One of these teams will advance to be almost assuredly underdogs in the NFC championship, but for now, both the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles have plenty of reasons to feel good about their upcoming game. Both teams have been trending in opposite directions with the Eagles losing Carson Wentz and looking lackluster on offense in recent games and the Falcons winning 7 of their last nine, including wins over the Rams, Panthers, and Saints. Their opposite trends may have allowed them to meet at the exact same spot which should make for a very good game. Here are the keys for both teams to win the game.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have to deal with a bit of an enigma on the defensive side because this current offense run by Nick Foles has only played two games. But on the offensive side of the ball, the Falcons have a whole season of Eagles defensive data to work with. For starters, they know that the Eagles’ defense is pretty good, sixth in the league in points per play (all stats per teamrankings.com). Like the Falcons, the Eagles are a top five team in first quarter defense, so look for an early touchdown to be key to set the tone. The Eagles are pretty above average against both the run and the pass, but they’ve only seen a run 34.5% of the time, least in the league. Against the Rams, over 50% of plays by the Falcons were on the ground. If the Falcons bring that pace again, the Eagles might get worn down by something they haven’t seen all year. The final thing for the Falcons is not turning the ball over. Foles and Co. can probably be pretty dangerous on a short field, but won’t be nearly as effective having to travel all the way down the field.
As far as the Falcons defense goes, they did a fantastic job against the Rams holding them to only 13 points. But that was also because they got a 4th and goal stop as well as a pair of botched special teams plays. They still gave up over seven yards a carry on the ground, but were able to get a lead and force Jared Goff to make more throws than he wanted to. If they can do the same thing to Nick Foles, they will almost assuredly win.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles’ biggest asset is their home field advantage. Those Philly fans can really get rowdy and change the momentum of the game. The beginning of the game will be huge for the Eagles. If they can get a big play early, they can get the crowd going, get a lead, and cause an overconfident road team to spiral out. The Falcons defense is good, but it is still beatable. The best plan of attack is for Nick Foles to make a few nice passes early and make a Falcons defense that will be thinking run all day to back off the box and have to start thinking pass on more plays. This will open up holes for LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi.
On defense, Philadelphia has the advantage. Their defense is better at defense than the Falcons offense is at offense. It’s that simple. They will likely need to keep the game low scoring. The most important aspect for the defense will be to hold the Falcons to field goals in the Red Zone. They haven’t been great there this season, but neither has the Falcons offense. The Falcons offensive plays in the Red Zone could very well make or break this game.
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