Divisional Playoff Game Preview: Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles

By Ha Kung Wong  Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles Chiefs

Twitter: @FBGarbageTime

Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles


Saturday, January 13, 2018 – 4:35 PM ET

Current Line – Falcons by 2.5

NOTE: Ryan Whitfield and I also broke this game down in this weeks podcast, so give it a listen!

Falcons Offense

Passing Rank (DVOA) – 10th

  • Passing Yards Per Game – 249.4 (8th)

Rushing Rank (DVOA) – 16th

  • Rushing Yards Per Game – 115.4 (13th)

Points Per Game – 22.1 (14th)

I mentioned last week that Matt Ryan needed to turn back the clock for the Falcons to have a chance, and although he didn’t completely turn it back, his playoff experience definitely paid off.  He went 21 of 30 for 218, a TD and, most importantly, no INTs in leading the Falcons to an underdog victory against the upstart Rams.

The Falcons managed to get Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman involved and really stayed balanced.  They spread it around with 19 touches for Freeman, 17 touches for Coleman, 9 receptions for Jones and 4 receptions for Sanu.  And with Jones finally completely healthy, and being cleared from ankle and rib injuries, he contributed as expected with 94 yards and a game sealing TD in the 4th quarter.  If they keep that balance, I think they’ll have some success against Philly’s imposing 4th ranked defense.  The Eagles, however, are particularly vulnerable against TEs, being ranked only 17th defending them, so keeping Austin Hooper involved will also be important.

Falcons Defense

Pass Defense Rank (DVOA) – 19th

  • Passing Yards Allowed Per Game – 214.3 (12th)

Run Defense Rank (DVOA) – 20th

  • Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game – 104.1 (9th)

Points Allowed Per Game – 19.7 (8th)

The Falcons defense has been surprisingly solid of late, managing to be the 8th ranked scoring defense, keeping opponents to 20 or less points 9 times this season.  And with the issues surrounding Ryan’s play, that’s the primary reason why the Falcons made the playoffs.

Although the Falcons run defense is ranked in the bottom half, they still managed to limit rush yards to just 104.1 per game over the season, but perhaps more encouragingly, was even better in the second half of the year, allowing just 93.6 rush yards per game. The Eagles are likely to lean a little more on Jay Ajayi with Foles under center, so Dontari Poe, Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones will continue to be important.  They were solid against Todd Gurley, so I don’t anticipate issues here.

Eagles Offense

Passing Rank (DVOA) – 5th

  • Passing Yards Per Game – 233.6 (13th)

Rushing Rank (DVOA) – 17th

  • Rushing Yards Per Game – 132.2 (3rd)

Points Per Game – 28.6 (Tied for 2nd)

The numbers on the Eagles are a little skewed since Carson Wentz is on IR.  Behind Nick Foles, it’s a little bit of a mixed bag.  We saw Foles do well against the weak Giants secondary (ranked 20th), but then implode against an equally weak Raiders secondary (ranked 30th), and really stink up the place in a couple series against the Cowboys (ranked 18th) before being “rested”.  Honestly, the Eagles are “like a box of chocolates”, as it’s impossible to know what we’re going to get until the game starts. And Vegas feels the same way as the Eagles are 2.5 point dogs.

The Eagles are now the ONLY No. 1 seed to EVER begin the playoffs as an underdog.  In fact, since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, only four No. 1 seeds have even been less than 3-point favorites in their first game. The Falcons were also involved in the last time that a No. 1 seed wasn’t significantly favored, as they were 1-point favorites over the Green Bay Packers in a divisional game in 2010. And it seems Vegas was right to be cautious, as the Packers won that one 48-21.  Will they be right again?

A lot of that will depend on how Foles does against a Falcons pass defense that lands smack dab in the middle of the Giants and Cowboys, but is much better than the Raiders.  But a portion of this will also depend on Jay Ajayi.  Although he appears to be the Eagles best option in the backfield, the Eagles refuse to give him a starring role, instead relying on a three headed monster with LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement.  That will have to change if they want to jump start this question mark of an offense.  They’ll have good supporting players along the line, such as Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks, but I’m unsure if that will be enough.

Eagles Defense

Pass Defense Rank (DVOA) – 7th

  • Passing Yards Allowed Per Game – 227.2 (17th)

Run Defense Rank (DVOA) – 3rd

  • Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game – 79.2 (1st)

Points Allowed Per Game – 18.4 (4th)

The Eagles defense, however, is for real and hasn’t changed.  The trick is to play to their strengths and force Matt Ryan to beat them in the air by stopping Freeman and Coleman.  We all know that Ryan has regressed form his breakout 2016, and threw 12 INTs to just 20 TDs this season.  And with Chris Long and Brandon Graham putting on an impressive pass rush over the last quarter of the season as well as Patrick Robinson being a significant coverage threat, it could be a long day for Ryan.

Prediction: There are some significant offensive minds in Philly, including head coach Doug Pederson.  But two weeks and solid coaching is not going to make Nick Foles any more than he already is.  Maybe they get lucky, but the Falcons look primed for a run after the Wild Card win over the Rams, and their defense is much better than people realize. 

Falcons Win and Cover the Spread

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