Why Philadelphia Eagles vs. Atlanta Falcons is an NFC Championship Game Preview
Sunday night's game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles is must-see NFC TV. Don't let last week's disappointing loss by the Falcons at the hands of the Bears fool you, the Falcons are still a good team.
Last season, the Atlanta Falcons finished first in the NFC in the regular season. They had home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they ran into a red-hot Packers team in the 2011 NFL playoffs. This season, they remain a serious contender in the NFC.
The Eagles also remain a legit contender after a NFC East title in 2010 and a monster offseason this summer.
Both teams have a lot to prove on Sunday. The Falcons are coming off a 30-12 loss in Chicago last week while the Eagles may have won against the Rams, but they still have a lot to prove due to the massive hype they have received this season already.
Sunday night should be a good one as it is also Michael Vick's first start in Atlanta since he was arrested and imprisoned on dog fighting charges back in 2007. Expect a warm welcome from a city that still loves Vick, but once the game gets underway, expect a thriller that could be a nice preview of the NFC Championship Game this January.
The Eagles and Falcons Are Legit Contenders
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The Philadelphia Eagles have become the trendy pick in the NFC after a monster offseason. The Green Bay Packers are the obvious pick after winning the Super Bowl. What about the team that had the best record in the NFC in 2010?
The Atlanta Falcons finished with a 13-3 record last season and home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Falcons were also able to re-sign all their key free agents while also adding defensive end Ray Edwards and first-round wide receiver Julio Jones.
They still have one of the best rushing attacks with running backs Michael Turner and Jason Snelling. They also have plenty of weapons for quarterback with Matt Ryan. Wide receiver Roddy White is coming off a career year where he had 115 receptions for 1,389 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ryan also has rookie Jones, tight end Tony Gonzalez and slot receiver Harry Douglas.
Atlanta is clearly in a win-now type of mentality after they went all in for Julio Jones in the 2011 draft. This is a team that has all the tools to compete for a trip to the Super Bowl. Last week's loss to the Bears was more of a speed bump than it was a road block. Expect the Falcons to win the NFC South again and earn a high seed in the NFC.
Michael Vick and Matt Ryan Are Great Quarterbacks
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Both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons are pretty set at quarterback.
Matt Ryan has not disappointed since being drafted by the Falcons with the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft. Ryan has had a quarterback rating above 80 in each of his first three seasons and has never thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in a season. Ryan has been a very efficient quarterback and has helped Roddy White become one of the best wideouts in the NFL.
Michael Vick isn't so bad either. In 11 starts last season, Vick threw for over 3,000 yards with a completion percentage over 62 percent along with 21 touchdowns to just six interceptions. He also ran for 676 yards and nine touchdowns.
Both Vick and Ryan are moving on up to that elite level that few quarterbacks in this league can get to. Neither quarterback has had any success in the playoffs in recent memory. Since Vick has revived his career in Philadelphia, he is 0-1 in the playoffs with a tough loss to the eventual Super Bowl champs last season. Ryan has lost two home playoff games—both to teams that won the NFC in that season(Arizona, Green Bay).
Both of these quarterbacks have become the faces of their franchises and put up big numbers for their team.
2011 could be the year that these quarterbacks get a chance to become truly elite by taking their franchises to a much-needed Super Bowl.
2010: Eagles 31 Falcons 17
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Both teams faced off last season in a October 17th game that was a good test for both teams. The Eagles were without Michael Vick and lost DeSean Jackson to a concussion early on in the game. But despite all of that and three missed field goals from former Eagles kicker David Akers, the Falcons proved that their secondary still needed a lot of work after giving up two touchdowns to Jeremy Maclin and two more to DeSean Jackson (one rushing, one receiving).
The Falcons need to learn from a game that wasn't even as close as the score might signify. They gave up big play after big play and failed to move the ball consistently. 2011 should be a different story.
Both teams have improved themselves significantly since last season and should provide a much closer game than last season. Vick is making his first start in Atlanta since he was a Falcon, and it will be a special night for both Vick and the fans in Atlanta that still love and admire him.
Last year's game should provide a good deal of motivation for the Falcons to give the Eagles a much better test Sunday night.
Falcons Rushing Attack and the Eagles Fast Break Offense
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Both of these teams have very different strengths on offense. The Falcons like to pound the rock with their talented backs, Michael Turner and Jason Snelling. The Eagles on the other hand, have a fast-break offense that no other team can match.
Last season, Turner ran for 1,371 of the Falcons 1,891 rushing yards. The running game opened things up for the rest of the offense including Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez who combined for 185 receptions, over 2,000 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. The Falcons were 8-0 when they rushed for over 100 yards last season.
The Eagles fast-break offense has changed the way teams defend them. Opposing defenses are now forced to pull their safeties back and be a little more selective about when to blitz. Deep threat wideouts Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson combined for over 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Eagles were 5-1 when they threw for at least 250 yards including Week 6 last year against the Falcons where they threw for 320 yards.
Both teams will rely heavily on their offensive strength Sunday night. The team that has the most success, whether it's the Falcons ground game or the Eagles passing attack, will win Sunday night.
Both Are Division Favorites
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Sunday night's game is a potential preview of the NFC title game mainly because both teams are favorites in their own division. The Eagles and Falcons are both defending champs, and each team has done the most to improve their teams.
The Falcons re-signed all their key players along with adding a running mate for John Abraham at defensive end in Ray Edwards. They also got another deep threat to take some double teams away from Roddy White when they drafted Julio Jones.
The Saints are a contender in the NFC South as well, but the Falcons have a more complete team and a better record in 2010.
The Eagles had a plan for free agency this season, and they went all out adding Pro Bowlers Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Ronnie Brown, Vince Young and Jason Babin. Anytime you add that much talent to a team that won their division the previous season, you remain the favorites.
Both teams have excellent shots of winning their divisions and positioning themselves very favorably come playoff time. Don't be surprised if we see a fourth game in the past three seasons between these two teams.