The Atlanta Falcons look to improve to 7-0 as they travel out to Philadelphia this Sunday to face the 3-3 Eagles. Both teams are coming off bye weeks.
The last time the two teams faced off was last season: a 35-31 Sunday night win in the Georgia Dome for the Falcons. Michael Vick was knocked out the game in the third quarter, and backup quarterback Mike Kafka was forced to finish.
This week, the odds are stacked against the Falcons. The last time Atlanta was victorious in Philadelphia was in a 1988 – a 27-24 win. Yes, the Falcons haven’t beaten the Eagles in Philadelphia in 24 years.
To make matters worse for the Falcons, Eagles head coach Andy Reid is undefeated (13-0) in the game after the bye week. Reid is 8-2 against Atlanta since becoming head coach of the Eagles in 1999.
There’s a major storyline headlining this week’s game, and it’s not Vick going up against his former team. Instead, it’s Asante Samuel wanting to exact revenge on the Eagles.
The Falcons traded a seventh-round pick to the Eagles for Samuel back in April. A report came out that said Reid thought Samuel was in a “steep decline” and “no longer suited the scheme.” Since then, Reid has denied making those remarks.
Samuel has had this game marked on his calendar prior to the start of the season. In July, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “We’ll see who’s in a steep decline.” Clearly, Samuel will be playing this Sunday’s game with a humongous chip on his shoulder. After the Eagles fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo on October 16, Samuel taunted Reid with a few tweets. (Todd Bowles, former secondary coach, is the Eagles new defensive coordinator).
With Samuel looking to be dialed in for this match-up, he should be able to pick off Vick at least once. The Eagles have 17 turnovers on the season, with Vick being the cause of 13 (eight interceptions, five fumbles). This bodes well for the Falcons defense that has 17 takeaways. Samuel notched his first interception on the season against the Oakland Raiders two Sundays ago and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown.
Matt Ryan will need to play much better against the Eagles than he did versus the Raiders. Ryan posted a 59.4 passer rating, going 24/37 for 249 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. Through the first five games of the season, Ryan threw three interceptions total. On the season, Ryan has 14 touchdowns to six interceptions. His 98.8 passer rating is good for fourth in the NFL.
The Falcons’ biggest challenge will be running back LeSean McCoy, who is one of the best backs in the league. Atlanta’s 29th-ranked run defense could be in for a long day if they fail to contain McCoy. It could get particularly ugly if the Falcons continue to miss tackles like they have for the first six games.
Atlanta needs to start fast against Philadelphia to have a chance. Although the Eagles haven’t been playing as well as they should, they have a ton of talent on the team, particularly the offensive side of the ball.
In my season analysis, I predicted the Eagles would hand the Falcons their first loss on the season. Atlanta is the better team, but they just can’t beat the Eagles in Philadelphia. When you add Reid’s undefeated bye week streak, things look particularly grim for the Falcons. Atlanta falls to 6-1, and the talking heads go into full-fledged “I told you so” mode.
Points Scored: 28.5 (6th)
Total Offense: 361.3 (13th)
Passing Offense: 274.8 (8th)
Rushing Offense: 86.5 (29th)
Points Allowed: 18.8 (7th)
Total Defense: 367.2 (22nd)
Passing Defense: 223.3 (12th)
Rushing Defense: 143.8 (28th)
Points Scored: 17.2 (30th)
Total Offense: 379.0 (7th)
Passing Offense: 257.0 (13th)
Rushing Offense: 122.0 (10th)
Points Allowed: 20.8 (11th)
Total Defense: 330.8 (12th)
Passing Defense: 226.3 (15th)
Rushing Defense: 104.5 (14th)