Last week’s Sunday Night Football match-up featured a rivalry game that ended up going very one-sided as the New England Patriots defeated longstanding AFC rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, 33-3.
What will happen this week as another rivalry takes center stage on Sunday Night as the Philadelphia Eagles head to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to take on the Atlanta Falcons today (8.20pm ET Sunday)?
A Non-Traditional Rivalry Spanning 50+ Years
There is nothing expected or traditional about the rivalry between the Eagles and the Falcons. I mean, sure, they are both bird based teams and Atlanta’s quarterback grew up rooting for the Eagles, oh and the two cities have an intense baseball rivalry, but other than that, using the term rivalry might sound off. The Eagles and Falcons don’t play in the same division to have a divisional rivalry or the same state or nearby locale to have a geographic rivalry. So what exactly is it that drives the rivalry between these two unlikely enemies?
For starters, the two teams first met in 1966, some 50+ years ago. It was one of the earliest games the Falcons played in their history and they lost. For the next several decades, the two teams have met once every several years, including four times in the postseason. For Falcons fans, this is probably where the real meat of the rivalry comes in as outside of the Minnesota Vikings, who are 0-4, no team has lost more to the Eagles in the playoffs than the Falcons. With the exception of an Atlanta playoff victory from 1978 in fact, the Falcons are 0-3 against the Eagles in the postseason with two of those three games not being particularly close. By contrast, that third game was close, a real dagger to Atlanta, one they were forced to relive almost to a tee in their week one meeting with the Eagles the following year.
That was 2018, the year the Eagles defied all odds and went on to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history, a journey that began with their hold-your-breath victory over the Falcons. It gave the Eagles their 10th victory in the prior 14 tries against Atlanta. When they beat them in the regular season just a few months later, that gave Philadelphia win No.11.
We are talking a span of 50 years. Both teams have experienced no shortage of changes since then. Heck, both teams have seen changes since just the last time they met as it was Nick Foles helming the Eagles in both those victories, not Carson Wentz, who Atlanta will see today. After missing both the NFC divisional playoff game and the season opener against the Falcons as he recovered from his ACL injury, and then missing more time, as well as all of last year’s playoff run and the run up to it, Wentz returned, solidified as the starter in 2019. In his first game back since the back injury of last season, Wentz threw for 313 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, a QB rating of 121 and a completion percentage of 71.8. It was a great effort, one fitting of a Super Bowl winning QB, not a QB whose injuries forced him to sit out the playoff runs his team has been on during his tenure.
Wentz kept himself off the ground, relying on one of the league’s best offensive lines who kept him sack-free. Unfortunately for the Falcons and Matt Ryan, who has entered his name into the conversation as one of the best pure gunslingers in the NFL over the past few seasons, that was not the case. Ryan’s line surrendered four sacks for a loss of 32 yards. Ryan himself didn’t help his cause, throwing two interceptions and just two touchdowns. Entering the season with such high expectations, the Falcons were embarrassed on Sunday to put it bluntly, losing to the Vikings, 28-12. Ryan’s offense was nowhere to be found and that certainly put a microscope on the team’s performance. That’s a microscope that will be on them this week even more so now, as Ryan and the Falcons will look to get the monkey off their back that has been beating the Eagles.
Red Zone? More like No Zone for Atlanta
As simple as it sounds in the age of statistics and analyses on every little thing, winning any sporting event really comes down to a basic concept. Score more runs, more points, more goals, more baskets, etc, than the other team. Against the Eagles over the last three meetings, the Falcons haven’t done that. This is where it goes into the stats. Because a big part of the reason why Atlanta has struggled to outscore Philadelphia is just how poor the Falcons have been when converting red zone offense into touchdowns.
Despite having one of the best weapons in the NFL in Julio Jones, Ryan is just 4-of-17 for just 19 yards in his nine trips to the red zone against the Eagles. The Falcons have converted touchdowns in just two (Ryan has one of the two) of those nine attempts, a woefully low percentage. He has been sacked two times and has a passer rating of just 34.7 in those attempts. Unfortunately for the Falcons, one of the things that hasn’t changed about the matchup between these two things, is Philadelphia’s rock-solid red zone defense, which last year allowed an NFL-best red zone touchdown conversion rate of just 44.6 percent.
For the Falcons, part of what is so frustrating about this lack of red zone offense is in their last two games, including most notably in the playoffs, Atlanta had a chance to win with red zone possessions. There is no doubt the Falcons have been watching that game tape in preparation for today’s contest.
Our Preview’s Philadelphia Eagles vs Atlanta Falcons Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
Thanks to two deep bombs to the returning DeSean Jackson, the Eagles are 1-0 and not 0-1 after a bit of a sluggish start against the Washington Redskins. While the Falcons really looked like a shell of themselves in their week one meeting with Minnesota, it won’t take much for Atlanta to tap into their high-octane offense of recent memory. The Eagles will need to play better and play for all four quarters to win this Sunday night matchup. So here are our Eagles vs Falcons predictions for this Sunday Night NFL preview:
- Looking at the odds available from the best of the U.S. sportsbooks, there is just a one-point spread in it. A strong road team of recent, take the Eagles -1pts @ best odds of -112 with BetOnline.
- Philadelphia plays to lower scores on the road, so we will go under 52.5pts @ best odds of -105 with Bovada.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.