Can Eagles take advantage of ‘Hotlanta’ freezing over?


Since 2016, the Atlanta Falcons cannot seem to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles. However, only one of those games featured Carson Wentz as the starter. That was in his rookie year. The other two wins against the Falcons since 2016 belong to Nick Foles. The one constant is that Doug Pederson is undefeated as the Eagles head coach against Atlanta. The truth is, since 2016, we’ve witnessed the collapse of the Falcons.

In 2016, the Atlanta Falcons reached the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. Everyone remembers this monumental collapse. The Falcons were up 21-3 at the end of the first half. At the end of the third quarter, Atlanta led 28-9. The final score of Superbowl 51 was in favor of the Patriots after overtime, 34-28. It’s as if the Falcons franchise just hasn’t been the same since.

The next season, 2017, the Philadelphia Eagles had a unique, special run to Superbowl 52. Carson Wentz went down with a leg injury against the Los Angeles Rams. Nick Foles took over and a majestic run through the playoffs began with the Atlanta Falcons visiting Philadelphia. The Eagles would defeat the Falcons in the playoffs, 15-10, and end the season defeating the New England Patriots in Superbowl 52, 41-33. In just a year, these two teams swapped places, but only one dethroned the Patriots.

In 2018, the Atlanta Falcons had a tough season and didn’t make the playoffs. Their season opened with a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, 18-12. In comparison, the Eagles made the playoffs but ultimately lost to the New Orleans Saints. The tale of these two teams is the fall of one franchise and the simultaneous rise of another. On Sunday, September 15th, at 8:20 pm, Carson Wentz will play in only his second game against the Falcons.

Matt Ryan is a quarterback that was named the NFL MVP in 2016. In 2017, Carson Wentz seemed projected that way until his unfortunate injury. The Philadelphia Eagles this season are very similar to the 2017 Eagles team on offense. Wentz has one of the most prolific wide receiver units in the league, not including two very good tight ends. The running back position might be even better now than in 2017.

Looking at the protection that Matt Ryan receives, this could end up being a big day for the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line. While Malik Jackson will be out the rest of this season, the Atlanta Falcons’ guard Chris Lindstrom has been placed on injured reserve with a broken foot. The Falcons gave up four sacks against the Minnesota Vikings in week one. Atlanta doesn’t have the offensive line depth needed to handle the Eagles defensive line depth. With the way Philadelphia made adjustments in the second half against the Washington Redskins, Ryan could have a long day ahead of him in week two.

It wasn’t just week one where the Atlanta Falcons looked sluggish. Most times when the starters were on the field in the preseason, Matt Ryan was getting hit a lot. When an NFL team comes to play the Philadelphia Eagles, the offensive line needs to come prepared. That has been the case for the last nineteen years. The very first offensive snap of this season for the Falcons resulted in a sack on Ryan. The very first punt attempt from Atlanta this season was blocked by the Minnesota Vikings. The second defensive snap of the season for the Falcons resulted in an Adam Thielen touchdown. Within three minutes, Atlanta was passive in every aspect of the game. Within five minutes, Ryan threw his first interception.

If there is a matchup that the Atlanta Falcons could have the upper hand, it is against the Philadelphia Eagles cornerbacks. The Eagles were burned by the Washington Redskins on a few occasions while being down 17-0. Terry McLaurin probably should have had two touchdown receptions like DeSean Jackson. McLaurin was overthrown by Case Keenum one time when he beat all coverage. The difference is that Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are usually good with timing on the deep ball, unlike the new pairing of Keenum and McLaurin.

I expect that the Philadelphia Eagles improve to 2-0 this season against the Atlanta Falcons. The Eagles are favored by 1.5 points to defeat the Falcons, which is a bet I would take. However, I don’t like waging on a Philadelphia team (just my own rule.) I’m predicting a 28-14 final score for an Eagles win on the road.

 Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports