Alex Kielar | September 15th, 2019
The Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons are set to face off on Sunday Night Football tonight with kickoff set for 8:20pm on NBC. The Eagles are coming off a come-from-behind 32-27 victory against the Washington Redskins, while the Falcons are coming off a 28-12 defeat by the hands of the Minnesota Vikings last week. The Falcons didn’t put up any points until the fourth quarter, as they trailed 28-0 after three quarters. Three turnovers (two picks and a fumble) and a blocked punt all led to Minnesota scores, with the Vikings rushing for 172 yards.
This matchup has been a sort of “rivalry” in the making, as they have played each of the last four seasons, with the Eagles taking the last three. The last two battles (one in the playoffs) have both come down to an incomplete fourth-down pass to Falcons All-Pro receiver Julio Jones in the end zone. This game should be another tightly contested one, and the Falcons will be looking for some redemption. It will be the Falcons home-opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so that could give them a slight edge. Now let’s get excited for primetime by looking at the keys to the game and what to watch for.
Top 3 Things to Watch For
1. Eagles Run Game
The Eagles have a slew of running backs to rotate through and head coach Doug Pederson is strong on sticking to the gameplan with the run. They have Jordan Howard, rookie Miles Sanders, Darren Sproles, and Corey Clement to rotate carries with, and will ride the hot hand. Howard should be someone they go to more in this part of the game, as he only got the ball handed off to him six times last week. On these six carries, Howard averaged 7.3 yards a carry (YAC). It would smart of the Eagles to have the tandem of Howard-Sanders getting going in this one. With the Falcons allowing 172 yards and three scores on the ground last week, the Eagles should be able to run all over the field and should establish it early. The Falcons are still adjusting to a new-look 3-4 defense.
2. Falcons Receivers vs. Eagles Secondary
The Eagles had their share of struggles stopping Redskins receivers last week, allowing an average 12 yards per reception, including two long touchdown passes of 48 and 69 yards. Julio Jones is always a tough matchup for the Eagles, as the last five matchups, he has dropped at least 100 yards on them. Last week in Minnesota, Jones caught six passes in 11 targets, for 31 yards and a touchdown. If Jones puts up 100 yards once again in this matchup, it will tie an NFL record with most consecutive 100 yard games against one opponent. Rod Smith did it against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Falcons had 304 total yards in the air last week while the Eagles allowing 370 yards and three touchdowns in the air. Philadelphia was 30th in the league last year against the pass and last week didn’t show improvement. However, they didn’t get much help from the pass rush, only sacking Case Keenum once the whole game.
3. Wentz-Jackson Tandem
Carson Wentz finally has the deep threat receiver he has always been missing with DeSean Jackson, who had an outstanding game last week. Jackson caught eight passes for 154 yards and two 50+ yard touchdown catches. Jackson is possibly the greatest deep ball receiver in league history, just five touchdowns of 50+ yards behind Jerry Rice with 31. Jackson is now in his 12th season, while Rice played for 21 seasons. Jackson should definitely have a chance to pass Rice on that list to be all alone at the top this season. If the Eagles get the run game going early, they could use play action and option plays to get the Falcons defense on their heels and leave Jackson one-on-one. The Falcons are known to play man, and even if they double up Jackson, they will leave other receivers like Alshon Jeffery and tight end Zach Ertz open. The Eagles also have runners with the ability to catch out of the backfield, which will cause loads of trouble for the Falcons.
Keys to Victory
- Maintain the Eagles run game
- Spread the field on the Eagles secondary with Jones and others
- Pressure Wentz, especially on third down
- Establish a run game
- Shut down Julio Jones
- Get more pressure on Matt Ryan
Prediction: Eagles 27-24
Questions and comments?
Follow Us on Twitter @thescorecrow
Follow Us on Reddit at u/TheScorecrow
Follow Us on Facebook at The Scorecrow
Follow Us on Instagram at The Scorecrow
Facebook Group where you can read and post articles at The Scorecrow
Reddit Group where everyone can post without fear of being banned at The Scorecrow
Follow Alex Kielar on Twitter @KielarScorecrow
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images