After our first complete strikeout of the season, this may be the final chance to make five bold predictions for an Eagles game this season. At this stage, the prediction record stands at 26/75. Can we find a sense of redemption when the Falcons come to town on Saturday? Here are five bold predictions for the Eagles first playoff encounter since 2013.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man:
Much has been said of Nick Foles’ ability over the last few weeks. His performances during the last two games didn’t exactly give fans a reason to be confident, but the playoffs are a one-game sample. In his six years in the NFL, Foles has seen and experienced a lot and so has his Head Coach.
It would be crazy to think that Pederson would put the Eagles in a position to lose or make decisions that hurt the team. The Birds will schematically do all they can to play to the strengths of their starting quarterback against a defense that personifies ‘what you see is what you get’.
My first bold prediction is for Foles to manage the game. He may not put up 7 touchdowns like that fateful game against Oakland several years ago, but I’m predicting him to protect the rock with no turnovers, throw for two touchdowns and 200 yards.
Smothering the run:
The Falcons are 7-1 when Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combine for 200+ total yards. The Eagles cannot afford to let that happen and their #1 ranked defense against the run will certainly not be ready to surrender that kind of yardage.
The defensive line is fully healthy and after a bye-week to help rally the troops, this unit looks primed for a big outing. The Falcons may have caught fire at the right time, but the Eagles have been able to freeze even the hottest of offenses. My second bold prediction is for the Eagles to allow under 100 rushing yards on Saturday afternoon.
No Fly Zone:
Following on from the previous prediction, if the Eagles are able to smother the run, it means Matt Ryan and an offense that thrives on play-action will be forced to throw early and often. The Falcons have a fantastic passing offense and an elite wide receiver group…but it’s not that easy to find momentum at the Linc.
The Eagles have produced 30 takeaways at home since 2016, which is tied for 2nd in the NFL, trailing only Kansas City (39). With Patrick Robinson, Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills each having at least 3 interceptions, the home team will be relying on ballhawk tendencies to bat passes away from some of the most dominant receivers in the conference.
I’m predicting the Eagles will pick off two passes on Saturday, swinging momentum back win favor of their offense as they have crucially done in each of their last two games.
The next station is…NFC Championship central:
In Week 6 at Atlanta (with Miami), Jay Ajayi rushed 26 times for a season-high 130 yards, marking the Falcons’ most yards allowed to a single rusher in 2017. As Ajayi has spent more and more time with the Eagles, his usage has increased. The Birds are yet to allow a running back to carry the ball more than 16 times, but they may feel their hands are forced. If that’s the case, Ajayi is ready and raring for the challenge.
Averaging 5.8 yards per carry for the Eagles this season, Ajayi has been chomping at the bit for a heavier workload. If he gets it, I’m predicting Ajayi to hit 100 rushing yards for the first time as an Eagle, punishing the Falcons as he did in week 6 and keeping the Eagles offense afloat.
This one is simple enough. At +3 underdogs, the Eagles are a #1 seed with home field advantage who have constantly been written off. This bold prediction doesn’t need analysis, just belief. The Eagles will defeat the Atlanta Falcons, silencing doubters for what must be the 100th time this season and advance to the NFC Championship.
This is the most intriguing and exciting matchup of the season. For the Eagles to win, their ‘us against the world’ mentality will be tested more than ever as the aggressiveness of their run defense will be relied on to smother both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Offensively, the Birds simply have to take the pressure off of Nick Foles by establishing the run early and often and if they can do that to avoid pressing this game into a shootout, they have a chance.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports