Menu

Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons: Philly's strength in depth can lift them past Atlanta

Carson Wentz
Carson Wentz has a team behind him that can aspire to another Super Bowl
Join today

The Falcons are staring down the barrel of 0-2 with the Eagles in town after an embarrassing day in Minnesota, and that means pressure will build on coach Dan Quinn, writes Mark Kirwan...

"Philly picked Washington apart after the interval, with Sanders and Jackson looking explosive and Wentz on form. When the clock ticked under eight minutes in the third quarter, the Eagles were 13 points down, but by the time three minutes were left in the fourth, they led 32-20."

Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons
Monday, 01:20
Live on Sky Sports Action

Falcons in a flap

The Falcons will be delighted to be back at the Mercedes Benz Arena this week. Not just because it's one of the swishest stadiums in the league, but because they were embarrassed in Week 1 way up north by the Minnesota Vikings.

Matt Ryan was sacked on the first play of the game. That possession ended in a punt attempt. It was blocked, and a couple of minutes later the men in purple were 7-0 up on their way to 21 unanswered first-half points in a 28-12 win.

Seeing Atlanta shutdown was a shock to many because the return of Dirk Koetter, former Bucs head coach and an Offensive Coordinator previously for the Georgia franchise, was supposed to see this offence take off again this season.

There's no doubt they've the skill-position pieces to put up scores. Ryan is a former league MVP. Julio Jones finished last season in searing form. Calvin Ridley's been touted all offseason as a receiver who'd be the number one target on many other teams. Devonta Freeman's finally got the chance to be the workhorse back he's looked capable of being now Tevin Coleman is a 49er.

And yet it fell apart on Sunday.

Quinn's quandaries

Blocked punts are one thing, but Matt Ryan wasn't protected by his line and, under pressure, flipped a first-quarter interception that set up a second Viking score within minutes of the first Freeman found no room either as Minnesota's defensive line dominated.

More concerning than the Falcons' offensive sterility, Dalvin Cook, the Vikings running back, trampled all over their defence. Kirk Cousins only attempted 10 passes all game because the Vikes were so in control of things upfront.

Questions have been bubbling away for a few years regarding Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn because of their defensive frailties. He came to Atlanta from Seattle having coordinated the lauded Legion of Boom, but his Falcons defence has never resembled that unit - if they had, there'd be a Super Bowl winners banner hanging from the roof of their shiny home stadium.

Instead, a stench of regret and missed opportunity accompanies this team since their Super Bowl LI collapse and memories of the powerhouse offence of 2016 are fading fast.

Last season the defence was hamstrung by injuries. Linebacker Deion Jones and safety Keanu Neal are back, but it had little impact last week.

There has to be a reaction against the Eagles. 0-2 is hole no coach wants to be in, and Quinn will find his job on the line if there isn't an improvement this season.

Eagles claw back opener

The Eagles looked like they could steal the "stinker of the week" award from the Falcons with their first-half performance against Washington in Week 1. It was 20-7 in the Redskins' favour at the half.

It's hard not to attribute some of that to rust in hindsight though, given the turnaround Doug Pederson oversaw in the second-half. Philly's coaching staff elected to minimise risk and fatigue for starters in the preseason, and the fact the side had so few in-game reps under their belt before Week 1 must've been a factor in their stumbling start.

In the second half things clicked. It's easy to take Alshon Jeffrey for granted, but he made himself noticeable with his catches as Carson Wentz rallied his side back to take a 12-point lead in the closing stages. The QB could also count on a returning favourite, DeSean Jackson. He rolled back the years for the start of his second stint in the city of brotherly love, collecting two touchdowns and 154 yards.

Miles Sanders also impressed on debut, while Darren Sproles and Jordan Howard make up one of the deeper running-back groups in the league.

And that strength is found all across the 2018 Super Bowl champs' roster. While some may doubt the defence with Michael Bennett and Chris Long departed and Malik Jackson on injured reserve, they've still got names like Timmy Jernigan, Fletcher Cox and Super Bowl hero Derek Barnett to exploit any shaky opposition O-lines.

Atlanta, you have been warned.

The Picks

Philly picked Washington apart after the interval, with Sanders and Jackson looking explosive and Wentz on form. When the clock ticked under eight minutes in the third quarter, the Eagles were 13 points down, but by the time three minutes were left in the fourth, they led 32-20. They'd completely shut Washington down from the half.

I have to expect them to bring that devastating potential down south this week. The Falcons need their defence to take the next step if they're to have a hope of making the Super Bowl this season. Their secondary was barely tested last week with the game controlled from early on by the Vikings. It won't get off so lightly this week.

Chris Lindstrom's injury along the Atlanta offensive line will only hinder Matt Ryan more too. Take Philly -1.5 on the handicap.

On the Total of 52, the over has to be worth look given the flimsy Falcons defence and the likelihood that Atlanta have to chase the game when they fall behind. The Eagles offence also looked packed with potential too.

For a touchdown interest, I have to look at the Eagles backfield because the Viking breached Atlanta's line so easily in Week 1. They have so many options it's hard to choose, but that also means bigger prices, and Miles Sanders really stood out last week. I'd take him to be the first touchdown scorer here at an appealing 10/1.

And if you want an even bigger price, Philly to win, over 50.5 points and Miles Sanders First TD scorer is all the way up at 28/1 on the Same Game Multi tab on the Sportsbook.

Mark Kirwan,

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles