Dec. 28, 2018
NFC Divisional Round Pick
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (+3)
Now that everyone is back from Costco with their 30 pack of Falcon Kool-Aid, I hope you enjoy it, but you might need a real drink by the time this game is over.
This stinks up and down as an Eagle’s line from the moment Vegas released the spread as an Atlanta Falcon favorite at -2.5, and I haven’t questioned it since. Many will argue it's a Falcon's line because they're a 6th seed favored on the road, but if you're a bookmaker the number is actually smart. Vegas set the cheese, don't get caught in the trap.
"But the Falcons just beat the Rams and the Rams have the number one ranked offense."
"But the Falcons went to the Super Bowl last year and they have the experience."
"But Nick Foles stinks and can't do anything for the offense."
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One of my keys to handicapping games is getting after teams on back-to-back road games. More traveling means less time to prepare and practice, and less time to prepare and practice give the home team an even bigger advantage. It also has a mental and physical toll on the players, especially when crossing time zones. In fact, this will be Atlanta's fourth road game of their last five games; their last game being the furthest distance. Last week, the Falcons traveled all the way across the country to LA, back to Atlanta, and now up to Philly. That's a lot of wear and tear that doesn't bode well for the Dirty Birds. Not only is this a back-to-back road game for the Falcons, but being the favorite with all these forces working against you makes this pick that much better.
I don't think many would argue the Falcons have a better team than the one they had last year. Last season, Atlanta was rolling with a better offense lead by a better coordinator in Kyle Shanahan. With the loss of Shanahan, this offense has still been able to move the ball but has struggled to find the end zone. During Atlanta's dominant road to the Super Bowl last year, they made a trip to Philadelphia on the end of back-to-back road games and took a loss against a worse 2016 Eagles team. Logic would say if a better Falcons team lost to a worse Eagles team, than a worse Falcons team would most certainly lose to a better Eagles team, right?
I like the Eagles to implement the same game plan as they did last year, and stop Atlanta's lethal rushing attack with their number one rated rushing defense. The Eagles are a force against the run limiting opponents to an average of 79 rushing yards per game. When the run game begins to break down, Matty Ice will be forced to air it out more which should then allow DC Jim Schwartz to let the dogs off the leash. Look for Matt Ryan (who's had to deal with personal matters off the field this week) to get frustrated and flustered as the game goes on.
Offensively, the Eagles won't need Nick Foles to do much this game. I believe the Eagles have been keeping Jay Ajayi fresh for this very moment. Since arriving in Philly, Ajayi has never gotten more than 15 carries in one game and has made a little ruckus about that. There have been reports that his attitude and mood have been the best it's ever been this week. This leads me to believe big plays are in store for the English running back. If Ajayi can get 20 carries with a healthy mix of Blount and Clement, the Eagles can really set the tone and pace of this game. As long as Foles doesn't turn the ball over or make bad decisions, the Eagles should be able to win this game pretty comfortably.
Lastly, the Eagles are practically undefeated at home this year. The Birds went 7-1 at the Linc with their only loss coming from the Cowboys in Week 17 against the backups. Since the Doug Pedarson era, the Eagles are a healthy 13-3 at home! Don't get caught snoozin' on Dougy P's crew! Take the Birds with the points but look for the outright win!
E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES! GO BIRDS!