Philadelphia Eagles (-2) vs. Atlanta Falcons
In a much anticipated Sunday night game, Michael Vick will make his return to Atlanta in primetime. It will be his second game against his old squad. A lot has changed for both teams since his departure, on the field and obviously off it. Perhaps more than ever, both teams have high expectations for this season. The Eagles have been dubbed “The Dream Team”, thanks to an offseason that saw talented cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha come to Philadelphia from Oakland. And of course, the Falcons are always a threat with Matt Ryan at the helm.
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Last week, the Eagles won convincingly over the St. Louis Rams, or did they? Maybe on the scoreboard, but for anyone who actually watched the game, did you feel they looked like a “dream team”? As I feared entering the season, the Eagles got gashed up the middle right off the bat. Steven Jackson scampered for a 47-yard touchdown to kick off scoring early in the contest. Unfortunately for the Rams, Jackson had to leave the game with an injury which completely changed the dynamics of the game. Nevertheless, even Jackson’s backup Carnell Williams finished with a quality game, rushing for 91 yards with a 4.8 average. Casey Matthews should not be a starting middle linebacker in the NFL yet, and it shows for the Eagles; he is not Clay. Certainly, the Eagles look like they have a great defense on paper, but the linebacker core is well below average. Consequently, they are extremely susceptible to teams that can run the ball effectively. Jackson very well could have rushed for 150 yards if he didn’t leave. On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles did what they were supposed to do. Vick and company put up 31 points on a weak Rams defense. LeSean McCoy had a big day with 3 total TDs, rushing for 122 yards on only 15 carries, for a monstrous 8.8 yard per carry average.
After week 1, the Atlanta Falcons have nothing to gloat about after a 30-12 clobbering at the hands of the Chicago Bears. They definitely did not look prepared for the Bears defense, or to play a football game in any regard. Matt Ryan was picked off by Brian Urlacher, and fumbled the ball away to Urlacher. Well, it wasn’t exactly a fumble, it was more like Ryan placed the ball on the ground to give an early Christmas present to the Bears. The lone bright spot for the Falcons was Michael Turner. Turner rushed for 100 yards on only 10 carries against a pretty stout run defense. I’m not quite sure that bodes well for the Eagles porous linebackers. As you probably know, Turner is a bruising back that does not go down easily. If a defender does not take a proper angle, there’s a good chance Turner will just run straight through it. If the Eagles want to be successful on defense, they are going to need to try and slow him down.
The Falcons are a different animal at home in the Georgia Dome. In fact, the Falcons didn’t lose at home last year until December against the New Orleans Saints. Michael Turner should find success on the ground early in this one. If this comes to fruition, expect the Eagles to respect the run, opening up potential big play action completions downfield. There’s no doubt that Vick is going to put on a show in the spotlight against his former club. After that pitiful performance by the Falcons last week, expect Matt Ryan to come back in a big way. It is rare that he puts together back-to-back terrible performances. In this regard, there is going to be plenty of fireworks to watch on Sunday night. Play the over, with a lean to the Falcons +2.