Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field will no doubt bring with it a swarthy crowd of Eagles fans anxious to see whether the team that started the season so hot can rekindle some of that flame. In their way stand the visiting Atlanta Falcons. Coming off back-to-back wins and sporting the league’s hottest offense, the dirty birds don’t present rookie quarterback Carson Wentz with an easy road to redemption.
This game is about Wentz, make no mistake. Yes, there are other important factors to consider, but for a young man who showed flashes of greatness as early on as the North Dakota State University grad did this year, the bar has been set high. An Eagles team playing at the level we saw six weeks ago against the Steelers makes for a formidable wildcard prospect. That’s not the team that’s been on the field in weeks past.
In contrast to Philly’s inexperienced gunslinger, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has plenty of experience on the professional gridiron, and has helped deliver a league-topping 33.9 points per game. This has earned him some well-deserved midseason MVP talk. Sunday’s game should be nothing new for Atlanta. Look for Ryan to tap No. 1 receiver Julio Jones early and often, and also expect to see the ball in the hands of running back Devonta Freeman.
Don’t Forget the Defense
Putting points up is important, but any coach will tell you defense wins championships. This is where Sunday’s matchup really gets interesting, because the difference in points allowed per game by these teams could more than compensate for their differences in point production.
The Eagles might be four and four, but they’ve yet to give up a game at Lincoln field this season. They’ve allowed opponents an average of just over 18 points per-game, which makes them the NFL’s sixth most-effective defense. The Eagles sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times in their showcase against Pittsburgh. Could some of the credit that went to Wentz have been better spent on Philly’s defense? Very possibly.
A Turning Point for Wentz
What might appear to be an easy win for Ryan and the Falcons shapes up into quite the game when you consider all these factors. All the ingredients are here for a real quarterback duel, one that Wentz will have to live with the results of for a long time.
The safe bet here is still the Falcons, but if Philadelphia can shut down Matt Ryan’s passing game and Carson Wentz shows up to play, this could be the beginning of an Eagles run to the playoffs. Lose, though, and the city turns on them.
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