Can Nick Foles keep the Eagles’ NFC Championship hopes alive?
After snatching up the NFC East with three weeks left to play, the Philadelphia Eagles are fresh off a first-round bye and will host the Atlanta Falcons — and their experienced offense — on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. ET on NBC (live streams at NBCSports.com, Yahoo! Sports, and FuboTV).
Since MVP candidate Carson Wentz went down in Week 14, the Eagles’ offense has been somewhat stagnant under Nick Foles. Despite a different cadence, and newer chemistry with receivers, Foles has been gradually getting his footing — although limited snaps in the Week 17 loss to the Cowboys certainly didn’t do him any favors. Now, with extra time to prepare, Foles seems ready to trust his receivers, namely Alshon Jeffery, who saw only two targets from Foles in Week 16 against the Raiders.
The Eagles have incredible depth with dominant running backs, including players like LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement. But despite how successful the trio has been at barreling through defenders, the Eagles’ passing game will have to get going early to create some opportunities on the ground. Foles had a penchant for big passing plays during his first go-around with the Eagles in 2013 and will look to return to form to give the offensive play callers a bit more to work with.
On the other sideline, the visiting Falcons have made it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs in part due to their veteran experience in quarterback Matt Ryan and in an offense that can be one of the most explosive in the league. With players like Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu at wideout and Devonta Freeman at running back, there is no shortage of offensive playmakers for Atlanta.
The team is coming off a big Wild Card Round win over the up-and-coming Los Angeles Rams — who couldn’t come up with their first playoff win since the 2004 season. The Falcons’ defense was able to limit Rams quarterback Jared Goff to 259 yards passing and just one touchdown. By creating turnovers and limiting their own on offense, the Falcons were able to control the clock and finish the day with a 26-13 win.
The winner of this NFC Divisional Round game will face the winner of Sunday’s Saints-Vikings game in the NFC Championship.
Time, TV channel, and streaming info
Time: 4:35 p.m. ET
Location: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.
Streaming: NBC Sports | Yahoo! Sports | FuboTV
Odds: The Falcons are 2.5-point favorites.
Falcons vs. Eagles news:
There is some uncertainty whether first-year Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will be back with the team in 2018.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has been having his players with Super Bowl rings (like, Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long, and Torrey Smith) talk to the team this week.
The Falcons appear to be playing their best football of the season at the right time.
Only one player sat out of practice earlier in the week for Philadelphia, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
Ryan’s experience in a number of different schemes has allowed him to develop into a versatile weapon for the Falcons.
What we’re seeing now from Ryan is a QB who is comfortable doing everything. He’s fine taking a back seat to the running game if the situation calls for it. When needed, he can throw the ball up and down the field and carry the team with his arm. Ryan can also show off his mobility, executing play-action fakes and buying extra time on bootlegs and rollouts.
Much of the Eagles hopes lies with Foles, and he’ll have to find a way to jump start the offense if they hope to make a long run in the postseason.
Foles is going to need to push the ball down field more often in the playoffs in order for the Eagles to win. Teams are going to put eight men in the box and try to stop the run. Defenses are going to try to take away Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor in the underneath passing game. The Falcons have the speed and talent do as much.
Falcons vs. Eagles predictions:
It’s not hard to suspect that the underdogs heading into this matchup would have been the Falcons if Wentz was still starting at QB, but that isn’t the case. With Foles once again taking over in Philadelphia, its offense isn’t nearly as dominant, but with a solid supporting cast, the Eagles still win their first playoff game under Pederson. Only two SB Nation experts agree, with six expecting the Falcons to get a big win on the road.
Check out our Divisional Round picks for even more expert opinions.
How the Eagles can soar without Carson Wentz
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