The Eagles were able to cruise to an easy victory over the Rams in week 1. The run defense was gashed on their first play of the season as Steven Jackson scored on a 47 yard touchdown. But they were able to limit the damage after that and hold the Rams to only 6 more points. Tonight the Eagles head to the Georgia Dome to take on Matty Ice and the Atlanta Falcons. The biggest story line going into the game is the return of Mike Vick to the franchise he revived. This is his second trip back to Atlanta but it will be his first as a starter. He should get a nice ovation from the fans during the pregame introductions but it will be interesting to see how they respond when 7 starts making plays for the opposition.
While the Eagles started off the season with a bang in week 1, the Falcons struggled to get out of the gate. They trailed 16-3 at half and went on to lose the game 30-12. It was a tough way for one of the favorites in the NFC to start the season. But that was on the road and this is a different team when they play in the dome in front of their home fans. Last season they went 7-1 at home and Ryan rarely loses in the Georgia Dome.
The offense didn’t play great despite a week 1 win. In the end they did finish with 403 total yards and 24 points (defense scored a touchdown) but they didn’t look very crisp. The o-line struggled to protect Vick early in the game but they seemed to settle in once the game went along. I think the “struggles” of the offense during the 1st half were more due to the lock out and early season cob webs than any concrete problem. This is one of the best offenses in the league and it is scary what they are truly capable of. This unit should only improve with Maclin getting game reps and Smith getting healthier. The offensive line should continue to gel and hopefully improve as the season goes along.
Over the last few seasons, the Falcons have been more of a run first offense. They have handed the ball off to workhorse back Michael Turner time after time and have given Ryan the opportunity to develop as a passer. Last season they loosened the leash a little on the Exton native. They moved up in the draft to snag Julio Jones in the 1st round to go along with Pro Bowler Roddy White and some Falcons fans envisioned a high powered vertical attack taking place in the ATL this season. Against the Bears in week 1, that is exactly what they did. Ryan accumulated 47 attempts and 386 yards in the Falcons loss. They may have been forced to pass the ball more because of an early deficit. I would expect the Falcons to get back to basics early in the game and try to exploit the Eagles young and inexperienced linebackers.
The defenses season didn’t start very well has they watch Steven Jackson gallop into the end zone on their first play. But the d did play well overall in their first game. Washburn’s d-line looked great and they were able to generate a lot of pressure without having to blitz very often. The d added a touchdown when Tapp “tapped” the ball out of Bradford’s hand and Parker went untouched (except Fokeu) into the end zone. Once the Eagles got the lead, the defense was able to control the Rams offense very easily.
Last season the Falcons ranked 17th in the NFL in yards allowed per game but were just 5th in points allowed per game. They bent but they never seemed to break. The defenses main force is Pro Bowl DE John Abraham. He had 2 sacks in week 1 after racking up 13 in 2010. The Eagles o-line will have to neutralize the 12 year veteran in order to give Vick time to make plays. The weakness on this Atlanta defense is their secondary. They allowed 289 yard to Jay Cutler last week and the Eagles explosive passing attack should be able to rack up a lot of yards. If the Falcons cannot put pressure on Vick, it could be a long night for the D.
Key to the Game
The key to the Game is very simple tonight, score early and often. That may seem obvious in every game but it is even more important this week. The Eagles defense is built to play with a lead and may struggle if they are forced to stop the run for 60 minutes. Washburn’s Wide 9 technique is susceptible to gashes in the run game. If the Eagles can force Atlanta to abandon the run game, they should be able to get after Ryan and force him into mistakes.
Prediction: Eagles 31 Falcons 20