Semi-Coherent Philadelphia Eagles vs. Atlanta Falcons Preview


It’s almost time for Eagles football. Are you ready? No, really, ARE YOU READY?

Maybe I should have said this before posting that video, but it might be better if you’re not TOO ready. The Eagles don’t play until Monday night, so we’ve got to wait an extra day to see the Birds in action.

I’m not a fan of the Eagles opening the season on Monday, as I’m always pumped for the season to begin and waiting that extra day is excruciating. (On the other hand, the last time the Eagles opened on Monday, it went pretty well.)

Regardless of my feelings, the NFL has decided that the Eagles must start on a Monday, and (unless you’re the New England Patriots) when the NFL decides something, it is final.

The Eagles in Week One: A Brief Recent History

The Eagles have done well in week one in recent years. They’ve won four straight openers, and are 7-3 since 2005.

Nick Foles and the Eagles struggled in the 2014 opener. Image credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Is that success due to the Eagles coaches being especially good at getting the team ready for the start of the season? Or have the Eagles been fortunate to play mostly lousy teams in week one? Considering the seven wins came against teams with a composite record of 29-83, I think it has more to do with the strength of their opponents. (Especially since in two of the past four years, they’ve struggled to defeat those seemingly easy opponents.)

Things rarely stay the same from year to year in the NFL, but based on last year’s record, the Eagles are once again assigned a weak opponent for their first game.

Atlanta Falcons

2014 Record: 6-11

Head Coach: Dan Quinn (0-0)

The Last Time They Met

After beginning the season 3-1 (a very lucky 3-1, but 3-1 nonetheless), the 2012 Eagles lost two straight games heading into their bye week. It wasn’t unusual for a Reid-coached team to have issues leading up to the bye, but many years, that week of rest was the magical elixir that cured their woes.

Todd Bowles is not a miracle worker. Image Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It was well-known that Reid’s teams had never lost a regular season game immediately after the bye week. (They lost the Super Bowl after a bye, but that was only because the Patriots were big fat cheaters). So it seemed inevitable that the Eagles would defeat the Falcons and turn their season around.

The two game losing streak prompted Reid to fire defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, but apparently the team’s issues on defense weren’t all his fault. His replacement Todd Bowles has since proven to be a capable defensive coach, but he couldn’t do much with the talent on hand.

The Falcons jumped all over the Eagles defense, and surged to a 24-7 halftime lead. The Eagles didn’t offer much resistance en route to a demoralizing 31-17 loss. It looked likely that the Eagles might not have a post-bye bounce in them.

What’s the Deal with the Falcons?

A couple of years ago, the Falcons were viewed as Super Bowl contenders. Led by a young, rising star at quarterback and a dynamic receiving corps, the Falcons looked ready to dominate the league. In 2012, they posted a 13-3 record and made it to the NFC Championship Game which they led 24-14 at halftime.

New coach Dan Quinn has a tough job ahead of him. Image credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Since then, not much has gone right. They were outscored 14-0 in the second half of that NFC Championship Game and then suffered through an injury-fueled 4-12 season in 2013. When they followed up with a 6-10 record in 2014, head coach Mike Smith was fired.

The main culprit in the Falcons’ decline has been their defense. They ranked 27th in yards allowed in 2013, and dead last in 2014. In an attempt to fix the defense, they hired Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as their new head coach.

They’d better hope that Quinn is a good coach, because aside from a few promising draft picks, they didn’t add much talent to the roster.

Featured Falcons Player: Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan isn’t usually the first name that comes up when naming the best quarterbacks in the league, but if you take at how well he’s played, it seems that he belongs in the discussion. The team has collapsed around him the past two seasons, but it’s difficult to lay too much of the blame on Ryan.

Aug 14, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes against the Tennessee Titans during the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan has been remarkably consistent throughout his career. He’s averaged over 25 touchdown passes a year, and his completion percentage has been above 60% in every season but one. This success comes despite some poor play from the Falcons’ offensive line, and a running game that has a tendency to vanish.

It hasn’t been all bad for Ryan, as the Falcons have one of the league’s best receiving tandems in Julio Jones (One of the five best receivers in the NFL) and the still dangerous Roddy White. This should prove to be a good test of just how good the reconstructed Eagles secondary is.

Reason to Hate the Falcons

Each week, I try to come up with a good reason for Eagles fans to dislike that game’s opponent. Unfortunately, there’s not much reason for fans to dislike the Falcons. If anything, the Eagles have had the upper hand in most of the big games. (See the 2005 NFC Championship Game for example). The Falcons are also mostly bereft of players who are easy to dislike.

Let us never forget what happened at the Georgia Dome in 1992. Image credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

It looks like I’ll have to use an incident from 23 years ago to stir up some hatred. Longtime Eagles fans may remember that the Eagles were the very first opponent to play in the Georgia Dome when it opened in the 1992 preseason. On the opening play of that game, the Falcons decided to open the stadium in style by throwing a long pass to receiver Michael Haynes. who caught it for a 72 yard touchdown.

The corner who attempted to defend him was Izel Jenkins, who was basically the 1992 Eagles’ version of Bradley Fletcher.

You might think that those two playoff wins since that game would have served as revenge. Most fanbases would have gotten over that incident by now. (Considering I’m like the only person who even remembers the play, it seems like Eagles fans are indeed over it.) But I say we must never forget! Boo Falcons! You guys suck!

Key Eagles Storyline: Is There Too Much Optimism?

When I previewed the fourth preseason game, I may have gotten carried away in my optimism about the team. They looked so good in preseason, that I started to believe. I started to believe that all of Chip Kelly’s offseason maneuverings were going to work out perfectly and that this team was destined for greatness.

It seems I wasn’t alone, as the Eagles have become somewhat of a trendy pick to reach the Super Bowl. Everyone knows that preseason records are meaningless, but for a team to look as strong as the Eagles did, surely that wasn’t meaningless.

Now that some time has passed, I am remembering that there are still some major concerns:

  • Playing a few series in preseason is not exactly definitive proof that Sam Bradford can stay healthy for an entire season.
  • Two of the Eagles’ starting offensive linemen are unproven, and the depth behind them is questionable.
  • The Eagles have talent at wide receiver, but there’s not much experience. We could see some growing pains from young receivers Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, and Nelson Agholor.
  • The Eagles are super-thin at outside linebacker.
  • One of the starting cornerbacks is Nelson Carroll, and the coaches didn’t think he was good enough to start over Bradley Fletcher last season.
  • One of the starting safeties is Walter Thurmond who is new to the position, and has also had trouble staying healthy throughout his career.

Bah. Week one is no time for pessimism. Week one is time for hope and Super Bowl dreams!

Every team has question marks and limited depth in some areas. The important thing is that the Eagles have talent, and if things break right, they have the capability to do great things.

The (Final) Week in Tebow (For Now)

It wasn’t the most brilliant performance I’ve ever seen, but Tim Tebow was clearly the superior quarterback in the Eagles’ preseason game against the Jets. When the team traded Matt Barkley to the Cardinals the following day, it seemed to confirm that Tebow had won the third-string quarterback job.

Sep 3, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Tim Tebow (11) drops back to pass against the New York Jets during the fourth quarter of a preseason game at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Eagles 24-18. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It then came as a huge surprise then when Tebow was listed among the team’s final cuts. According to Chip Kelly, the explanation was simple: Tebow simply wasn’t good enough to be an NFL quarterback.

Even if he didn’t make the team, I’m in favor of the Eagles bringing back Tebow for next year’s preseason. Normally, the second half of preseason games are boring and difficult to watch. But with Tebow in the game? High drama.

Every time he took a snap, it was thrilling: What’s Tebow going to do? Is he going to actually throw the ball? Can he actually throw the ball? Screw it – RUN, TIM, RUN!

So until next season, farewell, Tim. Thanks for making this year’s preseason games much less painful!

Sam Bradford: The Saint Louis Perspective

Eagles fans hope that Sam Bradford will stay healthy and lead the team to greatness, so I wondered how St. Louis Rams fans felt about their ex-quarterback. After all, he was supposed to be their franchise savior, and he never quite lived up to that billing.

So I asked my friend Nate who is a Rams fans how he felt about Bradford now that he’s moved on:

"I am happy to share the emotional roller coaster that was and is the Sam Bradford Experience.  Hope the Sanchize is ready to step in!Just kidding… I hope the best for the guy.  It’s a shame the Rams couldn’t put a decent offensive line or a middling receiver corps on the field so that he could actually make a throw before some 300 pound guy rolled over his ACL."

It seems that despite his lack of success with the Rams, at least some of their fans aren’t bitter about it. Or maybe Rams fans are just nicer than Eagles fans. (Actually, I don’t think there’s any maybe about it.)

Super Bowl Year Song of the Week

The Eagles have not made many appearances in the Super Bowl (Two, to be exact). I’m hopeful that this season will mark their third appearance in the “big game,” so each week I’m going to take a song from one of the franchise’s Super Bowl seasons (1980 and 2004) that somehow relates to this week’s game.

Let’s Get it Started – Black Eyed Peas, 2004

I think just about everyone is ready for the season to get started.

Mocking the East

Part of the fun of being a football fan is taking pleasure in the misfortune of your favorite team’s rivals. Each week, I’ll find a reason to make fun of one of the other teams in the NFC East. (Note: Although I’m sure I could feature the Redskins every week, I’ll try to spread around the mockery a bit.)

Do the Cowboys really think Darren McFadden can replace DeMarco Murray? Image Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

I really wanted to make fun of the Redskins again this week. Considering that the wife of the team’s general manager accused an ESPN reporter of sleeping with her husband, it was difficult to resist. But for the sake of variety, I’m not going to make fun of them.

Instead, I’ll take a look at the Cowboys’ running backs. The team seems to really believe that their rushing success was all due to the offensive line, and running back DeMarco Murray had little to do with it. They seem to feel that any back could have had similar success, because they have assembled a very lackluster group to replace Murray.

Maybe Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar, and Joseph Randle will end up adequately replacing Murray’s production from last year. Or maybe the team really thought they were going to be able to get Adrian Peterson, and now they’re pretty much screwed.


The Falcons will provide an immediate test for the Eagles rebuilt secondary, and I believe that they’ll score their share of points.

But barring coach Quinn being a miracle worker, the Falcons are not going to have a strong defense. The Eagles may have some question marks on offense, but as the preseason showed, they also have the ability to score a lot of points.

Eagles 38 – Falcons 28

Next: Seven ESPN Analysts Pick Eagles to win Superbowl

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