The Atlanta Falcons can look across the field tonight and see the team that more than any other has come between them and success in recent years. Two seasons ago, when the Philadelphia Eagles were on their way to their only franchise Super Bowl win, they stopped the Falcons at the two-yard line to eke out a 15-10 win in the Divisional Playoffs.
No team gave the Eagles a more challenging postseason game as they surged to their win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
Then last year, as hosts to the season opener, the Eagles welcomed the Falcons back to Lincoln Financial Field for a rematch, and the results were the same. Late in the game, with the Falcons trailing by six points, Matt Ryan led his team deep into Philadelphia territory only to have the drive stopped at the five-yard-line with a first and goal as time ran out.
The Falcons 18-12 loss on the scoreboard to open the 2018 season was even more crippling for Atlanta as they suffered a rash of injuries that derailed their campaign before it ever started.
Now, again the Falcons are given a chance for revenge against their antagonists in prime time when they host the Eagles in the Sunday night game. The Eagles come in following a come-from-behind win over the Washington Redskins and the Falcons a stinging loss in Minnesota to the Vikings.
The opening line on this game had the Eagles favored by one point, a spread that rose as high as 2½ points during the week, and today has settled in with the Eagles again favored by one point.
While most of the people working in my industry like the Falcons in this spot, the public is lined up on the Eagles. When a clear shot is available with the public versus the informed bettors, my leanings are consistently with the wise guys. But, not always.
My problem with this game, is I just don’t really know who the Falcons are. One can look at their offensive roster and think they are a juggernaut, but while Ryan earned the nickname “Matty Ice” early in his career for finishing crucial drives, since his Super Bowl meltdown three years ago, Ryan has melted in pressure situations a lot more often than he has succeeded. His problems in getting the Falcons in the end zone against the Eagles is a case in point, but their are other recent examples where the Falcons have just not fired on offense in alignment with their obvious talent.
Last week was a perfect example.
The Viking ran all over the Falcons defense and Ryan didn’t get Atlanta into the end zone until the issue was already settled in Minnesota’s favor.
I’m not going to disagree with the intelligence that has led informed bettors to the Falcons side in this game, I’m just not willing to bet against an Eagles team that has conquered the Falcons at every juncture in recent years.