The 2017 divisional playoffs, Atlanta Falcons vs the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s the 4thquarter, Atlanta is down 5, and are in the red zone in prime scoring position. The Falcons are two yards away from scoring. Alex Mack snaps the ball, Matt Ryan rolls out to his right and awaits for a player to get open. Ryan back-steps and sees Julio Jones has an opportunity; the ball goes right through his open hands. This was the last time we saw the Falcons play meaningful football. They were eliminated by the Eagles who later went on to defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl 52. Since Matt Ryan has entered the league every year the Falcons have made the playoffs the team they lost to either went on to win or lose the Super Bowl. Let’s dive in to some things you should know about the upcoming game.
One Score Games
The Falcons were only one score away from heading back to the NFC Championship. Atlanta found themselves in ten one score games in 2017, while the Eagles were in six of their own. Atlanta’s record in those one score games was 7-3, the Eagles were 5-0. We will exclude the final game for the Eagles as several starters rested. Of those 10 games for Atlanta they were ahead in 5, behind in 4, and tied in 1 going into the fourth quarter. The Eagles found themselves ahead in 4 games and behind in 1. When the teams met in the playoffs the Eagles were ahead going into the 4thquarter. If it wasn’t for Keanu Neal punting the ball into Torrey Smith’s hands at the end of the 2ndquarter we could have been looking at an entirely different ball game.
Matt Ryan’s Stats
If you are a casual fan and don’t pay attention to the Falcons it seems to be a popular opinion that Matt Ryan was only good because of Kyle Shanahan. In Ryan’s first season under Shanahan he threw 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. At that point in time it was the lowest total touchdowns for Ryan since his rookie season and his 2ndhighest interception total. The following season Ryan passed for a career high 38 touchdowns and career low 7 interceptions. In year one under Steve Sarkisian Ryan threw 20 touchdowns, while throwing 12 interceptions. Of the 12 interceptions Ryan threw in 2017, 8 of them were due to the receiver deflecting the ball instead of catching it, or them running the wrong route. Atlanta also had 34 drops last season, which was the 7thmost. The stats didn’t work in Ryan’s favor, but per PFF Ryan was the 3rd ranked quarterback.
The Eagles and Falcons have faced off 30 times in the regular season. The Eagles have won 16 of those games, lost 13, and tied in 1. Since Matt Ryan was drafted Atlanta has a record of 3-4 against them in the regular season, as well as 1 loss in the post season. In those 8 matchups the Eagles have averaged 25 points per game while Atlanta has averaged 19. During the 2016 campaign the Falcons averaged 22 points per game while the Eagles averaged 29. While in 2016 Atlanta averaged 34, Philly averaged 23. Even though Doug Pederson calls the plays for the Eagles, they lost their OC and QB coach during the offseason. Which should impact their offense somewhat. Atlanta on the other hand replaced their QB coach with Greg Knapp who has more than 20 years of NFL experience.
With the new addition of Greg Knapp, as well as the players the Falcons added in the draft and free agency, the team looks to “bounce back,” if you will, in 2018. It was a popular opinion that Atlanta was bad offensively last year, but it is hard to live up to an historic offense. Especially when you have a coach with no NFL experience calling the plays. Greg Knapp will be in the press box this year, while Sarkisian will be on the sidelines. Sark is more comfortable on the sidelines as he enjoys interacting with the players. Greg Knapp being in the press box will allow him to relay the defensive tendencies to Sark so that he will be able to make the proper adjustments and still being able to have the face-to-face interaction with the players. Atlanta was the only team from the NFC to make it to the playoff in back-to-back seasons in 2016-2017. The Falcons will look to avenge their playoff loss this week as they head back to Philadelphia. We made it, we are only 3 days away from the regular season kicking off!