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News, Notes And The Playoffs Are Here!

Posted Jan 8, 2018

The formula, largely, is unchanged. Playoff football is different than in the regular season – the intensity, the tempo, the stakes. And as we learned this weekend while wonderfully sitting back and watching during the Eagles’ bye, the teams that handle those three elements the best are the ones that advance. The Atlanta Falcons come to town on Saturday, and already there are matchups and scenarios and situations to discuss …

The formula, largely, is unchanged. Playoff football is different than in the regular season – the intensity, the tempo, the stakes. And as we learned this weekend while wonderfully sitting back and watching during the Eagles’ bye, the teams that handle those three elements the best are the ones that advance.

The Atlanta Falcons come to town on Saturday, and already there are matchups and scenarios and situations to discuss …

    • Only the Tennessee win over Kansas City defied the law of the land in the game of football: The teams that win the turnover battle by two or more, as the Chiefs did on Saturday night, statistically win more than 80 percent of the games in the NFL. That didn’t happen as the Chiefs coughed up a 21-3 lead, had an offense that became stagnant in the second half, and gave the Titans – despite Tennessee doing everything it could to lose the game – a chance to come back and spring the upset. Later that night, Atlanta put on a clinic on how to win on the road – winning the turnover battle, scoring touchdowns 2 of 4 times in the red zone while keeping the Rams to one touchdown in four red zone visits.  A great reason for Carolina’s loss? The Panthers were 1-of-4 in the red zone and New Orleans was 3-for-3.

    • How good are the Falcons? They’ve won down the stretch after an up-and-down regular season, they are experienced in the postseason and they have a defense that will play well on the road, as we saw on Saturday night.

    • Quarterback Matt Ryan has not had a single three-touchdown passing game this season and he took a beating on Saturday night. The Eagles must win with their defensive line against an Atlanta front that is playing with a backup at left guard and that allowed quite a bit of pressure to the Rams. Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan are going to have to win big here.

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  • How to contain wide receiver Julio Jones? He’s a game changer, the total package. The Eagles, particularly Jalen Mills, played against Jones last season, so there is familiarity. Expect safety help over the top in this one. Jones had 10 catches, 135 yards, and a couple of key drops in the Eagles’ win at Lincoln Financial Field, a game, by the way, in which the Eagles ran for 207 yards against Atlanta.

  • In last season’s win over Atlanta, Jim Schwartz’s defense limited the Falcons to 48 rushing yards in 13 attempts and had four tackles for loss in the ground game. Most important: Atlanta converted just 2 of 11 third downs.

  • The Eagles haven’t run the ball as explosively in the last few games as they did in the first three months of the season, and improving the ground game has been a priority. Atlanta did a masterful job controlling the clock with the running game on Saturday night, and some suggest the Eagles play smash-mouth football and run, run, run. That’s fine, but you have to make big plays in the passing game to score points in this league.

  • Some preliminary injuries to consider for Atlanta, although the degree of severity is yet to be determined: RB Devonta Freeman (knee), WR Julio Jones (ankle, ribs), KR/WR Andre Roberts (knee, ankle), C Alex Mack (calf), DE Adrian Clayborn (calf). Yes, the Falcons have some bumps and bruises.

  • Atlanta’s defense is extremely fast and aggressive to the football and has led the way in the Falcons’ 6-2 record in the second half of the regular season. Great group of linebackers and a strong secondary. The Eagles need to be on point for this one.

  • It appears that the Eagles are in really good shape (fingers crossed) from a health standpoint. Defensive end Brandon Graham and left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai should be good to go and left guard Stefen Wisniewski is fine.

  • Where did the Rams have success offensively against Atlanta? Running back Todd Gurley had 101 rushing yards on 14 carries. The receivers had big days – Robert Woods had nine catches and 142 yards and Cooper Kupp caught eight passes for 69 yards and a score. Where the Rams did not do much was at tight end, so maybe Zach Ertz becomes a primary target in this game. That makes sense, right? Ertz had 72 receptions, 800 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games and 12 starts.

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