Written By: Joe Mooney (@Full_MOONey25) and Joe Carlino (@joecarlino14)
Week Two’s Sunday night matchup sees the Philadelphia Eagles travel south for a battle with the Atlanta Falcons. Doug Pederson looks to lead his Eagles, who came back from 17 points down to beat Washington, into Atlanta and leave with a 2-0 record against the Falcons. On the flip side, Atlanta is hosting their home opener and will be playing with some extra urgency to not start 0-2. The last time the Falcons beat the Eagles was in September of 2015 when Sam Bradford was still the quarterback for Philadelphia and Chip Kelly was the head coach. While Julio Jones has been arguably the best receiver in football, he has a lot to prove on Sunday night after receiving a massive contract extension this off-season. In this article, Blitzalytics’ beat writers Joe Mooney (Eagles) and Joe Carlino (Falcons) delve deeper into some hard-nosed questions for this contest:
Was Atlanta’s performance against Minnesota a one-off?
Mooney: Atlanta looked horrible during Week One against Minnesota, and I believe it should’ve been worse. The young offensive line struggled all game and their defense couldn’t contain Dalvin Cook. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ defense has held Julio Jones to zero touchdowns in the last three games. It remains to be seen how Atlanta will come out in this contest, but I look at Minnesota’s game as a warning sign for Falcons fans.
JC: While it still remains to be seen if it was, the fact remains that Minnesota is a tough opponent, especially in the confines of US Bank Stadium. That said, while the offense was stagnant for three quarters, that just adds to the strength of the Vikings’ defense. It also didn’t help Atlanta that the first play of the game was a sack, their first drive ended in a blocked punt, and they were down 14-0 only halfway into the first quarter. Now they return home to Atlanta, where Ryan notoriously plays better at. I look for the Falcons to right the ship against another tough NFC opponent and depending on what kind of team we see, it could be a possible NFC playoff matchup.
Which Carson Wentz will we see?
Mooney: I believe Carson Wentz will pick apart this Atlanta secondary in a shootout type game. In my honest opinion, it appears as though Wentz isn’t worried about his injuries and is more comfortable this season compared to the beginning of last year.
JC: Wentz has been on the sideline late the past two seasons, even, unfortunately, being off the field in the last two matchups of these birds of prey. Of course, that’s not to be disqualifying of his talent, because he definitely has that “it” factor. Otherwise, why would Philadelphia reward him with an extension? The addition of Desean Jackson makes this offense more dynamic than usual, even rivaling Atlanta. But of course, all quarterbacks have tougher challenges away from home, and Wentz is no different; in his career, he’s 8-12 outside of Philadelphia.
Which team will have a more effective run game: Atlanta or Philadelphia?
Mooney: I’m not sure either team will establish a true running game. Last week Ito smith led the Falcons rushing attack with six carries for 31 yards, while the Eagles look to use a running back by committee to help create mismatches in different situations. This game will ultimately be won by one of these two MVP-caliber quarterbacks.
Joe: Coming back from an injury, I wasn’t really expecting a big contest from Devonta Freeman. However, that case was the same with Vikings back Dalvin Cook, and we all saw how he decimated the Falcons to the tune of 111 yards and two touchdowns. I stated last week the winner of that game was going to be the team that was most effective on the ground because it opens up play action and more deep-ball opportunities. That is the same case here, and for me, I look for the tandem of Freeman, Smith, and Qadree Ollison to set the edges for the run game in Atlanta. Also, I just don’t trust Jordan Howard.
Which team will generate more pass rush?
Mooney: This one is easy: it’s the Eagles. Even though they suffered the loss of Malik Jackson against the Redskins to a Lisfranc injury, this defensive line is still elite and has the depth to match. Fletcher Cox is arguably the best defensive tackle in the NFL, while Brandon Graham will look to lead this unit to a few sacks on Sunday night.
Joe: While I’d like to go with Atlanta here, it’s clear that Philadelphia has the advantage in this area of the defense. The Falcons have notoriously struggled at generating a pass rush, sans for a few games here and there. This is why most opponents’ quarterbacks have great days against the Atlanta secondary; they’re working with a clean pocket. What I want to see from the Atlanta defense is if they can generate some pressure on a mobile quarterback like Wentz, because if he escapes from the pocket, he can extend the play and tire out the secondary faster.
September 6, 2018 Eagles W 18-12
Ryan threw for 251 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception
Former Falcon Tevin Coleman led the rushing attack with nine carries for 19 yards and a score
Foles led the Eagles to victory while throwing for only 117 yards and an interception.
Ajayi led all rushers with 15 carries for 52 yards and two touchdowns.
Atlanta lost Deion Jones (foot) and Keanu Neal (ACL) in this game
January 13, 2018 Eagles W 15-10
Ryan passed for 210 yards with a touchdown.
Freeman wasn’t just a running back in this contest; he caught five passes for 26 yards and a score.
Foles worked his magic again, throwing for 246 yards.
Only touchdown scored in this game was a run by Blount on fourth down, one of his nine carries during the game
November 13, 2016 Eagles W 24-15
In the only Ryan/Wentz matchup, Ryan threw for 267 yards and a touchdown, connecting with former receiver Taylor Gabriel on a 76-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.
While Carson Wentz didn’t throw a passing touchdown, he did finish with 231 yards through the air.
Ryan Matthew (haven’t had that name in a while) was the star of the game, carrying the ball 19 times for 109 yards and two touchdowns.