Coming off the bye, the Falcons have several question marks surrounding the team from running game to run defense and offensive line. So they figure to be prepared coming into Philadelphia to take on the pesky Eagles.
Problem is, the Eagles are coming off their bye as well, and with a sparkling 13-0 record after the bye since 1999.
Philadelphia has blown 2 consecutive leads in the 4th quarter leading up to the bye, the Eagles have had a lot to address during the bye. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was fired (thrown under the bus) and replaced by Todd Bowles, who was the secondary coach.
While the Eagles are a uneven 3-3, the Falcons have plenty of work ahead if they want to remain the NFL’s only unbeaten team.
Addressing the leaky run defense is certainly a huge challenge, especially against an explosive runner in LeSean Mccoy.
“I definitely feel refreshed,” All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy said. “It’s a whole week to just relax. I’m feeling better.”
With turnover prone Michael Vick on the hot seat, rain and wind predicted in the forecast, McCoy figures to be a focal point.
The Falcons offense has sputtered in their last 3 meetings, with the offensive line sprining leaks against the Raiders and running game having not shown up all year.
Against a very stingy and talented defense, the Falcons know that they have to keep Matt Ryan clean to keep their chances of winning on the road high.
The Eagles won’t be making wholesale changes or installing a new system, so the Falcons must be ready to adjust on the fly. Tyson Clabo struggled against the Raiders 2 weeks ago, and his job doesn’t get any easier with Jason Babin and Trent Cole looming ahead.
Falcons Offense Video Review from Week 6 vs Raiders
The Eagles defense is ranked 12th in total yards and 11th in points allowed, and Demeco Ryans is making a huge difference for them in the middle. A defense that struggled a year ago at the MIKE position, seems to have found their leader as Ryans is leading them in tackles and making all the plays that a year ago the Eagles seemed to lack.
That’s something that should be familiar to Falcons fans, as the transition from Curtis Lofton to Akeem Dent has been anything but smooth.
Dent has struggled to keep pace at the NFL level, and it’s clear that the young linebacker is just not ready for primetime. The Raiders lack of discipline saved Dent in Week 6, as several penalties wiped out huge gains on the ground and air.
Several of these plays which Dent could not make the play on or got caught up in the wash far too frequently. The Falcons defense is much better in the nickel with Weatherspoon / Stephen Nicolas manning the MIKE, will we see much of the Atlanta base defense?
While the Eagles are not known as a power running team, it will be interesting to see if Nolan is forced out of the nickel and back into the Falcons base defense.
Defensive tackle Corey Peters returned for limited activity in his first practice this season. He is eligible to play this week, but head coach Mike Smith wouldn’t comment on the chances Peters could play after missing the offseason team activities and training camp, plus the first six weeks of the season.
Against the Eagles offense the Falcons will be looking to do one thing, and that’s continue to take the ball away. The Eagles have 17 giveaways, including five inside the red zone, so Asante Samuel and the secondary will be looking to continue this trend.
Despite the sloppy play, the Eagles are still very talented and explosive on offense, ranking 7th in the league in overall offense, but just 30th in scoring.
Samuel will also be making his return to Philly, as the colorful cornerback eluded to in this week’s interview with Atlantafalcons.com
The brash cornerback says he still has “nothing but love” for Eagles fans despite getting traded to Atlanta six months ago.
“All y’all fans, all I did for y’all, y’all better cheer for me,” Samuel said. “You know what I mean? Deuce here got nothing but love for you.”
Samuel will be looking to make a statement, but he needs to keep his emotions in check and not bite on a double move.
After all, he intercepted 23 passes in 56 games for the Eagles, but still was dealt to the Falcons for a seventh-round draft pick.
Matt Ryan and company will have their hands full this week, but will suffer their first loss of the season, 24-21. Tony Gonzalez will be aiming for his 100th TD of his career, hopefully it doesn’t come in a loss.
Here’s to hoping I am wrong.