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Eagles schedule preview: Atlanta Falcons

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Third time’s the charm?

NFL: New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Four the third time in four years the Eagles play the Falcons. This time, it’s on the road.

When and where: Week 2 at the Mercedes-Benz Sphincter Dome

Last season: 7-9. Offense: Scoring 10th, Yards 6th, DVOA 8th; Defense: Scoring 25th, Yards 28th, DVOA 31st

Notable additions: Adrian Clayborn, OC Steve Sarkisian

Notable losses: Tevin Coleman, OC Dirk Koetter

What are they good at?

Passing the ball, and they could be even better in 2019. Julio Jones is of course a great starting point for a group of pass catchers, and 2018 1st rounder Calvin Ridley had a very good rookie season with 64 catches for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns. An improvement by him would make that a top tier duo in the league and make Mohamed Sanu a solid 3rd option. Changing offensive coordinators from Steve Sarkisian, who was never popular in Atlanta, to Dirk Koetter, who was Falcons OC from 2012-2014, should be an upgrade as well.

Or they could take a step back, at least to start the season. Gone is Tevin Coleman, the pass catching half of the Falcons dynamic running back duo alongside Devonte Freeman. Coleman averaged 11 yards a reception during his Falcons career, and they don’t have an obvious replacement. We’ve seen teams struggle to fill the void when they lose their pass catching running back. If this game was in Week 12, it might not matter as the Falcons could find a solution. But this game is in Week 2, and if they haven’t figured out who could fill that role, that could be a difference making factor.

What are they bad at?

In each of their previous six drafts, the Falcons have used two top 100 draft picks on defenders, including four 1st round picks. Both their head coaches during Thomas Dimitroff’s tenure as GM have been defensive coaches. They’ve invested in coaches and in draft picks on defense and what do they have to show for it? A bad defense. The Falcons haven’t finished with a top 20 defense by DVOA since 2012, and the raw scoring and yards totals haven’t been much better. There’s little reason to believe they will suddenly turn the corner this season, they didn’t add a premium prospect in the draft or a top free agent.

Why the Eagles will win

In addition to the Falcons being a one sided team, Doug Pederson is 3-0 against Dan Quinn. Pederson gave Quinn his worst regular season loss in 2016, beat him in the playoffs in 2017, and then again in Week 1 of the 2018 season. The Eagles are a better overall team and have a coaching advantage. That’s a good combination to have.

Why the Eagles will lose

In 2016 Jim Schwartz shut down Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. In 2017 and 2018 Jim Schwartz shut down Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, which was a comparatively easy task. But Sarkisian got run out by now-Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter when the Buccanneers beat the Eagles in Week 2. Ryan Fitzpatrick went off for 402 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Falcons will be feeling good about this coaching matchup. However, Ryan Fitzpatrick does this from time to time. That game was the third of his career with 400+ yards and 4 TDs. It was the 7th of his career with 350+ yards and 3+ touchdowns. But Fitzpatrick also has as many starts with fewer than 100 yards passing. There’s a reason he’s a journeyman: he has no consistency.

Maybe that game was the fools gold. Or maybe Koetter is a bad matchup for Schwartz, and this time he’s got a better QB.

Poll

Who will win the Eagles-Falcons game?

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  • 78%
    Eagles
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  • 21%
    Falcons
    (345 votes)
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