Coming off of a thrilling Wild-Card weekend of NFL action, the Divisional Round certainly has a lot to live up to. This typically is my favourite week of football all year long – with four solid games, eight pretty good teams, and the ability to watch them all! This quartet of contests should provide solid entertainment value as we work towards the Super Bowl in Minnesota in early February.
Last week the Falcons came through for us in a big way against the Rams. I didn’t anticipate an outright victory, but was quite confident in their ability to cover the spread. Matt Ryan and his offense managed this easily, and their battle-tested defense confused and rattled Jared Goff. Though it can be tough to quantify, there’s something to be said about post-season experience, and Atlanta certainly possesses it.
This week, the Falcons test will be much stiffer. They’ll stay on the road once again and head to chilly Philadelphia to take on the NFC’s number one seed. The Eagles’ defense enters in solid form, and while they’re still missing Carson Wentz, Nick Foles and that Philadelphia offense have had two weeks off to prepare him for this game. Winning on the road is never easy in the NFL playoffs, and it’ll be fascinating to watch the Falcons try to pull it off and avenge last year’s crushing Super Bowl defeat.
Read on below for the odds, tactical analysis, and breakdown for this NFC Divisional showdown. Both teams have to be entering with big chips on their shoulders – considering many think they’ve got something to prove. The winner moves on, so follow along for our official betting recommendation for the Falcons at Eagles on Saturday afternoon.
Falcons vs. Eagles Betting Odds:
Atlanta Falcons -2.5 (-120)
@ Philadelphia Eagles +2.5 (+100)
Over 41 (-110)
Under 41 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Falcons vs. Eagles Pick:
We all know the history of the Atlanta Falcons. Coming off a disastrous final quarter in last year’s Super Bowl – Atlanta limped through the regular season, qualifying for the playoffs in Week 17. That said, their metrics remain solid, and many of the pieces from last year’s squad remember that stinging defeat and desperately want to avenge it. It won’t be easy this week, but the Falcons seem to be finding their stride at the right time.
Last week was likely Atlanta’s best outing all year long, but despite that – we all know if Carson Wentz was playing this week for the Eagles, this match-up would be pretty different. But alas, he isn’t and that makes the Falcons slight favourites in the lead-up. Nick Foles will be under centre, and despite ample time to prepare for this contest, I’d estimate he’s about six points worse than Carson Wentz. It is a massive drop-off, especially when you consider how bad he has looked in the weeks following Wentz’s injury.
Foles has gotten progressively worse with each game. Instead of improving, he’s regressed – likely struggling with the massive expectations. He looked terrible his last time out against a poor Dallas Cowboys’ secondary in Week 17, and this will be his stiffest test to date. The Falcons are riding a wave of confidence right now – especially after just shutting down Jared Goff and the Rams’ high-octane attack. Los Angeles had no answers for the looks Atlanta gave them, and if they couldn’t solve the Falcons defense – Nick Foles won’t be able to either.
The Falcons’ secondary is in great form at the moment, and I’d expect them to be able to effectively blanket all of Philadelphia’s downfield targets. Zach Ertz will pose matchup problems at the tight end spot, but I can’t see him consistently winning battles against the Atlanta linebacking corps for all four quarters. Dan Quinn is a defensive genius, and the adjustments he makes should tilt this match-up in favour of the Falcons’ stop unit.
I’d also expect Atlanta to pose all kinds of problems for the Eagles’ offensive line – particularly on the blind-side. Philly has really struggled here since losing Jason Peters, and I think Adrian Clayborn will be able to take advantage of this and really get after Nick Foles – applying all kinds of pressure and hurried situations.
On the other side of the ball, if the Eagles are to have a chance in this contest – it needs to be because of their stop unit. They’ve been pretty solid of late, but the Falcons’ offensive output has also looked better recently as well. I’d look for the Eagles to do well in the trenches, effectively stopping the running game of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. That duo can be solid, but I’m not anticipating it against a fierce Eagles’ defensive front.
Where I see a big mismatch is with Matt Ryan – who understands the stage and should be able to elevate his game and his output for this crucial contest. He remains an elite quarterback with a dominant weapon in Julio Jones. He did just enough to get his Falcons over the Rams last week, and if you give him enough looks – he’s going to burn you. The Eagles will do their best, but you can only hold off this duo for so long. It also helps that temperatures are supposed to rise in Philly on game day, making it all the more comfortable for Ryan and his throws.
Atlanta has likely been better than their 10-6 record would suggest. They lost four of the six contests by six or fewer points, and are a top-10 team in both offensive and defensive yardage. And even though I think them laying a field goal on the road is a bit much, I see them winning a very tight and low-scoring contest here as a result of some big offensive plays late in the ball game. Nick Foles is nowhere near Matt Ryan, and the Eagles’ lack of difference makers on offense will be the final blow in an otherwise impressive season. If Wentz was in, things would be different – but you’ve got to like the chances of the battle-tested Falcons on the road on Saturday.
PICK = Falcons -2.5 (-120)