia Eagles
By Matt Giraldi
The Philadelphia Eagles will face the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons in order to advance to the NFC Championship game.
If you’re a Philadelphia Eagles fan and you wanted the “easiest” path to the Super Bowl, you seemingly got it. The six-seed Atlanta Falcons defeated the three-seed Los Angeles Rams to advance to the NFC Divisional round to take on the Eagles. More importantly, the Eagles avoid playing more than one of the Rams, New Orleans Saints or Minnesota Vikings. Don’t let the Falcons’ seeding fool you however. This team is full of post-season experience and wants to remove the bad taste of yesteryear from their collective mouths.
Motivation isn’t solely relegated to one group of perennial losers though. The Eagles have been proving naysayers wrong all season. Following the loss of Carson Wentz, naysayers have been in full force. As a whole, Lincoln Financial Field is going to be host to a lot of angst on Saturday afternoon. Getting off to a hot start is going to be paramount for both teams. For the Eagles defense, their time to shine is now.
Last season, the Eagles and Falcons played at the Linc. The Falcons were held to just 15 points. If the Eagles can do that this time, they could very well be one game away from the Super Bowl. Give Julio Jones his yardage. He had 10 catches for 135 yards last season against the Eagles. Just keep the Falcons out of the end zone. Aside from one Leodis McKelvin blown coverage early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles did just that for the majority of the game. Of course, even if the Eagles hold a team to below 20 points, can they score enough to win?
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Maintaining offensive balance is going to be important for Doug Pederson and the Eagles offense. Having Nick Foles throw the ball 45 times is not going to win against the Falcons. It sure didn’t help the Rams. Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and the rest of the Eagles backfield might not be as talented as Todd Gurley, but they as a collective should get more than the 14 carries he received last night.
Of course, Foles is still going to have to throw in order to win. That will require Foles to avoid the heavy pressure the Falcons are capable of producing. In the last relevant game of the regular season, Foles did not handle pressure well.
The onus is on the Eagles offensive line to keep the Falcons pressure at bay. If Foles has time, he’s going to make accurate reads and most importantly, smart decisions. Maybe, just maybe, Foles will be able to rediscover the deep ball again too. Despite criticism geared towards Torrey Smith, his ability to stretch the field could serve a purpose again if Foles can test the opposing secondary. Fortunately for Foles, the Falcons defense has been generous to passes that travel less than 15 air yards. So maybe Smith could concede some snaps to Mack Hollins.
There are a million questions about Saturday’s game. The only question that has been definitively answered is that the Eagles’ path to the playoffs didn’t get easier. It’s always difficult to win in the postseason, no matter your opponent. The Falcons are traveling across country for a chance to defend their NFC dominance, so we all know they won’t take this trip lightly. All week the Eagles have talked about regaining swagger. On Saturday, they’re going to have a chance to flaunt it against the defending NFC champs. If one thing was made clear last night, the Falcons currently have a lot of swagger. Game on.