Everyone knows what this week means for the Eagles. With the Birds sitting at .500, everyone in Philadelphia is waiting for this team to explode. Whether that explosion is from production on the field or the death of an era remains to be seen.
For this week, the story is about a battle the unbeatens. The Atlanta Falcons come into town with a 6-0 record after the bye. The Eagles are 13-0 coming off of the bye under the tenure of Andy Reid. Another thing to note is that, when you take a look at the numbers, Atlanta’s record isn’t quite so impressive.
When you combine the record of all of Atlanta’s opponents, it’s a bleak 13-25. The Falcons have benefited from starting off against a struggling AFC West and a confused bunch in Carolina. On the other hand, the Eagles opponents are currently 20-20.
While I was unsure about this game in our Humpday Podcast, I now can’t shake the feeling that this has the makings of a trap game for Atlanta. More explanation below as we get to the good stuff.
Here’s what to watch for this Sunday:
1. Todd Bowles at defensive coordinator. Since Bowles has been put in charge, players have been more forthright about their feelings on Castillo. For example, this telling quote from Brandon Graham:
“A lot of time we ran the same coverage, stuff like that. I listen to the calls every play – ‘Coach, what do we have this play? What do we have this play,’ and it was always pretty much the same stuff.”
So with Bowles controlling the defense, the advantage is all Eagles. Bowles gets roughly two weeks to prepare against Atlanta and, more importantly, they know nothing about what he’ll do. That’s some powerful leverage and the Eagles need to capitalize on it.
2. Tony Gonzales vs. Nnamdi Asomugha/Mychal Kendricks: While Roddy White and Julio Jones will receive more attention, Tony Gonzalez will be a huge factor in this game. Gonzo has returned to his top form in Atlanta’s new pass heavy offense, netting 43 catches 430 yards and 4 TDs through six games. At this pace, Gonzo will end the season with 115 receptions for 1147 yards and 11 TDs. Kendricks will need to handle the best receiving tight end of all time. Also, if Bowles uses Nnamdi to press Gonzalez who will be covering those large, talented receivers on the outside?
3. LeSean McCoy vs. Atlanta’s run defense. Atlanta has allowed the 10th most rushing yards in the league despite only playing six games so far. They allow roughly 144 yards and 1 TD per game on the ground. If the Eagles want to keep four running backs on the roster, this is a good time to use them. Expect McCoy to see somewhere around 25 touches as the Eagles attempt to control the tempo. The longer that they can keep Matt Ryan of the field, the better off they’ll be.
4. Asante Samuel. Samuel is one of the more intriguing stories heading into this week. Despite being shipped off for a 7th round pick, Samuel is a solid player and always has the potential to make a big play. In their contest against Oakland, he returned an interception 79 yards for a score-helping Atlanta to seal the win. The Eagles will likely try to use plenty of double moves and bait Samuel into allowing the deep ball. Expect plenty of runs his way as well. Everyone knows about his speed bump tackling style.
5. John Abraham vs King Dunlap. At the age of 34, Abraham is showing no signs of slowing down. He has 6 sacks on the season and will be a relentless pass rushing force against a rusty King Dunlap, who hasn’t played since week two. Is Dunlap up to the task?
6. The weather. As of now, the game is projected to be played in windy, stormy weather. This means miserable passing conditions as a hurricane looms over Philadelphia. Both teams will probably need to scale back their passing attempts in order to reduce the chance of turnovers. Both Atlanta and Philly have had issues in the run game.
7. Dennis Kelly. The rookie tackle has been taking reps at right guard for the injured Danny Watkins. This will be the Eagles first chance to really evaluate Kelly. If he performs well, it could lead to some shake-ups along the offensive line.