NFL 2019 (Week 2): Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 2): Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

Last Sunday night saw a smack down of rare proportions as New England dominated Pittsburgh from the onset in a 33-3 victory for the defending champs. This week looks to be more competitively balanced, with the Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Atlanta Falcons in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Philly had to come back against a game Washington squad, while the Falcons were thoroughly routed in Minnesota. Both teams entered the year with playoff hopes and this serves as a fine litmus test to gauge who is for real. Are you ready for some birdwatching?

Eagles: Philadelphia has made the playoffs in each of the last two years under Doug Pederson, including a Super Bowl title following the 2017-18 season, so it was a shock to many around the football world to see this team trailing 17-0 in the second quarter of their season opener. After going in at halftime down 20-7, the Eagles woke up and ran away with an important NFC East victory (Washington scored a garbage-time touchdown to make the final score seem closer than it was). This is a talented roster from top to bottom, with MVP candidate quarterback Carson Wentz and game-wrecking defensive tackle Fletcher Cox on the other side of the ball. They have speed to burn, beef along both lines, and an excellent schematic coach in Pederson. This team will surely hope to come out strong to avoid another second half comeback, especially considering that Atlanta is a more talented bunch than Washington.

Falcons: Atlanta hoped to achieve their third consecutive playoff berth before injuries ravaged their young defensive unit in 2018. Within the first four weeks of the season, the Falcons placed both starting safeties (Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen) and their middle linebacker, Deion Jones, on injured reserve. Jones ultimately returned to action in December, but he missed 10 games in total. To make matters worse, running back Devonta Freeman only played in two games due to injury as well. Quarterback Matt Ryan did what he could, putting up numbers nearly equal to his 2016 NFL MVP campaign, but it was not enough. None of those factors excuse the egg that this team laid in Minneapolis last week, though. The Vikings led 28-0 at halftime, and Atlanta didn’t crack double digits on the scoreboard until they were inside the final two minutes. In order to avoid a similar performance at home on Sunday night, they will need to stop the Eagles’ run game and make Wentz uncomfortable. When they have the ball, they need to get it out of Ryan’s hands quickly, preferably to Julio Jones. Tight end Austin Hooper is a Pro-Bowler and fellow wideouts Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu are nice complementary pieces. But Jones is the straw that stirs the drink.

Prediction: Both teams show more life in the first quarter than they did in their openers, and these two top-notch signal-callers give the fans a show. Despite a dogged pass rush from underrated defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, Wentz navigates the pocket and finds his plethora of weapons in the creases of Atlanta’s zone defense.

Philadelphia Eagles 34, Atlanta Falcons 29

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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