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Three numbers that matter for this week’s Eagles vs. Falcons game

Previewing this week’s Sunday Night Football matchup.

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a look at three numbers that are relevant to the Philadelphia Eagles’ Week 2 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.

73.1 — Matt Ryan’s passer rating in his last three games against the Eagles.

Jim Schwartz gets a lot of crap from Eagles fans. Some of it is deserved, some of it isn’t.

One thing’s for sure: there isn’t much room for criticism when it’s come to Schwartz’s last three performances against the Falcons. The Eagles are 3-0 in those outings with the defense only allowing 38 total points, which comes out to just 12.7 per game.

The Eagles’ defensive effort against the Falcons in 2016 was especially noteworthy considering Schwartz’s unit held the NFL’s No. 1 offense at the time to season lows in points scored, total net yards, first downs, offensive plays run, and time of possession.

What’s been the secret to Schwartz’s success?

It’s simple, really. The Eagles have been able to generate a ton of pressure on Matt Ryan.

Schwartz’s defense has logged nine sacks and a whopping 32 quarterback hits on Ryan in the last three meetings between these two teams. As a result, Ryan’s passing stats have been predictably poor: 54.5% completion, 6.5 yards per attempt, two touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 73.1 passer rating. Hard to win games when your quarterback is posting those kinda numbers!

So, the Eagles will be able to easily replicate their previous success, right?

Well, maybe not. Unlike the previous three games, this week’s matchup is in Atlanta so the Falcons have home field advantage this time around. Even more concerning, there are questions about the quality of the Eagles’ pass rush after seeing Case Keenum have success against Philadelphia’s secondary. And now the pass rush could be even worse off with Malik Jackson out for the season.

Fortunately for the Eagles, they’re not going up against one of the best offensive lines in the league. Pro Football Focus has the Falcons with the league’s 17th best pass blocking grade through one game. Atlanta allowed four sacks and seven quarterback hits in Week 1. The Falcons could be even worse off than they were last week with Jamon Brown now starting at right guard in place of injured first-round pick Chris Lindstrom. Our associates over at The Falcoholic have expressed concern about the Falcons’ blocking:

The offensive line is still a work in progress. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this debacle is that it’s not fun playing perhaps the best defensive line in the NFL on the road in a hostile environment. Even prized left tackle Jake Matthews surrendered two sacks for a group that kept Matt Ryan on skates for most of the game and struggled to establish much in the run game. With first-round guard Chris Lindstrom now out half the season or more with a foot fracture and his first-round teammate Kaleb McGary still getting his rookie lumps out of the way, the team will need an immediate rebound from Matthews, continued stalwart play from center Alex Mack and whomever takes over for Lindstrom to step it up. The team can’t expect to do a ton this season if the offensive line plays like this again.

The Eagles really need their pass rush to step up this week. They can’t go through another game where Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, and Josh Sweat combine for zero sacks and zero quarterback hits. Generating pressuring is going to critical in limiting the damage that Ryan can do to Philly’s leaky secondary.

32nd — The Falcons ranked tied for most opponent yards per rush attempt in 2018.

The Falcons’ run defense was very bad last season; it ranked 30th overall in rush defense DVOA.

New season though, right? Things are much better now?

Not quite! The Falcons were dominated on the ground by the Vikings in Week 1. Minnesota running backs took 32 carries for 168 yards (5.25 average) and two touchdowns.

The Vikings’ running game was so efficient that Kirk Cousins only logged 10 total pass attempts. That’s not a typo! He really only passed the ball 10 times during Minnesota’s 28-12 win.

The Eagles certainly aren’t going to beat the Falcons with Carson Wentz logging such few pass attempts. They shouldn’t want to, either, with Wentz looking as good as he did in Week 1. You don’t take to take the ball entirely out of his hands.

But it’s not like the Eagles should need 50 attempts from Wentz in this game, either. Their ground game should be able to significantly contribute in this one. Darren Sproles, Jordan Howard, and Miles Sanders had 26 carries for 116 yards (4.7 average) against Washington’s defense. The Eagles should be able to maintain success on the ground with the combination of their backfield talent and the league’s fifth-best run blocking offensive line, as graded by PFF.

Running the ball was critical to the Eagles’ upset victory over the Falcons back in 2016. The trio of Sproles, Ryan Matthews, and Wendell Smallwood logged 34 carries for 198 yards (5.8 average) and two touchdowns in that game. The Eagles did a great job of controlling the clock and limiting the Falcons’ offensive opportunities. Doug Pederson could be looking to replicate that formula in Atlanta on Sunday night.

17% - The difference in playoff odds between starting 2-0 and 1-1.

How much does Sunday’s result actually matter for the Eagles?

Per a 2017 study from our enemies over at Blogging The Boys, 58% of NFL teams that started 2-0 made the playoffs while only 41% that started 1-1 eventually clinched a postseason berth.

Then again, 2-0 starts haven’t meant so much for the Eagles. Look at the last three times the Eagles started the season with two wins:

2016 — 2-0 — 7-9 — Missed playoffs

2014 — 2-0 — 10-6 — Missed playoffs

2012 — 2-0 — 4-12 — Missed playoffs

One must go back all the way to 2004 to when the Eagles last made the playoffs after starting 2-0.

It’d be dumb to suggest the Eagles are actually better off starting 1-1 than 2-0. But it should be noted that 1-1 has been far from a death knell for Philly in the past. The Eagles have made the playoffs in seven out of their last nine 1-1 starts.

2018 — 1-1 — 9-7 — Lost in Divisional Round

2017 — 1-1 — 13-3 — Won Super Bowl

2016 — 2-0 — 7-9 — Missed playoffs

2015 — 0-2 — 7-9 — Missed playoffs

2014 — 2-0 — 10-6 — Missed playoffs

2013 — 1-1 — 10-6 — Lost in Wild Card round

2012 — 2-0 — 4-12 — Missed playoffs

2011 — 1-1 — 8-8 — Missed playoffs

2010 — 1-1 — 10-6 — Lost in Wild Card round

2009 — 1-1 — 11-5 — Lost in Wild Card round

2008 — 1-1 — 9-6-1 — Lost in NFC Championship Game

2007 — 0-2 — 8-8 — Missed playoffs

2006 — 1-1 — 10-6 — Lost in Divisional Round

2005 — 1-1 — 6-10 — Missed playoffs

2004 — 2-0 — 13-3 — Lost in Super Bowl

So, a road loss to the Falcons would hardly be a disaster for the Eagles. But a road win would certainly be much better!

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