The Falcons come off their bye at 6-0 and are led by one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL. Quarterback Matt Ryan has taken "The Leap" into superstardom and the pass-catchers are all in the midst of top-tier seasons.
On the other side of the field, things haven't gone so swimmingly for Michael Vick and the Eagles offense. Nonetheless, his back will be directly planted against the wall for the remainder of the season, so expect an inspired performance against his former team this week.
With that in mind, here's a look at everything you need to know about Sunday's battle of NFC foes.
Where: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa.
When: Sunday, Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Streaming: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Line: Eagles (-1), according to Bovada.
Over/Under: 46, according to Bovada.
What's at Stake
At 6-0, the Falcons are the lone remaining undefeated team in the NFL and boast a four-game lead in the NFC South.
Barring some sort of catastrophe, Atlanta will run away with the division and should be considered favorites for a bye in the playoffs.
Nonetheless, after looking apathetic in victories against mediocre teams in Weeks 4-6, it will be interesting to see if this is a motivated Falcons team on Sunday.
Meanwhile, it's apparent that the Eagles would settle for simple apathy, as criticism has embroiled the organization. Gone is defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and it seems like Vick and head coach Andy Reid may follow him out the door in the offseason if things don't pick up.
Philadelphia also got its own bye week to sort things out. Therefore, expect the Eagles to come out and give a strong indication of the team they will be for the balance of 2012.
Falcons Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
WR Harry Douglas, Ankle, Probable
TE Michael Palmer, Shoulder, Missed Week 6
RB Antone Smith, Hamstring, Missed Week 6
Eagles Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
DB Nate Allen, Hamstring, Left Week 6
Fantasy Player to Watch: TE Tony Gonzalez
If you had Tony Gonzalez as the breakout star of the 2012 Falcons offense, feel free to quit your job, move to Las Vegas and become a professional gambler for the rest of your life.
At 36 years old, the future Hall of Famer is tied for the team lead in targets and is on pace to set a career high in receptions (115), tie one in receiving touchdowns (11) and go over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time since 2008.
In seasons where Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski went as high as the first round in some leagues, Gonzalez has bested both this season.
We'll just have to see whether he'll be able to keep up this resurgent performance for the duration of the season.
What They're Saying
One of the main causes for concern in Atlanta this season has been the defense's increasing habit of missing tackles.
Asked by the Atlanta Journal Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter what the team could do to tackle better, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan gave a rather expansive answer:
For one, you don’t want as many balls on the second level. There are a lot of balls on the second level. But outside of that, a lot of it takes focus. It’s no different than stripping the ball and getting turnovers. If you’re not thinking about the ball, it surprises you when it becomes available. It’s the same thing with tackling, if you’re think you’re a secondary kind of a player and not a primary guy then sometimes a tackle will surprise you and you won’t have a great path to the ball.
While the Falcons are worried about their ability to tackle, the Eagles have their own worries on the defensive side—mainly involving a lack of sacks.
Though the team has done a nice job of hurrying quarterbacks, the line has struggled at finishing the job as teams employ quick passes to mitigate its effect. According to Philly.com's Paul Domowitch, defensive end Brandon Graham said the team needs to make some slight adjustments to turn those hurries into sacks.
It's frustrating. But the way I look at it, I'm glad we got that respect. You better get [the ball] out because we're coming after you.
We just need to tighten it up a little more and make them hold it a little longer and we'll get there. And those hurries will turn into sacks.
Falcons Key Player: QB Matt Ryan
Until Atlanta makes an unforeseen switch away from its new pass-happy offense, Ryan's performance will usually be the difference in the outcome.
Thus far, the results have been fantastic. Ryan is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season and the Falcons come into Sunday's game undefeated.
Nevertheless, the Falcons signal-caller did show some cracks in his armor two weeks ago against the Oakland Raiders. Facing off against a relatively weak secondary, Ryan threw three picks and needed a defensive touchdown to help seal the victory.
A pick-six is certainly possible on Sunday, but the Falcons will need their quarterback to come out of the bye week on fire to win this week.
Despite boasting Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the secondary, the Eagles rank just 15th in the NFL against the pass. That means a solid day should be in store for Ryan.
Eagles Key Player: RB LeSean McCoy
The Eagles' commitment to the run under Reid has always been a source of frustration in Philadelphia, but perhaps never more than this season.
Gifted possibly the best running back in football, the team's win-loss record has been directly correlated to how much the team uses McCoy.
In the team's three wins, McCoy has carried the ball over 20 times in each contest. In losses, he's gotten an average of just 14.3 carries per game.
For the Eagles to have any shot at winning, the former scenario has to be in play on Sunday. Atlanta has continually struggled against the run this season, giving up 143.8 yards per game—good for 28th in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the Falcons pass defense is far stronger. Even with Brent Grimes lost for the season, the Atlanta secondary is the 12th-best unit in the league this season.
Considering Vick's struggles this season, it's necessary that McCoy is the focal point of the Eagles offense on Sunday.
Neither of these teams seem to enjoy blowouts lately, so expect this to be hard-fought contest.
Regardless, with the tumultuous situation going on in Philadelphia, it's impossible to pick the Eagles against an elite team.
Falcons win on a Matt Bryan field goal in the final minute.
Score Prediction: Falcons 24, Eagles 21
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