NFL Week 8 Preview: Falcons at Eagles
ATLANTA FALCONS (6-0)
at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-3)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Philadelphia -3, Total: 45
Atlanta tries to remain the NFL's lone unbeaten team when it flies north to Philadelphia on Sunday.
Both these squads are coming off a bye week. The Eagles are desperately trying to right their ship, and they fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo during the off week. On the other side of the ball, the Philly is still trying to rectify Michael Vick’s turnover problems (NFC-high 13 giveaways) and poor offensive line play. The Falcons have actually been better on the road this year, where they’re 3-0 SU and ATS. They will be matching up against a very good Eagles pass defense that is allowing the lowest completion percentage in the NFL (52.7%). Falcons QB Matt Ryan did not look sharp in their last game, a home win over Oakland, throwing three interceptions.
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Ryan ranks fourth in the NFL in passer rating (98.8) and sixth in passing yards (293 YPG), throwing 14 TD and 6 INT. He had an eventful day last year against the Eagles, completing 17-of-28 passes for 195 yards, a career-high-tying 4 TD and 2 INT. Ryan has done a phenomenal job using his top three receivers who each have 4 TD catches for the season, WR Roddy White (553 rec yds), TE Tony Gonzalez (430 rec yds) and WR Julio Jones (376 rec yds). The two wideouts had just 52 combined yards in last year's meeting with Philly, but Gonzalez caught seven passes for 83 yards and 2 TD. The Falcons running game has been dreadful in 2012, with the fourth-fewest rushing yards in the NFL (87 rush YPG). Leading rusher Michael Turner has just 100 rushing yards on 29 carries (3.4 YPC) in the past two games. However, Turner gained 146 total yards with the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of last year's win over Philly. Defensively, the potential absence of CB Asante Samuel (foot), who played with the Eagles last year, could really hurt Atlanta's 12th-ranked pass defense going up against a talented receiving corps. The Falcons will also have a hard time stopping LeSean McCoy on the ground, considering they allow the fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL (144 rush YPG). Atlanta is adept at creating turnovers though, as its 17 takeaways rank fourth in the NFL.
The Eagles are an incredible 13-0 SU coming off a bye week under Andy Reid. Vick started against his old team for the first time last year, but left the game in the third quarter after suffering a concussion from a big hit. He finished that matchup 19-for-28 for 242 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT, while adding 25 rushing yards on six carries. Like most players, Vick is much more comfortable at home, completing 65% of his passes for 923 yards, 4 TD and 4 INT, plus another 142 yards on the ground in three games in Philly. Considering how poorly Atlanta defends the run, Vick will probably use his legs much more than he did last year. That also means a heavy dose of LeSean McCoy, who gained 116 total yards with a pair of second-half touchdown runs against the Falcons last year. McCoy had a horrible game before the bye week, gaining just 22 yards on 14 carries, plus 26 yards on seven catches. He has been playing on an injured ankle, and some of his offensive linemen have also been banged up, but the whole group will be healthier coming off the bye. Despite the firing of Castillo, and subsequent promotion of secondary coach Todd Bowles, the Eagles defense hasn't been terrible, ranking 15th in passing yards (226 YPG) and 14th against the run (105 YPG). The biggest problem has been the lack of turnovers, as Philly has just two takeaways in the past four games. Some of that also stems from a weak pass rush that has tallied just seven sacks all year.