Forget Carson Wentz.
This will be Matt Ryan's show. If the Eagles can't slow down the Exton product and Penn Charter grad, who comes to the Linc Sunday as one of the best QB's in the NFL, it's going to be a long day.
This one will be on the Eagles defense. They need to put pressure on Ryan, something they have struggled to do most of the season, except for the Vikings game, when defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz dialed up all kinds of blitzes.
If Matty Ice has all day to sit back and wait for all-everything receiver Julio Jones to get open, the Birds could get blown out.
The Falcons' problem is their defense. In a word, they're terrible.
This should be a good day for Wentz and the Eagles struggling offense. I am hoping rookie head coach Doug Pederson, who has been under fire two straight weeks for decisions that cost his team very winnable games, remembers what made the Eagles so successful in bolting to a 3-0 start. The Birds had a great ratio of run to pass, controlled the game and the clock, keeping other teams' offenses off the field. But in recent weeks Pederson has morphed into Andy Reid Lite, abandoning the run and putting the game on Wentz's shoulders. With this receiving corps, that's not a good idea. The Birds needs to control the game and clock. That will be an imperative against Ryan, Jones and company.
Then again this could be a breakout week for Wentz and the Eagles' offense against a very porous defense. Wentz has made some of the kinds of rookie mistakes he was not making early in the season, looking especially nervous early in games. He threw two picks in the first quarter last week, leading directly to two Giants' TDs. It should be noted that Wentz has not looked nearly as comfortable in the pocket since losing his right tackle Lane Johnson. He's gone for 10 games. Wentz needs to take control again. This might be the game, even if he still lacks weapons and has seen the offense hiccup badly since their hot start. At any rate, I think there will be lots of points scored in this one.
Add in the fact that the Eagles have played very well at home, undefeated in fact, and I like their chances to harass Ryan into a couple of mistakes and steal a win.
A loss would mean the Birds have dropped three straight, and four of five since that 3-0 start.
No one wants that.
The Pick: Make it Eagles 31, Falcons 29. Is it too early to start dictating 'must' wins. Not really. The Eagles can't afford another divisional loss. And the scheduled doesn't exactly get easier from here, with a trip across the country to play the Seahawks looming, and the Packers arriving after that. The Eagles need to win this game.
Last Week: For the second straight week, Doug Pederson's decisions factored into a brutal loss. He left six points on the board by recklessly going for 1st downs when he could have kicked field goals. The Birds lost by 5 - and they had still another field goal blocked. The loss drops me to a dispiriting 3-5, while the loss has the Eagles sinking toward mediocrity at 4-4.
Game by Game: Giants 28, Eagles 23 (My Pick: Eagles 24, Giants 17)
Cowboys 29, Eagles 23 (My Pick: Cowboys 29, Eagles 24)
Eagles 21, Vikings 10 (My Pick: Vikings 26, Eagles 13)
Redskins 27, Eagles 20 (My Pick: Eagles 24, Redskins 23)
Lions 24, Eagles 23 (My Pick: Eagles 31, Lions 10)
Eagles 34, Steelers 3 (My Pick: Steelers, 26, Eagles 23)
Eagles 29, Bears 14 (My Pick: Eagles 24, Bears 16)
Eagles 29, Browns 10 (My Pick: Eagles 19, Browns 13)