Eagles-Falcons Preview: Top 5 Storylines, Players to Watch & Predictions

Getty Carson Wentz is the safer fantasy start over Matt Ryan for Week 1.

The Eagles and Falcons resume their yearly NFC rivalry Sunday, with a new intriguing twist. For the first time in three years, this game will be played in Atlanta instead of Philadelphia.

The Eagles have won three straight in this series dating back to 2016. The last time these two teams played in Atlanta was 2015. Chip Kelly was Philadelphia’s head coach, Sam Bradford was the quarterback — and the Eagles lost 26-24 in that one. Philadelphia leads the all-time series 20-14-1, including wins in three of their four postseason matchups.

“We have been fortunate to have all those games here since I’ve been here, they’ve been home games for us,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “They’re a different team obviously when they’re playing at home in front of their crowd. He’s very dynamic and electric and they do some great things in that dome.”

Eagles-Falcons: Top 5 Storylines to Watch

1. Eagles Need to Establish the Running Game

Doug Pederson has been adamant about sticking to the gameplan when it comes to the run. Specifically, that means rotating the carries between Darren Sproles, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Corey Clement and riding the hot hand. The Eagles know the Falcons were gashed last week for 172 yards and three scores. It seemed to be a containment issue, with defensive end Takk McKinley going inside when he should have been outside. Speedy linebacker Deion Jones seemingly was left on an island. The Falcons have unveiled 3-4 looks this year, a new wrinkle for them, and they are still adjusting. The Eagles would be wise to unleash Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders in a thunder-and-lightning type of combo.

2. Please Be Patient with the ‘Shot Plays’

Look, the Eagles are going to be aggressive. It’s in their DNA (literally now that the receiving corps has adopted that nickname). But quarterback Carson Wentz has preached patience all week, understanding that Falcons coach Dan Quinn likes to use bait-and-switch techniques within his secondary. Wentz knows he has to be wary of safety help before uncorking a bomb shot to DeSean Jackson. Expect the Eagles to get Nelson Agholor involved early in the slot in this one. Jackson will get his shots, too. In due time.

3. You Can’t Stop Superstar Julio Jones

Let’s just get this out of the way now. Julio Jones is unstoppable, especially against the Eagles’ struggling secondary. He has 45 receptions for 698 yards in six games versus the Eagles. The Eagles will likely mix coverages, moving Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox around on him. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has hinted that they might just allow Jones to get his catches and work on clamping down on other areas. It might be the best strategy here. Limit the Falcons’ screen game and neutralize tight end Austin Hooper instead.

Julio Jones’ Bobbling Grab Ruled No Catch | Falcons vs Eagles Week 1All rights to the NFL and NBC All content owned by the NFL2018-09-07T03:11:24.000Z

4. Attack Matt Ryan with Reckless Abandon

The Falcons are starting a new right tackle (Kaleb McGary) and right guard (Jamon Brown) after their offensive line was decimated in Week 1. McGary is their rookie first-round pick and Brown takes over for rookie Chris Lindstrom who was lost for the season with a foot injury. Bottom line, the right side of the Falcons’ line is ripe for the picking. Fletcher Cox has owned Brown over the years dating back to his days with the Giants and Derek Barnett looked lethal last week with his bull-rush. The Eagles should be licking their chops over this matchup. Remember, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked four times and hit seven more last week.

5. Low Scoring vs. High Scoring

Everyone is expecting this game to be a shootout and rightfully so. However, the average combined point total in their last three meetings has been 31.3 Bovada has the over/under installed at 52 points. Obviously, the fact they are playing in a dome with two explosive offenses has everyone screaming for a track meet. It might not go that way. The defenses for both teams received a ton of heat all week for falling asleep on the job. Don’t be surprised if defense sets the tone early. Falcons running back Devonta Freeman is prone to fumbling, too. Prediction: Malcolm Jenkins forces a key turnover and the Eagles put the game in Jordan Howard’s hands.

Eagles-Falcons: The Prediction

The Falcons are a desperate team and a loss in their home opener is going to get the hometown crowd calling for Dan Quinn’s head. Matt Ryan has been getting heat for not being able to deliver a Super Bowl — anyone remember 28-3 a few years ago? — and Atlanta isn’t getting much younger. Still, the Eagles’ offense is locked and loaded and probably a little disappointed they started so slow last week. The Eagles jump out early in Atlanta and play solid defense to get to 2-0. Prediction: Eagles 24, Falcons 17.

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