The Eagles are set to host the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday In the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. Surprisingly, the #1 seed who also boast a home field advantage is actually a 2.5 point underdog. If the Eagles are to come out of this matchup with the road to the Super Bowl still running through the Birds nest, then they will have to completely shutdown the following five Falcons.
WR Julio Jones
The man who needs no explanation, Jones finished the season with 1,444 receiving yards, which was second in the league. One of the most electrifying wide receivers in the game, Jones can turn any impossible pass into a ridiculous completion as he has done throughout his career, breaking records along the way.
Jones had his 39th 100-yard receiving game in Week 16, which tied a Falcons record held by former Falcons receiver Roddy White. Not only that, but after his incredible 300+ yard outing earlier this year, he is the only player in NFL history to record three 250+ yard receiving games. No other player has more than one.
The star receiver averages 95.3 yards per game for his career, which is first on the NFL’s all-time career receiving yards per game list.
It’s needless to say that the Eagles will need to pay extra care and attention to blanketing Julio Jones. Last year, it was Jalen Mills who was given that task. Jones recorded 135 yards on 16 targets that game…something the Eagles absolutely cannot afford to let happen again.
With off-coverage now being the name of the game, the Eagles corners will need to be patient and comfortable on an island from the moment the first snaps are taken.
CB Robert Alford
On the other side of the field lies a cornerback who always seems to go underrated. In 2016, Alford recorded two interceptions in Week 4 against the Panthers. Since 2014, Alford is one of five players with three multi-interception games. A true ballhawk in every sense of the word, the Southeastern Louisiana product is not a name to be taken lightly, just as the Rams found out last week.
Alford was targeted eight times against Los Angeles and allowed just two receptions. What’s even more impressive is the fact he broke up 3 passes too. In red-hot form, the Eagles wideouts may have trouble separating against the experienced 29-year old.
LB Deion Jones
Jones continues to excel as one of the most exciting young linebacker sin the league. The second-year standout now has six career interceptions, the most any linebacker has recorded in his first two years in Falcons history. Leading the Falcons in tackles (138) and interceptions (3), Jones has proven to be the ultimate weapon.
That was abundantly clear against the Rams when Jones led the team in tackles (10). The win marked the third consecutive game in which the 6’1, 222 lbs, linebacker has amassed 10 tackles.
Jones is a force to be reckoned with both as a coverage linebacker and as a run-stopper. The Eagles will have a hard time finding anything over the middle of the field and if Foles is going to sling it into tight windows, he had better hope Jones isn’t lurking nearby.
RB Tevin Coleman
Devonta Freeman is the name on the lips of many and understandably so. But after breaking down Atlanta’s win over Seattle last night, (in an hour long livestream which can be found below), it’s clear to see the value Coleman has in this offense.
Freeman and Tevin Coleman have teamed up for 200 total yards eight times over the last two seasons. The team is 7-1 when the duo reaches this milestone.
Even against the Rams with Freeman back to his best, Coleman rushed the ball 14 times for 40 yards and caught 3 passes for a further 28. Coleman adds a more elusive and shifty option to the Falcons backfield who when given a fullback and a hole to hit, he can punish defenses with decisive and elusive running.
Coleman now has 156 carries for 628 yards with five touchdowns, while adding 27 catches for 299 yards and three scores this season. Freeman may draw all the attention, but make no mistake, Coleman will cause problems for this Eagles defense if unaccounted for.
DE Takk McKinley
Ever since his emotional draft day speech, McKinley has become a favorite player for many. For Falcons fans, that statement could not be more true. The rookie DE is tied with LB Aundray Bruce for the second-most sacks by a rookie in team history. At 6’2, 250 lbs, McKinley’s 6 sacks, 20 tackles and 2 forced fumbles have added a thunderous level of production to the Falcons pass rush…and that doesn’t bode well for the Eagles offensive front.
It’s likely that McKinley will line up against Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Yep. This is going to be a matchup that the Eagles HAVE to watch because if Foles is constantly under duress and forced to escape pressure, it’s going to be another day spent behind the chains for the Eagles offense.
The O-Line has struggled in recent weeks to keep their quarterback upright and this rookie defensive end will look to exploit that further on Saturday.