Everyone knows what this week means for the Phiadelphia Eagles. With the Eagles sitting at .500, everyone in Philadelphia is waiting for this team to explode. Whether that explosion is from production on the field or the death of an era remains to be seen.
When you look at the numbers, Atlanta's record isn't quite so impressive. If you combine the record of Atlanta's opponents, it's a bleak 13-25. The Falcons have benefited from starting off against a struggling AFC West and a confused bunch with the Carolina Panthers. On the other hand, the Eagles' opponents are currently 20-20.
While I was unsure about this game in our Humpday Podcast, I now can't shake the feeling that this has the makings of a trap game for Atlanta. More explanation below as we get to the good stuff.
Here's what to watch for this Sunday:
1. Todd Bowles at defensive coordinator
Since Bowles has been put in charge, players have been more forthright about their feelings on Castillo. For example, this telling quote from Brandon Graham:
“A lot of time we ran the same coverage, stuff like that. I listen to the calls every play – ‘Coach, what do we have this play? What do we have this play,’ and it was always pretty much the same stuff.”
So with Bowles controlling the defense, the advantage is all Eagles. Bowles gets roughly two weeks to prepare against Atlanta and, more importantly, they know nothing about what he'll do. That's some powerful leverage and the Eagles need to capitalize on it.
2. Tony Gonzalez vs. Nnamdi Asomugha/Mychal Kendricks
While Roddy White and Julio Jones will receive more attention, Tony Gonzalez will be a huge factor in this game. Gonzo has returned to his top form in Atlanta's new pass-heavy offense, netting 43 catches for 430 yards and four TDs through six games.
At this pace, Gonzo will end the season with 115 receptions for 1,147 yards and 11 TDs. Kendricks will need to handle the best receiving tight end of all time. Also, if Bowles uses Nnamdi to press Gonzalez, who will be covering those large, talented receivers on the outside?
3. LeSean McCoy vs. Atlanta's run defense
Atlanta has allowed the 10th-most rushing yards in the league despite only playing six games so far. The Falcons allow roughly 144 yards and one TD per game on the ground. If the Eagles want to keep four running backs on the roster, this is a good time to use them.
Expect McCoy to see somewhere around 25 touches as the Eagles attempt to control the tempo. The longer that they can keep Matt Ryan off the field, the better off they'll be.
Samuel is one of the more intriguing stories heading into this week. Despite being shipped off for a seventh-round pick, Samuel is a solid player and always has the potential to make a big play.
In their contest against the Oakland Raiders, he returned an interception 79 yards for a score to help Atlanta to seal the win. The Eagles will likely try to use plenty of double moves and bait Samuel into allowing the deep ball. Expect plenty of runs his way as well. Everyone knows about his speed bump tackling style.
5. John Abraham vs King Dunlap
At the age of 34, Abraham is showing no signs of slowing down. He has six sacks on the season (good for sixth best in the league). Abraham will be relentless against a rusty King Dunlap, who hasn't played since Week 2. Is Dunlap up to the task?
6. The weather
As of now, the game is projected to be played in windy, stormy weather. This means miserable passing conditions as a hurricane looms over Philadelphia. Both teams will probably need to scale back their passing attempts in order to reduce the chance of turnovers. This will likely hinder Atlanta more than the Eagles, providing another quality advantage.
7. Dennis Kelly
The rookie tackle has been taking reps at right guard for the injured Danny Watkins. This will be the Eagles' first chance to really evaluate Kelly. If he performs well, it could lead to some shake-ups along the offensive line.