Falcons At Eagles
After an explosive start to the season under first-year head coach Dan Quinn, 2015 seemed like it would be a year for the books for the Atlanta Falcons. They began with a commanding opening, turning in a dominant 6-1 record to start the year.
Then Week 8 hit.
The Falcons dropped a close one to Tampa Bay. The story was the same in Week 9, falling to the 49ers by just one point. Not even the bye week could help get the team back on track, and suddenly the group that began 5-0 was 6-7. Such a promising start ultimately meant little as the Falcons finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
So, what does last year's failure mean for 2016? The Falcons will certainly be entering the upcoming season with something to prove and they'll have a fire under them.
One of the team's biggest strengths last season was its passing game. Wide receiver Julio Jones is coming off a career season in which he caught 136 passes for 1,871 yards, the most of any receiver in the NFL. Atlanta finished with the seventh-ranked offense, averaging 374.1 yards per game. In addition to Jones' career-best season, running back Devonta Freeman exploded during his sophomore campaign and rushed for 1,056 yards on 265 carries.
While Atlanta will look to redeem itself from the 2015 collapse, the Eagles will have the opportunity for payback after last year's season opener. The Birds dropped a heartbreaker on Monday Night Football after their second-half comeback fell short. The two teams will meet again midway through the 2016 season in Week 10 at 1 PM, but this time, Atlanta will travel to Lincoln Financial Field.
- Julie Bacanskas
Eagles At Seahawks
Seattle's CenturyLink Field is widely considered one of the toughest stadiums in the NFL to play in for the visiting team. The "12th Man" cranks up the decibel level to a deafening volume, and rainy, chilly northwestern conditions don't help matters much.
Plus, the Seahawks haven't been slouches on the field during the past few years. They've appeared in two of the last three Super Bowls, Russell Wilson has developed into one of the most effective quarterbacks in the NFL and the defense is second to none when it comes to physically intimidating opponents.
That being said, the Eagles actually have found some success at Seattle's home stadium, going 2-1 there all time. Both wins, though, came before Seattle's recent resurgence to the top of the NFC. The Eagles and Seahawks last met in Seattle in 2011, a game in which the Eagles lost by 17 points on a Thursday night. The most recent matchup between the two teams came in Philadelphia in 2014 in which Seattle edged the Eagles out by 10 points as the Eagles sputtered down the stretch and failed to make the playoffs.
Beating the Seahawks in Seattle is one of the most difficult tasks in the NFL (the Seahawks have lost just five home games over the course of the last three seasons), but the Eagles will have their chance to come away with a huge road victory in Week 11.
Packers At Eagles
Late November, Monday Night Football at Lincoln Financial Field, the Packers are in town – what more could you ask for?
The Eagles and Packers will square off third time in the past four regular seasons. If you take into account the preseason meeting between the two teams last year, this will be the fourth straight season that the Eagles have taken on Green Bay. In 2013, the Eagles rode into Lambeau and came away with a 27-13 victory, as part of their second-half surge toward winning the NFC East. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed that game with an injury, but he was fully healthy in 2014, when he led the Packers to a 53-20 victory over the Eagles on a frigid night in Wisconsin.
The last time the Packers came to Philadelphia was in January of 2011 for a Wild Card playoff matchup. The Eagles had a chance to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, but Michael Vick threw an interception in the end zone which ultimately sealed a 21-16 victory for the Packers.
Green Bay has been among the top teams in the NFC over the past few seasons, and Rodgers and his receiving corps always present a major challenge to opposing defenses. So as has been the case for the past two regular season matchups, the Eagles will get to see how they measure up against one of the better teams in the conference.
Eagles At Bengals
Since drafting Andy Dalton in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals have been in some respects a model of consistency that would make other franchises jealous.
They have won 10 or more games in four consecutive seasons, which is tied for the second longest streak in the NFL. Cincinnati made the playoffs in 2015 for the fifth straight year. Only three other teams can say that.
The problem is those three other teams have won a Super Bowl during that run. The Bengals have not won a playoff game.
Marvin Lewis is the winningest head coach in franchise history as he enters his 14th season with the team, but boasts an 0-7 record in the postseason.
2015 offered Cincinnati's best chance to break through and make a deep playoff run. The defense ranked No. 2 in points allowed. Dalton was having a career year. He completed over 66 percent of his attempts, had the highest yards per attempt average of his career (8.4), threw 25 touchdowns against only seven interceptions.
Then, Dalton fractured the thumb on his throwing hand in a Week 14 game against the Steelers making a tackle on an interception return. A.J. McCarron took over the reins at quarterback and in the Wild Card playoff game versus the Steelers rallied Cincinnati from a 15-0 deficit in the fourth quarter to give the Bengals the lead. The defense, that had been stout all season, committed consecutive 15-yard penalties on the final drive putting Pittsburgh in position for the game-winning field goal.
Dalton is back, but without two of his top receivers from last year as Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu left in free agency. The Bengals' secondary watched the league leader in interceptions, safety Reggie Nelson, sign with the Oakland Raiders.
The Bengals have quietly been one of the most consistent winning programs in the NFL, but the cloud of playoff doom will hang over their heads all season as it has been 25 years since the franchise's last postseason victory. This matchup to start the month of December will pit one of these teams closer to being a part of the final 12 once the regular season is over.
- Chris McPherson
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