While the Eagles were able to pull out a victory with a dominating second half performance against the Redskins in week 1, they can’t afford to get off to another slow start against a much more talented Falcons squad this week.
Doug Pederson is 3-0 against Atlanta since becoming the head coach in 2016, with all three of those W’s coming at home. This time, Pederson and Co. will need to travel to Atlanta, a place we haven’t played at since the Chip Kelly era.
The Vikings put a solid blueprint to defeat Atlanta on tape in week 1, and the Eagles have the weapons to expose those same holes that Minnesota did.
Let’s see how both sides of the ball should fair in this week’s game preview.
In the Falcon’s week 1 matchup against the Vikings, Minnesota employed a dominating rushing attack against Atlanta’s defense, totaling 172 yards on the ground. It was so dominant that Vikings QB Kirk Cousins passed the ball a mere 10 times. That’s unheard of in today’s NFL, but it worked to perfection and the Eagles have the running backs to play smash mouth football as well if they choose to do so.
Doug Pederson utilized a pretty balanced attack in week 1, passing 39 times and rushing 31 times. But I would expect Doug to lean on his backfield even more this week, so don’t be surprised if Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders get a heavier workload against Atlanta.
In all three of the matchups against Atlanta since Pederson came to town, the Eagles have dominated the time of possession and that’ll likely be the goal again heading into this Sunday night contest.
The Eagles best strategy against Atlanta’s plethora of offensive weapons is to simply keep them off the field. Pederson knows this, Atlanta knows this, all the fans know this. The time of possession will likely be the most pivotal stat in this ball game.
Aside from that, as long as Carson Wentz can run Pederson’s offense without turning the ball over, the Birds offense should fair well on Sunday.
Jim Schwartz’s unit got embarrassed in the first half against the Redskins in week 1. A Redskins offense that features journeyman QB Case Keenum, a 35-year-old Vernon Davis, rookie wideout Terry McLaurin, Paul Richardson and a second-year back in Derrius Guice. Washington may have one the least talented offensive arsenals in all of football, and the Eagles allowed them to put up 398 total yards on them.
I don’t need to lay out how much harder this week’s matchup against Atlanta will be. I’m sure you’ve probably been having nightmares of Julio Jones running past our corners all week like me.
I don’t expect the Eagles to stop Atlanta’s offense. I just hope they can contain them and hold them out of the end zone, which they’ve proved they can do over the past few seasons. In the three games we’ve faced Atlanta since 2016, the Falcons haven’t scored over 15 points in any of those games.
Like I said earlier, a big part of that is due to the offense dominating the time of possession. But, the defense can help the offense by causing turnovers and getting off the field on third down.
The Eagles were better at forcing punts than forcing turnovers in week 1. Washington went 5-13 on third down but didn’t turn the ball over at all. Causing at least one or two turnovers will be pivotal against Atlanta, as well as getting more pressure on Matt Ryan.
While the Eagles front seven got solid pressure throughout the day last week, they only recorded one sack. Getting pressure on the QB and forcing turnovers go hand-in-hand, so Fletcher Cox and Co. will need to step up their pass rush in this matchup.
Jim Schwartz seems to have a pretty good beat on Atlanta’s offense. If they can hold the Falcon’s offense to under 20 points for the fourth straight matchup and force a turnover or two, the Birds offense should manage to control the ball en route to a victory.