For me, there’s nothing better than an Eagles’ prime time game. The anticipation that normally only lasts until 1:00, is with me all day. The prime timers cause nervous excitement for not only me but my entire household as well! 

Sunday night games normally lead to Sunday afternoon conversations like this with my wife, Dani.

Dani: “What do you want for dinner?”
Me: “Do you think we can pressure Matt Ryan enough for some… turnovers?”
Dani: “No seriously what do you want?” 
Me: “Roasted Falcon? but seriously don’t forget the turnovers… we need them to win!”
Dani: “C’mon you need to tell me what you want”
Me: “Fine. I want the Eagles to win by twenty, but I’ll eat whatever you want as long as we’re done by 8:19”

My weird dad jokes aside, the Bird Battle is on Sunday Night Football at 8:20 and I couldn’t be more excited. 

Things to watch for:

Can the Falcons keep from being embarrassed yet again? The last two times the Eagles and Falcons faced off, the Eagles embarrassed them. In the divisional playoff game two years ago, the Falcons came into the Linc as favorites, only for their highly touted offense to score 10 points. Then in the Thursday night season opener of 2018 they came into the Linc again and managed to score only 10 points. Each game nationally televised, each game ending on an incomplete pass to arguably the best wide receiver in the game, Julio Jones. Does this sound familiar? The Eagles will be playing the Falcons again in prime time, and the Falcons have big time pressure on them after the beatdown the Vikings laid on them last week. 

If the Eagles win the coin toss will they make the right choice, to receive the ball? This point will be totally irrelevant if they lose the coin toss, but the Eagles under Doug, if they win the toss, generally choose to defer and play defense first.  Don’t get me wrong, I love scoring at the end of one half and then getting the ball back to score after halftime, but I think it would be wise for the Eagles to get the ball and score early. Take the crowd out of the game. Put even more pressure on Matt Ryan to try to force throws. Get the Eagles defense excited to play with a lead. Try something different in the first quarter. The Eagles in the first quarter have been horrendous all of last year and the start of this year too. 

Can the Eagles secondary hang with Atlanta’s Wide Receivers? Last week during the first half, the unknown Redskins receivers played like All-Pro’s against our defense. Catch after catch, with no one in green within five yards of them. Atlanta’s worst receiver, is probably better than Washington’s best one. Look to see if our secondary can stick with Atlanta’s guys. This is a big test for them early on in the year. 

Keys to Victory

Control the time of possession by running the ball. Time of possession is a very big indicator of who will win a football game. All six of the NFC playoff teams from 2018 were in the top ten in time of possession. The Eagles led the league in 2017 when they won the super bowl. It’s universally accepted (minus the coach of the 0-2 UCLA Bruins) that if you control the time of possession you control the game, and you generally win those games that you control. The best way to do this is to run the ball. It is demoralizing for a team to give up a 14+ play 8 minute touchdown drive. Let’s aim for two on Sunday.

Get pressure with the Defensive Line. Jim Schwartz made it clear in his press conference this week that he is not going to blitz: “Everybody always wants a blitz but nobody likes when those deep balls go up against blitz.” Well Jim nobody also likes when you rush four and the secondary can’t cover or just stops covering (See the coverage from Andrew Sendejo on Vernon Davis’ touchdown last week) the opposing teams wide receivers. Matt Ryan cannot be given time to pick apart the Eagles secondary, he must be pressured.

Score a touchdown in the first quarter. As mentioned above the Eagles need to score early. If they score a first quarter touchdown, I’m confident they’ll win the game.

Prediction

I think everything clicks for the Eagles in this game, they dominate both sides of the ball, Atlanta can’t get over their magic number of 10, and people start whispering afterwards if it’s time to start rebuilding in Atlanta.

Eagles 38 – Falcons 10