Philadelphia Eagles Week 8 Preview: Why Eagles Must Contain Matt Ryan to Win
In the wake of their collapse at home against the Detroit Lions in Week 6, head coach Andy Reid terminated defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and replaced him with secondary coach Todd Bowles, formerly the Dolphins’ interim head coach.
If the team as a whole fails to show vast improvement over the next few weeks, expect additional changes to be made in The City of Brotherly Love. It remains to be seen what the effects will be on the Eagles defense with an experienced defensive coordinator in place.
As for the Week 8 matchup against Atlanta, the Falcons are only slight favorites, despite being the league’s last undefeated team. Expect a close game, as Atlanta has won 55 percent of AccuScore.com's simulations, with the Falcons outscoring the Eagles on average 24.5 to 24.
Turnovers will be very crucial, as whichever team takes better care of the ball should come out on top. In these simulations, Atlanta committed fewer turnovers in 44 percent of the games and went on to win 79 percent of the games when demonstrating better ball security than Philadelphia. Meanwhile the Eagles won 64 percent of the same simulations when they committed fewer turnovers.
AccuScore predicts a near 55 percent chance that Atlanta covers the point spread and a 52 percent chance of covering the money line. AccuScore also shows a 62.6 percent probability that the teams will top the Over/Under line of 43.5.
While the Falcons are the last undefeated squad in the NFL, they have been fortunate and have escaped with a few last-minute wins. On paper, the best teams in the NFL should have few problems beating foes like the Panthers or Raiders. But maybe QB Matt Ryan and company's penchant for clutch regular season performances will help them come playoff time.
The Falcons enter the game relatively healthy on offense, the biggest question mark will be how will the loss of their third wideout and slot-receiver extraordinaire Harry Douglas (out with an ankle injury) affects the pace of the Falcons attack.
The Falcons offense has established itself as one of the more consistent and balanced attacks in the league.
Through six games, Matt Ryan has passed for 1,750 yards and a better than 2-to-1 interception-to-touchdown ration (14 to six). In this game, AccuScore projects a monster game for Ryan, as he’s expected to throw for nearly 270 yards and two touchdowns.
RB Michael Turner has still proved that he’s more than capable of carrying the load as he has 357 rushing yards and a 4.3 yards-per-carry average. With AccuScore simulations, he’s only expected to rush for 50 yards, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he adds 20 to 30 yards to that total. Also, don’t count out an unexpected large game from the diminutive RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who’s a larger threat in passing game due to his open-field agility.
Ryan has done an excellent job of spreading his throws around as opposing secondaries have not been able to contain the three-headed receiving option of WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones (53 and 54 targets, respectively) and TE Tony Gonzalez (54 targets). All three of those options are expected to exceed 55 yards receiving, according to AccuScore, with White leading the group with almost 80 yards. The Falcons are a hard team to contain but could prove especially difficult to a defense that is in turmoil.
However, the Eagles do come in with a fully healthy defensive unit, which has had an extra week to prepare a new defensive scheme. Bowles has had ample time to devise a game plan that he hopes will generate turnovers.
In order to keep the Atlanta offense in check, the Eagles secondary will have to bring their best effort to contain the Falcons' potent passing attack. The Philly defense remains one of the league’s fastest and most talented groups, however it needs to start making more plays. Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will have to force at least one interception off Ryan, while the defensive line, led by Trent Cole, needs to apply the pass rush to force Ryan into bad decisions.
While Castillo was fired (and perhaps rightfully so), the problem hasn’t been with the Eagles defense but rather the offense.
Through six games, Michael Vick has turned the ball over way too frequently and has already been sacked 17 times (10 more than his defense has recorded this season). Vick already has thrown eight interceptions and five lost fumbles, some reports even speculated that Reid could pull Vick and play rookie QB Nick Foles, if the veteran continues his woes. While our simulations show that his quarterback rating should rebound to a reasonable 85.4, he’s still projected to have a bad touchdown to interception ratio of 1:2 to 1:3.
After totaling just 75 rushing yards in the last two games for the Eagles, RB LeSean McCoy should rebound nicely with almost 80 yards rushing and I would expect another couple receptions as well.
Vick will have his position players healthy, and AccuScore projects solid all around games from both WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin (both over 65 yards receiving and combining for a TD).
Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Falcons secondary has been the strength of their defense; their corners have played exceptionally well this season, despite the loss of CB Brent Grimes. Atlanta’s defense already has 10 interceptions and could easily end up leading the league at the end of the year.
It cannot be stated enough, for the Eagles to pull an upset, they’ll have to be clicking on all cylinders on offense and Vick must not turn the ball over. Being at home will be a huge factor for the Eagles, and they could potentially knock of the league’s last undefeated team if they play up to their ability.
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