Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles Picks & Preview

There is no doubt that the atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field will be electric when the (6-0) Atlanta Falcons come to town to face off against the (3-3) Philadelphia Eagles (1pm ET, Sunday).

The Michael Vick/Asante Samuel Connection

Before Michael Vick was turning heads in more way than one for the Eagles, he was the golden child, making incredible plays for the Falcons.

In Vick’s career with the Falcons he posted some monster numbers but did have some subpar seasons as well. In six seasons with the team, Vick only started the full 16 games once, but did play in 15 games an additional three times. He threw for 71 touchdowns and rushed for an additional 21 scores. He threw for over 2,000 yards four times and only once failed to complete at least 50 percent of his passes.

Following the 2006 season however, Vick found himself out of a job and effectively out of Atlanta as he was convicted and sent to prison on counts of illegal dog fighting. He returned to football three seasons later in 2009, and that is when Vick began his career with the Eagles.

In his first three seasons with the team, it didn’t take long for Vick to get back to the form he had in his early years with the Falcons. In 12 games in 2010, he had a career season, completing a career best 62.9 percent of passes, throwing for a then career high 3,018 yards and throwing 21 touchdown passes to only six interceptions. He also rushed for 676 yards and an additional nine scores.

So far in 2012 however, Vick has not been very sharp. He leads the league with a staggering 17 turnovers, nine of which are lost fumbles. He has managed to lead the Eagles to several one-point victories but ultimately it has been his touchdown to turnover ratio that has cost the team as of late.

After establishing himself as a shutdown corner with the New England Patriots, Asante Samuel, now with Atlanta, joined Philadelphia prior to the 2008 offseason.

NFL Odds at BetOnlineIn his first year with the team, Samuel performed well, but it wasn’t until his second season that he really began to show his worth. In 2009, Samuel intercepted nine balls and recovered a fumble. He also made 40 tackles.

In his next two seasons with Philly, Samuel continued to be one of the better corners in the game but the problem was, the Eagles were in the process of acquiring two of the best corners in the game, leaving Samuel as the odd-man out. Before the start of the 2012 season, the Pro Bowler was traded to the Falcons.

On the season, Samuel has 23 tackles in just six games played and an interception returned for a touchdown in a 79-yard play. And just like Vick, he will be looking forward to his first time facing his old team.

Stopping Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez & the Falcons’ Passing Game

Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan

Ever since the Falcons drafted the Boston College kid out of Pennsylvania in Matt Ryan, this team has lived and died by the pass. Ryan has been phenomenal in his first five years in the NFL, somehow finding a way to get better and better each year.

Flanked with some of the quickest and most explosive wide receivers in the game, 2012 has been no exception for Ryan and the Falcons offense.

  • Matt Ryan (QB) 2012 Stats: 67.8 completion percentage, 1,176 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, six interceptions, 98.8 passer rating

Ryan’s numbers, as good as they are, have actually been sliding down a bit. He managed to go the first two weeks without an interception while also throwing five touchdowns. Ryan threw an interception in each of his next three games but also had a total of eight touchdowns. Although his passer rating has been slowly declining since week three, it really wasn’t until week six that Ryan played poorly with three interceptions and just one touchdown.

Against a bit of a struggling Eagles secondary and following a bye, Ryan could look to get back on track. While Philly does have two of the best corners in Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Atlanta has two of the best receivers and a Hall-of-Fame tight end as well.

  • Julio Jones (WR) 2012 Stats: 30 receptions, 376 yards, 4 touchdowns
  • Roddy White (WR) 2012 Stats: 37 receptions, 553 yards, 4 touchdowns
  • Tony Gonzalez (TE) 2012 Stats: 43 receptions, 430 yards, 4 touchdowns

Reinvigorating LeSean McCoy & Eagles Run Game

With Vick struggling, the Eagles will have to find some way to get their offense going. The offensive line is incredibly beat up and Vick has no protection to always look for the long pass. In order to open up the field for this play, head coach Andy Reid needs to emphasize the run game and increase the role of Pro Bowl running back, LeSean McCoy.

As just a two-year player out of Pittsburgh, McCoy shocked the NFL last year with what he was able to do to opposing rushing defenses.  He scored a touchdown in all but two games and a rushing touchdown in all but three. In six games, he scored at least two touchdowns through either rushing or receiving. He finished the season with 1,309 yards on the ground and 315 receiving yards in 48 receptions as well.

To put his 2012 struggles into context, McCoy had ten touchdowns by week eight last season. He has just three at this point this year.

The good news for McCoy however is that he will be facing a Falcons’ rushing defense that is ranked 28th in the league. Couple that with the fact that Reid has said, the Eagles’ rushing game will be more prominent in the coming games, and it all points to a breakout for the four year back.

Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles Betting Picks Advice

As the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL, the Falcons actually come into this game as three-point road underdogs. On the season, they are 4-2 against the spread but a more telling number is that the Eagles are 7-2-1 against the spread in their last ten against Atlanta.

Also, in the Andy Reid era, the Eagles have never lost coming off their bye. Despite the Falcons being undefeated, expect this trend to continue as the Eagles will cover the spread and get yet another post bye week victory. To summarize:

NFL betting lines at BetOnline