Sal Pal’s 3 Keys and Staff Predictions for Eagles vs Falcons
The 2021 regular season is finally here, and the Eagles will open against a non-divisional opponent with a 1 p.m. kickoff against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Eagles and new head coach Nick Sirianni are underdogs to get the win over new Falcons head coach Arthur Smith's squad, as the Falcons present a few unique challenges for the Eagles.
Here are Sal Pal's 3 keys to the game:
1. Get to Matt Ryan and get him off of his spot: The Falcons have an average offensive line, especially in the interior, which could mean a big day for Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave.
2. No Turnovers from Jalen Hurts: Last season the team was killed by turnovers by Carson Wentz at the quarterback position. It is imperative for Hurts to protect the football in his first start, to show the coaches that he can be trusted to run the offense the way they want him to.
3. Don't give up the big play: With Calvin Ridley the Falcons have a big-time play maker in their offense. Jonathan Gannon's offense needs to keep him from getting over the top, which will likely fall in the lap of Darius Slay. Per ESPN stats and info, in seven games with Julio Jones inactive last season, Ridley averaged 7.1 receptions, 11.9 targets and 109.3 receiving yards per game. In 8 games Ridley and Jones were active together, Ridley averaged 5.0 receptions, 7.9 targets and 76.1 receiving yards per game
Matchup to Watch: Darius Slay vs Calvin Ridley
The Eagles brought in Slay last season to shut down big play making wide receivers. He struggled in that role in Jim Schwartz's defense. This season, we'll see if the Eagles can get more of the Detroit version Slay in Jonathan Gannon's scheme. If Slay wins this battle, the Falcons offense will have a tough time moving down the field.
As Jeff Kerr points out, Ridley had a huge 2020 season and could be the difference in this game. In eight games with 100 receiving yards last season (most in NFL), five of eight of those games were with Julio Jones inactive.
Prediction: Taking the Eagles in this one thanks to a big day from their offensive line. Miles Sanders should have a big day running behind this line, which is reached the starting point of the season healthy, something they rarely were in 2020. There should be plenty of room to run on the ground and they’ll have a favorable matchup against the Falcons’ front seven. On defense, the Eagles run defense can keep Mike Davis at bay, and put 36-year old Matt Ryan into a one-dimensional offense.
My Pick: Eagles 28, Falcons 20
Sal Pal's Pick: Eagles 24-16
Pete Thompson: Eagles 27-13
Jeff Kerr: Eagles 27-23