The Philadelphia Eagles are starting their 2011 NFL season with two straight road games, after the team’s week one win over the St. Louis Rams, and are now heading to Atlanta to throw down with the the Falcons. Philadelphia had a convincing win over the Rams, as the Falcons had a rough loss on the road to the Chicago Bears in week one and are looking to rebound in their home opener. At the beginning of the season, there was much talk of both the Falcons and Eagles as Super Bowl teams, and this could be an early preview of a playoff game later this year.
Here are five bold predictions for the week two throw-down:
5. There Will Be a Healthy Dosage of Michael Turner
The Eagles passing defense was rock solid against the Rams, but the team’s rushing defense was miserable. Throughout the entire game the Eagles struggled to contain rushers, and St. Louis opened the game with a 77 yard touchdown rush. There is no chance the Eagles will be able to get away with sub-par defense like that when playing against a running back like Michael Turner in Atlanta.
The Falcons rely heavily on their rushing game, and Turner could rip apart the Eagles defense is they give him the chance. Considering how poor the Eagles did last week, the Falcons will be handing it off to Turner more than usual, and will be hoping for even the slightest slip-up. Even worse than giving up big runs for the Eagles, would be a consistent five yard a rush average, which is a guaranteed way to lose the game.
4. The Eagles Secondary Will Get Its First Turnover
Sam Bradford did a great job keeping the ball away from the Eagles’ trio of cornerbacks, and was throwing in the short to medium almost all game. Matt Ryan is not that type of quarterback and he won’t be afraid to go deep down field to one of his many weapons. With as much talent as the Eagles have lined up at corner, Ryan will have a hard time finding a truly open receiver downfield.
Ryan has known to be more agressive when throwing it deep, and that is an area of the field the Eagles will have covered. It may not be one of the ‘Big Three’ in Philadelphia, but one player in that secondary will get an interception. With the combo of the Eagles defensive line forcing pressure on Ryan, chances are that he won’t stay perfect all game.
3. DeSean Jackson Will Be Essentially Non-Existent
Last season the Eagles played the Falcons at home, and the entire first half DeSean Jackson ripped up Atlanta’s secondary. Late in the second quarter, Jackson made a catch over the middle of the field, and Dunta Robinson laid down a helmet to helmet hit. Knocking both Robinson and Jackson out of the game with concussions, and relieving Atlanta of Jackson doing more damage in the game.
The Falcons may have made the mistake of not covering Jackson last season, but this game they will be prepared. There will be an almost guaranteed double-team on Jackson, and that should keep him under wraps for the majority of the game.
2. Dion Lewis Will Do Something Big
In the Eagles week one game, Dion Lewis was incredibly persistent on taking the ball out of the endzone. On most of the returns, he didn’t get back to the 20, and it was a poor decision to not just take the knee. But on every return, he showed the potential to take one back to the house with his elusiveness and baseline speed, similar to the Green Bay Packers rookie returner Randall Cobb.
I have faith that Bobby April and Andy Reid have talked it over with Lewis, and they have formulated some plan on kick returns. When the Eagles drafted Lewis, I didn’t envision him in the kick return game, but after week one, I can see why Philadelphia put him there. With one missed tackle, Lewis could be gone.
1. Michael Vick Will Have a Good Game – Not a Great One
The biggest storyline heading into this week two matchup is that it’s Michael Vick’s first game back in Atlanta since coming back into the NFL. The general opinion is that Vick will be playing with incredible emotion and go bonkers on the Falcons defense. He will be playing for himself, and it will be the best game of Vick’s career.
I will concede that the emotions for this game will be high, but I don’t think Vick will go crazy. The Falcons have, (According to ESPN’s statistics department), the best cornerback duo in the NFL, and also a talented front seven. I think that Vick will have a statistically good game, like he did all last season, but it won’t be anything mind blowing. There is a lot of talent in Atlanta, and it will be tough for the Eagles offense to start with, let alone Vick to have a career game.
As I stated before, this could definitely be a postseason matchup, and this game could set the tone for both organizations. This game will be important for Vick, and Reid and the Eagles are all too aware. As this game is equally important to the Falcons, as Vick was once their franchise player, and they don’t want to lose a marquee game to him. This will be a close fight until the end, but my final prediction will be – Eagles 24 – Falcons 20