Keys to the game: A closer look at four crucial matchups in Eagles season opener against Falcons

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We’re just one day away from the regular season opener and excitement could not be higher in the City of Brotherly Love. But what are the matchups that the Eagles have to win in order to ensure the Falcons fall just short of the mark for the second time in under a year?

Eagles tight ends vs Falcons linebackers:
The Eagles tight end group is a man down after losing Richard Rodgers, but make no mistake, the duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert will wreak havoc. With no Alshon Jeffery or Mack Hollins, Nick Foles will be using his security blankets early and often on Thursday Night. Whether it’s in the red zone or inside their own 20, Ertz and Goedert are two of the Eagles’ biggest offensive threats. 

This poses an interesting matchup with the Falcons linebackers. Led by first-time Pro Bowler, Deion Jones, who recorded 138 tackles, 10 pass defenses and 3 picks, the unit that includes De’Vondre Campbell and LSU’s Duke Riley have come on leaps and bounds in terms of covering some of the league’s best tight ends.

It will be very interesting to see how Ertz handles the emergence of Jones and whether or not Goedert can have that same presence in the red zone with some of the more experienced coverage linebackers in the NFL draped all over him in his first ever NFL game. This may be the most crucial matchup of all.

Losing Richard Rodgers could cause huge problems for Eagles offense against Atlanta

 

Falcons backfield vs Eagles front seven
The Eagles were able to hold the Falcons’ rushing efforts back in January to just 86 yards. Their league-leading run defense set the tone and forced Matt Ryan to fave the Eagles pass-rush again and again. Without Timmy Jernigan, the released Mychal Kendricks or suspended Nigel Bradham, they may face a different fate.

DeVonta Freeman will be back with a vengeance and the Falcons remain one of the few teams who reliably play two-running back sets and implement a fullback into the equation. This could well be problematic for a depleted linebacking corps and it will be up to the guys up front to create that Brick wall.

 

Falcons wideouts vs Eagles secondary
The Falcons receiving corps needs no introduction. From the incredible Julio Jones to the experienced Mo Sanu in the slot, matchup nightmares can be found throughout the position. The Eagles cornerbacks did a fantastic job of keeping them relatively quiet (apart from Julio’s 100-yard game) and silenced the unit when it mattered. Without Patrick Robinson, Schwartz will turn to Sidney Jones and Avonte Maddox to hold the fort, giving a sense of youth and unpredictability to a defense trying to stop an offense bringing those same qualities.

 

Eagles offensive line vs Falcons run defense
The best offensive line in football against a run defense predicated on sealing the edges. This in itself creates plenty of intrigue, but the Falcons don’t exactly have an elite defensive unit and with an extra emphasis on establishing the run due to the absence of both Jeffery and Hollins, this matchup is imperative.

 

Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

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