ATLANTA FALCONS (11-6)
at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (13-3)
NFC Divisional Playoffs — Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia, PA
Kickoff: Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET
Line: Atlanta -3.0, Total: 41.5
The Eagles will be out to show the world that they shouldn’t be considered underdogs on their own field on Saturday.
The Falcons were six-point road underdogs against the Rams in the Wild Card playoffs last week, but Atlanta was able to emerge victorious in that one. The Falcons won 26-13, showing that their defense is capable of playing the type of football required to win in the postseason. The Rams had one of the NFL’s best offenses during the regular season, but Atlanta completely shut them down. The Eagles, meanwhile, were able to earn a bye with their fantastic regular season. They did, however, lose QB Carson Wentz to a torn ACL. Wentz was playing like an MVP for Philadelphia, and the team is now a lot different than it was with him under center. The last time the Falcons and the Eagles met was Nov. 13, 2016, when the Eagles won 24-15 as two-point home favorites. Philadelphia is 7-1 both SU and ATS when hosting Atlanta since 1992. One trend that stands out when looking at this game is the fact that Atlanta is 7-0 ATS off an upset win as a road underdog over the past three seasons. The Eagles are, however, 17-7 ATS when playing on a grass field over the past two seasons.
The Falcons went into Los Angeles and earned a very impressive victory last week, and they are now just one win away from reaching the NFC Championship once again. QB Matt Ryan was as solid as could be against the Rams, finishing the game 21-for-30 with 218 yards, one touchdown and no picks. One issue is that Ryan has only thrown for five touchdowns total in the past six games. He has not thrown for two touchdowns since facing the Seahawks on Nov. 20. The Falcons are definitely going to need him to be a bit more explosive through the air. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the league last year, and Atlanta will need him to find a healthy balance between that and the game manager he is now. It really shouldn’t be too hard for Ryan, as he has weapons to throw to. WR Julio Jones is one of the best receivers in football, and WR Mohamed Sanu is a solid second option. Jones had nine catches for 94 yards and a score against Los Angeles last week and the Falcons could use another performance like that one here. Atlanta also has the luxury of handing the ball off to a great running back duo. Both RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are going to have their numbers called often on Saturday. Freeman will need to play well, as the Falcons won’t want to have Ryan throwing too often. As for the Falcons’ defense, getting pressure on Nick Foles is going to be their top priority. If they can do that consistently then it’s very likely that they’ll find a way here.
The Eagles are going to be a hungry team when they get on the field on Saturday, as they had a great regular season but are already being counted out by almost all of the experts. QB Nick Foles is obviously not a franchise quarterback, but he’s a pretty reliable backup and his teammates believe in him. He might not be able to light it up like Wentz, but the Eagles don’t need that from him. They just need Foles to get the ball out quickly and avoid turning it over. Foles has good weapons to throw to, as WR Alshon Jeffery, TE Zach Ertz and WR Nelson Agholor are all very good players. The Eagles could, however, opt to get RB Jay Ajayi more involved on Saturday. Ajayi came over in a trade from the Dolphins, and he should be pretty familiar with the offense at this point. With the passing game no longer what it once was, the Eagles would be wise to let the pro bowl running back touch the ball more. And on the defensive side of the ball, Philadelphia needs to have some safety help over the top on Jones. If the Eagles let him go off then this could get out of hand.