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Philadelphia Eagles opponents preview - Atlanta Falcons

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This is the next part in our series of previews of the Eagles 2009 opponents. Joining us for this feature is Dave Schwab, who writes about the Eagles at his site Eagles Lincs.

The Eagles travel to Atlanta this week to face the 6-5 Falcons in hopes extending their winning streak to three games. Big injuries to big players plague both teams... So how will this one play out?

Dave's full analysis is after the jump.

The Eagles are back on the road next week when the travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons on Sunday, December 6th in a 1:00 P.M start. Last week both teams needed dramatic come from behind wins against teams they were heavily favored to beat keeping their playoff hopes intact. Philly fell behind by eight points to the Redskins early in the 4th quarter before scoring a touchdown, 2 point conversion, and a 32 yard field goal to secure the 27-24 win, moving their record to 7-4 on the year. Atlanta needed even greater heroics to beat Tampa Bay. Playing in place of injured QB Matt Ryan, Chris Redman found Roddy White for a five yard touchdown reception on 4th and goal with 26 seconds left in the game to pull out a 20-17 win that moved their record to 6-5.

Along with Matt Ryan, who left early in the game with a toe injury RB Michael Turner was also knocked out of the game with Tampa after reinjuring his right ankle in the third quarter. Their ability to play on Sunday will have a huge impact on Atlanta’s offense. If Ryan cannot go, 7th year veteran Redman will get the 11th career start of his career. In last week’s game he completed 23 of 41 attempts for 243 yards and 2 TD’s including the game winner. A much bigger loss for the Falcons would be Turner. So far this season he has run for 864 yards on 177 carries, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 10 TD’s. His backups include Jason Snelling who has run for 267 yards and 3 TD’s and Jerious Norwood who only has 25 carries on the year. Another big factor in the Falcon’s offense is TE Tony Gonzalez who has 61 receptions for 666 yards and 5 TD’s. No matter who is throwing the ball, Gonzalez will have to be accounted for in the Eagles’ defensive scheme. The two other main receiving threats for Atlanta are White, who has 56 receptions this season and Michael Jenkins who has 40.

The Eagles should be able to move the ball against Atlanta as their defense is not one of the strong points of this team. They are currently ranked 27th in yards allowed (373.9) and in passing yards allowed (252.6). They are giving up an average of 22.3 points per game while the Eagles are averaging 26.6. As in the Washington game, the key to winning this game will be Philadelphia’s ability to run the ball. With Brian Westbrook still out of the lineup, LeSean McCoy will be the primary back. Along with FB Leonard Weaver they will once again need to establish the run to set up the pass in order to try and take advantage of vulnerable Atlanta secondary with some big plays. A huge question mark for the Eagles will be the availability of WR DeSean Jackson who was knocked out of the Washington game with a concussion. If he cannot go, look for Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin to be the primary targets for Donovan McNabb.

The Falcons breathed new life into their season with the win over Tampa. At 6-5 they are out of the NFC South division race, but only one game back in the chase for a wildcard spot. They are playing at home which gives them a huge edge in this game as they are 5-0 in the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome. While the Eagles match-well against them in most phases of the game, they cannot afford to be as inconsistent as they were against the Redskins last week. Atlanta has shown the ability to protect a lead as well as come from behind to win a game. It will be up to Philadelphia’s defense to stop some third down conversions and their offense to avoid stalling out in the second half. It will take a full 60 minute effort to get another much needed win as well as put a serious dent in Atlanta’s playoff chances.