By Art Beitchman
The knee-jerk reaction to the Atlanta Falcons’ wild-card playoff win over the LA Rams last weekend was to make the surging flavor of the week Falcons the pick to beat a 13-3 Eagles team in the second round of the NFL playoffs tomorrow in South Philly.
The national media have determined that injured Eagles QB Carson Wentz accrued those sparkling 13 wins all on his own, and that the 52 other players in Midnight Green who battled for four straight months to get the No. 1 seed in the NFC efforts were just window dressing, which is clearly false!
Falcons QB Matt Ryan will know the difference come game time when DT Fletcher Cox and company are fiercely pressuring him for 60 minutes that could determine the winner.
Ryan has had a good year, but when he’s under heavy duress from a pass rush his accuracy plummets, going from 71% when kept clean to 51% when he gets dirty. Expect DC Jim Schwartz to dial up some blitzes to keep Ryan skittish in the pocket.
The Eagles run defense is also near the top of NFL rankings and won’t give up the kinds of yardage the Rams did last week in their losing effort.
Look for the Birds to run the ball early and often with Jay Ajayi (above) and LeGarrette Blount gaining big. Nick Foles will have to throw the ball to win a playoff game, but his attempts should be kept in the 18-20 area.
No doubt not having Pro-Bowl QB Wentz is a huge loss for this Eagles team, but there is still a lot of pride in that locker room.
I see the Eagles winning the game and moving on to the NFC Championship game, versus the Vikings or Saints at the Linc.