Eagles vs. Falcons: 4 Things to Watch in Early NFL Showdown
Philadelphia and Atlanta were on completely different ends of the spectrum after their Week 1 performances. It should be noted that Atlanta played an 11 win, division winning team from a year ago while Philadelphia played against a 7-9 franchise with a quarterback who's only in his second season and had no offseason.
Philadelphia went on the road to St. Louis and came out with a rather easy win. The impressive aspect for the Eagles was how unimpressive they were even though they won by 18 points.
Teams are not as great as they seem in Week 1 nor as terrible. Nothing is set in stone after Week 1 of the regular season, but there are trends that could be just beginning for both these NFC powerhouses. These four things need to be looked for when Michael Vick squares off against his old team in the Georgia Dome on Sunday Night Football.
4. Atlanta's Wide Receivers vs. Philadelphia's Secondary
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There is great depth at both spots for each team. Philadelphia will have Nnamdi Asomugha on Roddy White while the other matchup against Julio Jones is up in the air. The Eagles should decide to put the taller Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the rookie but they'll likely bid for the more experienced Asante Samuel to do the job.
It's not out of the question for Samuel to get beat because he'll most likely guess a route wrong. No matter who plays the slot corner position, he will have issues.
Rodgers-Cromartie had trouble against Danny Amendola of the Rams expectantly because he's not exactly a slot corner nor does he have the build of one at 6'2". Samuel can't jump routes if he's covering the slot and the position takes away not only his playmaking ability but his overall worth to the Eagles.
Harry Douglas has shown his speed since returning from a knee injury last season and the Falcons will test whomever is attempting to shadow him.
The most important aspect is not what Philadelphia does but what Atlanta decides to do. The Falcons should be able to establish a running game and if so, it will slow down the pass rushers like Jason Babin, Trent Cole and Darryl Tapp just enough to give Matt Ryan enough time.
The worst mistake Atlanta could make is to come out throwing to set up the ground game.
3. Atlanta's Offensive Play Calling
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It was odd when Matt Ryan threw 49 times in one half at Pittsburgh even though it was a preseason game. In Chicago on Sunday, Ryan had 47 attempts the entire game but the number is still too high.
Michael Turner rushed for 100 yards and the team had been 17-2 whenever he did so. Despite adding Julio Jones, Atlanta didn't look down field enough in the passing game, Roddy White had eight catches but for only 61 yards.
Chicago's coverage is good but Philadelphia's will be even better. The front middle of the Eagles' defense is the weak point and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey will need to give Turner at least 25 carries to keep Michael Vick off the field.
Philadelphia does have good corners but the team doesn't have a true slot cover player. Harry Douglas should be incorporated in the game plan more this week to take advantage of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
2. How Both Defenses Handle the Running Backs
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Philadelphia was burned by Steven Jackson for a 47 yard touchdown run on his first carry, right before he was injured. Atlanta has a power back that many may be familiar with and he goes by the name Michael Turner. The Eagles will have to figure out how to stop top ground games because the Super Bowl cannot be reached without doing so. Teams may not have to be able to run the ball anymore to reach the pinnacle, but defenses must stop rushing attacks.
Chicago's Matt Forte killed Atlanta with his versatility by going for 90 yards receiving with a 56 yard touchdown screen pass. Who better to test Atlanta's weekly improvement against this than LeSean McCoy? Philadelphia has always been a better screen team in the league and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will have Michael Vick moving outside the pocket like always.
Expect Atlanta to better handle McCoy than Philadelphia deals with Turner. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton should have an excellent game pursuing the ball carrier against a weak offensive line.
All bets are off if the Falcons have a 47-13 pass to run ratio like they had against the Bears. This can be avoided by stopping the Eagles early and keeping the clock ticking with Turner. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey needs to test first year Philadelphia defensive coordinator Juan Castillo by having him guess run or pass.
1. Defensive Ends, Outside Linebackers vs. Michael Vick
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John Abraham had a nice day against Jay Cutler, getting two sacks on him. Cutler is a mobile quarterback, but nothing like that of Michael Vick's capabilities. Ray Edwards, Kroy Biermann, and Abraham will have to keep containment rather than going for the sack many times. This will require great discipline.
Sean Weatherspoon stepped up Sunday against Chicago and he'll also be needed. The edge guys need to let Atlanta's underrated secondary do its job because Vick isn't a high completion percentage quarterback, as shown in his 14 for 32 performance against St. Louis. A strong inside rush by Jonathan Babinueix is expected, but it won't be good enough for the Falcons.
Matt Ryan will have to stay on his toes against the Eagles line. Jason Babin and Trent Cole combined for three sacks Week 1.
With that said, he should be fine if a ground game can be established and if quick passes to Harry Douglas are in the works from offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey.