When I think of this Eagles team, I’m reminded of the training montage in Rocky II. Rocky already had plenty of strength and an iron chin, but Mick knew that the thing that would put Rock over the top was speed. After all of the one handed push-ups and incredibly painful looking sit-ups (you know the ones where he’s getting smacked in the stomach repeatedly) the sequence ends with Mick’s voice in the background yelling, “Speed! Speed!! Speeeeeed!!!”
That’s what this team's success is built on and this week against the Atlanta Falcons will be no different. When breaking down this matchup, most people have been talking about Michael Vick’s return to Atlanta, or the Falcons need to rebound from last week’s shellacking at the hands of the Chicago Bears and avoiding a dreaded 0-2 start.
While I do think that this matchup being in Atlanta will no doubt affect the game, it has less to do with emotions and team mindsets and more to do with a speedy team’s best friend—turf. People can question the Eagles' ability to win the war in the trenches, that’s reasonable, but I think that the Birds can turn Sunday’s game into a track meet and few teams in the NFL can compete with the Eagles in that type of game.
Sure you can worry about the ability of the Eagles defense to stop the run. Their wide nine defensive line strategy leaves large gaps for running backs to run through, which in turn puts the onus on the linebackers to make plays, and those linebackers are inexperienced and relatively small for their position. However, the Eagles aren’t stupid and their immensely talented corners allow them the freedom to bring down safeties into the box if the Falcons start to successfully pound the ball up the middle with their running back Michael Turner.
The thing is, as was the case last week against the Bears, the Falcons won’t have the luxury to employ a power running game strategy if they fall behind early. With the big play abilities of DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, and the rest of the gang, that scenario could definitely play out again considering that Atlanta gave up over 300 yards passing to Jay Cutler, whose best receiving targets are Johnny Knox and Devin Hester.
Ultimately, even if the Eagles can jump out to an early lead, I don’t expect Sunday night’s game to be a walk in the park, but I do expect the Eagles to do one thing.
(Pause for dramatic effect)
Win! (Cue the music)