When I say “Atlanta Falcons,” do you become nervous? Is that something that strikes fear into your heart as an Eagles fans?
No, of course not. The Falcons are whatever. They’re a team that crested when they blew a 28-3 Super Bowl lead two seasons ago and now they’re exactly what their record says they are: 7-9 last year and 0-1 this year. They lost 28-12 in week one while allowing 172 rushing yards and just 97 passing yards, as Kirk Cousins only had to throw the ball 10 times in the Vikings’ win.
If you wanna crown ’em, then crown their asses, but this is not like a road trip to New England, Seattle, or Dallas. The Atlanta Falcons are not among the NFL elite and have not been since the Eagles knocked them out of the playoffs on January 13th of 2018.
If, however, you’re looking for a reason to be concerned, it’s worth noting that the Birds have lost their last two trips to Georgia, back before Arthur Blank’s brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium was completed. So even though the Eagles seem to “have the Falcons’ number” via three straight wins, those W’s all came at home. The Eagles are 1-2 in their last three trips south dating back to 2009, courtesy of Football Database:
It’s also true that Exton native Matt Ryan hasn’t played particularly well against the Eagles in recent years.
Over the last three contests, which includes the playoff game, these are the stat lines he’s put up:
- 21-43, 251 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception, 4 sacks, 57.4 QB rating
- 22-36, 210 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions, 3 sacks, 86.6 QB rating
- 18-33, 267 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 2 sacks, 78.7 QB rating
Nothing to write home about there.
Of course, Ryan does play better at home, as most quarterbacks do, and on the Georgia turf his career splits look something like this:
- 67.7 completion percentage
- 145 touchdowns
- 60 interceptions
- 99.5 QB rating
- 151 sacks
- 7.9 yards per passing attempt
Compare that to these numbers, which he’s put up on the road:
- 63.3 completion percentage
- 152 touchdowns
- 75 interceptions
- 90.7 QB rating
- 174 sacks
- 7.2 yards per passing attempt
Those are typical splits for a quarterback playing at home vs. playing on the road. Ryan is better down there. He’s only two seasons removed from his MVP campaign, but he’s now 34 years old and I think we’ve seen the best of what he has to offer.
Julio Jones, meantime, hasn’t had a touchdown against the Eagles since 2015, so while he’s gashed the Birds for chunk yardage in recent years, the secondary has successfully kept him out of the end zone.
Beyond him, there’s not too much to be worried about. Do you worry about Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith? Are you concerned about Calvin Ridley, Austin Hooper, and Grady Jarrett? You shouldn’t be, not if you’re a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
The Falcons have some pieces, sure. They’re playing at home, the second best squad to play in that stadium. But if the Eagles are the team we think they are, then they should be able to beat an opponent that crested a few years ago.
Ray Didinger doesn’t seem to agree, but we shall see what happens:
Ray Didinger: “I’m taking the Atlanta Falcons.” 😳 pic.twitter.com/qTYprGNkGU
— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) September 12, 2019
And if the Falcons win, then I didn’t write this story. I’ll put “Joy on Broad” on the byline.