Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles roll into town looking to make a "statement" against the Atlanta Falcons and that's exactly what they will do. Michael Vick returns to his "home" in Atlanta this Sunday for the first time as a starter on an opposing team with the Eagles.
The Eagles have had the better of the Atlanta Falcons over the past few years and Sunday presents another opportunity to showcase who is the better of the two birds.
Both teams have been nominated as preseason Super Bowl favorites and Sunday's matchup provides a juicy game between two of the NFC's stalwarts.
In 2009, as I sat behind the Philadelphia Eagles bench surrounded by numerous Eagles fans, I took in an experience that stunned me. The Atlanta Falcons fans cheered the very man that sent their franchise into disarray.
It was astonishing to witness. Not only did they cheer but they were going crazy. Sure there were some boos mixed in here and there, but that got drowned out by the overwhelming affection shown for the former Falcons quarterback.
The crowd had countless No. 7 jerseys littered throughout the Georgia Dome in both red and white or green and black. All the old Michael Vick jerseys with the Falcons logo on it were being worn by people cheering for Michael Vick more so than the team their jersey represented.
Then came the fourth quarter. The Eagles had a sizable lead and a game well in hand when they let Vick enter the game for a cameo appearance. Of course, this came after the Atlanta fans serenaded Andy Reid with "We want Vick" chants that drowned out the entire dome.
Vick threw a deep pass and eventually scored on a misdirection play with a pass to tight end Brent Celek. It felt as if the Atlanta Falcons just recorded a safety in a playoff game. That's how loud it was when Vick tossed the touchdown pass.
The circumstances have changed since 2009. The Philadelphia Eagles will be led into the dome this time by Michael Vick not because he's returning home, but because he's their leader.
Maybe the reception for Vick won't be so enthusiastic as it previously was in 2009. However, if Vick rattles off a long run or makes the type of electrifying plays he's accustomed to doing, expect the entire Georgia Dome to be buzzing.
Atlanta loves Michael Vick. Michael Vick loves Atlanta. It's that simple.
The Philadelphia Eagles and their much maligned linebackers started off the season with a bad start last Sunday. The St. Louis Rams first play from scrimmage on offense saw Steven Jackson bust through his offensive line into a running lane wide enough for Andy Reid to fit through.
Steven Jackson ended up straining his quad on the play and backup running back Cadillac Williams took over for the Rams as the No. 1 guy for the remainder of the game. Williams rushed for 91 yards on 19 carries on old, busted up knees.
Casey Matthews will be getting his second baptism in as many weeks in the NFL when he stares down Michael Turner in the hole. Matthews comes in at 6'1'', 232 pounds at the middle linebacker spot. While Turner comes in 5'10'', 247 pounds at running back.
Advantage goes to Turner. He has leverage, tree trunk sized legs, and will blast through Matthews if the opportunity presents itself.
Last week Turner recorded his first 100-yard rushing game of the season on just 10 carries against a very good Chicago Bears defense at Soldier Field. This week he gets to play in the dome on a fast surface enabling him to accelerate quicker and cut on a dime.
The Atlanta Falcons will look to control the game and keep the explosive Eagles offense off the field by giving Turner plenty of touches. Even the Eagles own linebacker Jamar Chaney suggests the same thing this week stating, "I’d probably run at our linebackers if I was them."
Jeremy Maclin did not shy away from making headlines this week leading up to their tantalizing match up with the Atlanta Falcons. Maclin came out with vividly candid comments about the mood within the locker room and around the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia.
"I feel and I'm pretty sure the team would tell you the same thing, if we go out there and take care of our business there's not too many people that can cover us. It's a chance to show everybody else that the Eagles are for real.
Powerful words coming from the Philadelphia Eagles third year wide receiver. However, I find my self having a hard time disagreeing with the wide out. Andy Reid has beaten the Falcons eight out of nine times since 2000.
To put it frankly, the Eagles have dominated the Falcons during the Andy Reid era. More than half of those games were decided by more than seven points in the Eagles favor.
The Philadelphia Eagles spent a ton of money this offseason and want to show the entire NFL they are for real. Sunday Night Football on NBC versus another Super Bowl contender seems like a pretty good stage to do just that.
Philadelphia's offense was built for speed. Playing on a fast surface in the Georgia Dome should provide the perfect surface on a grand stage for Michael Vick and Co. to make a "statement."
Boy, did Matt Ryan have a terrible game or what last week? Sure he threw for over 300 yards and had a 66 percent completion rating, but the Atlanta Falcons offense looked atrocious against the Chicago Bears.
Part of that credit must be given to the Chicago Bears because they played an excellent game at home and kept Atlanta's explosive offense in check. The other half can be attributed to Matt Ryan.
Ryan did not exactly experience a great opening day with one interception and one lost fumble on his account. However, this week's matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles provides just what the Falcons quarterback needs.
A chance to return home to the Georgia Dome to play in his familiar surroundings against a quality opponent. Normally I wouldn't suggest facing a secondary filled with Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel to help right the ship, but it will allow Ryan to focus in a little extra this week.
The Falcons want to bounce back from their loss versus the Bears and make a statement of their own on Sunday night. Ryan will be playing more of a mix between a game manager and gunslinger on Sunday.
Per the second slide, the Falcons will be looking to run the ball and force the Eagles to stack the box. If they can run the ball successfully Matt Ryan's job becomes a whole lot easier. With the deep threat Roddie White, the physical Julio Jones on the outside and Tony Gonzales at tight end, Ryan will have plenty of options to throw to.
Look for Ryan to have a solid game and prove to the Atlanta faithful they have a valid replacement at quarterback who can win big games.
Lesean McCoy is quickly becoming one of the elite running backs in the NFL. He currently hovers just outside the top five but by season's end could establish himself as a top-five running back. Sunday night would be a great time to showcase exactly what he can bring to the table.
McCoy plays a similar role in the Philadelphia Eagles offense to what Brian Westbrook used to play, except McCoy brings a different set of attributes to the position. Many people talk about the Eagles and list off Michael Vick, Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin or Asante Samuel, Trent Cole and Nnamdi Asomugha.
Somehow McCoy constantly gets overlooked by the national media until he rears his head back into the discussion.
Sunday night Lesean McCoy will steal the show in the second half and you can take that to the bank. McCoy has an outstanding stat line when he plays on an indoor surface.
In his last three games on an indoor surface McCoy has had 120, 149 and 122 rushing yards from scrimmage. Several of those yards came in the fourth quarter in all three of those games.
The Philadelphia Eagles have a closer in Lesean McCoy. After the defenses have chased Vick, Jackson and Maclin all over the field for three quarters, Andy Reid begins to hand the ball off to the fresh-legged McCoy.
I fully expect McCoy to have another 100-yard rushing game and to close out the game in the fourth quarter stealing Michael Vick's thunder in Atlanta.