The Atlanta Falcons are having arguably their best season under quarterback Matt Ryan. It hasn’t been easy, but the Falcons are heading into week 8 with an undefeated season on the line. After the Houston Texans fell to the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago, the Falcons took the honor of being the only team without a loss in 2012 thus far. The Falcons will be facing an up-and-down Eagles squad that has been having a Jekyll and Hyde kind of season. The Eagles are fresh off a bye, a spot that Andy Reid loves, so it’ll be interesting to see how they perform in the latter half of the year. They will have a shot at the undefeated Falcons in their own backyard at Lincoln Financial Field (1:00EST).
Since Michael Vick has taken over as the Eagles signal caller, they have primarily relied on his legs and arm. Everything else was a distant afterthought. Let Vick make things happen was essentially the game plan on a regular basis. The Eagles, however, have taken a different stance in 2012, in which they have employed a more balanced attack from all angles. The defense in particular has taken huge strides forward. If this was a season ago, the Falcons offense would have most likely had their way with the Eagles again. The Falcons pulled out a close, high scoring affair in Atlanta, 35-31. The defense took a step in the right direction late in 2011 and it has carried over to this season. The Eagles are currently 12th in the NFL in total defense allowing an average of 330 yards per game. Middle of the pack, but they do only allow 20 points a game, which is respectable in this day and age. It feels like cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is beginning to settle in after a shaky rookie campaign with the Eagles. Asomugha currently has 20 tackles and an interception on the year. However, Andy Reid expects so much more out of this unit, so during the bye week Juan Castillo was fired as defensive coordinator. Castillo took over for the late Jim Johnson after his death. Johnson most certainly had the Eagles as a top-5 defense on a consistent basis, but they have taken a step back since his passing.
The Eagles offense is, well, certainly not living up to expectations. There hasn’t been any hoopla around Vick’s ability on the field, more on his ability to hold onto the ball and not turn it over. Vick has already fumbled the ball 9 times, losing it 5, and been intercepted on 8 occasions. The Eagles will need a much better effort from Vick if they are going to make a legitimate playoff run. It really is that simple with this team. I think the defense is decent enough to keep them around in games, but Vick is going to need to start making plays. The Eagles do have a capable running back in LeSean McCoy, who has the capabilities to explode any week. McCoy and the Eagles running game are 10th in the NFL. The total offense is up there at 7th, averaging 380 yards per game. However, at the same time they only average 17.8 points a game. Needless to say the problem with the Eagles is the turnover issues. If Vick figured the turnover issues out during the bye week, the Eagles figure to make a playoff push late into the season.
The Falcons appear to be flawless, if you look at the W/L column that is certainly the case. However, this isn’t the 2007 Patriots team that was steamrolling over opponents. The Falcons have had a difficult road to 6-0. Mainly in the last three weeks they have faced some adversity. First against the Panthers, where they needed a last minute touchdown drive to secure a 30-28 victory. Two weeks ago they were fortunate enough that the Redskins were short RG3 for the majority of the second half after he left with a concussion. Backup and fellow rookie Kirk Cousins, looked lost coughing the ball up twice en route to give the Falcons a 24-17 win. Last week they struggled mightily at home against the lowly Oakland Raiders, a 23-20 final. Nevertheless, they are still the only undefeated team in the NFL, not an easy accomplishment. The offense is proficient scoring 28.3 points a game, while the defense could be better, allowing 367.2 yards per game. They are particularly bad against the run, currently sitting in 28th position surrendering a dismal 143.3 yards per game.
Falcons vs. Eagles Spread and Betting Odds:
Atlanta Falcons +2.5 (-105)
@Philadelphia Eagles -2.5 (-115)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Falcons vs. Eagles Pick:
There a few things that have me liking the Eagles in this game. Firstly, Andy Reid is the master of the bye week, as he has gone a perfect 13-0 after a bye. Reid is a coach that notoriously patches up holes and his has teams ready to perform in this spot. Another telling statistic that indicates the Eagles should roll is the fact that the Falcons are 1-5 ATS in their last six games in the Eagles backyard. The Eagles should be fired up to welcome the Falcons to their own backyard and attempt to knock off an undefeated squad. A win would perhaps light a fire underneath them and propel them into the second half with a little bit of swagger and confidence.
Something you may want to keep your eye on is the hurricane that is expected to hit the east coast around 2:00PM EST, according to forecasters. If they are going to be playing in unfavourable conditions, I have to give the Eagles running game the nod here. LeSean McCoy could do some damage against Falcons’ rush defense that is ranked 28th in the NFL. I like the Eagles to find some momentum here, handing the Falcons their first loss of the season.
PICK = Eagles -2.5