Some brief notes/questions/things to watch for heading into tonight’s game:
- The Eagles are 3.5 point favorites on the road. Atlanta went 6-10 last year and ranked 20th in DVOA. The offense ranked 10th, while the defense ranked last in the league (also DVOA). The O/U is 55.5, which was the second highest on the board this week. Expect a lot of scoring.
- Has Jason Peters’ slowed at all? He’s still either the best or second best player on the roster, and the anchor of the OL. His level of play is vital. There’s no specific reason to expect him to be any worse than last year, but he’s entering his mid-30s, so it bears watching.
- Are the Guards serviceable? Barbre and Gardner don’t have to be great. They don’t even have to be good. But if the Eagles can’t get at least average/mediocre play from them, the running game won’t be nearly as potent as we’re all hoping or expecting.
- How will the Kendricks/Alonso/Ryans rotation shake out? Relatedly, how good is Demeco Ryans? This issue is going to evolve over a few weeks (at least), but we need to see how close to 100% Alonso is, and if Ryans is going to be a strict 1-2 down player. If Ryans is losing it and Alonso isn’t close to his pre-injury form, then what appeared to be a great strength for the team starts looking like a big hole.
- Has the pass defense improved? There are a lot of new names in the secondary, but it remains to be seen if there has been any improvement. Julio Jones is one of the best WRs in the league, so it’s a good early indicator for the defense. Last year the team ranked 18th in pass defense DVOA, and 7th in rush defense. In other words, an improvement in the pass defense could place the overall defense comfortably among the top 10 in the league. Meanwhile, the Falcons had the 8th best passing attack last year. So this matchup will play a large role in deciding the game.
- Sam Bradford should have plenty of time tonight. The Falcons registered the third worst adjusted sack rate last year (4.5%), and it seems like they’re betting on rookie Vic Beasley and FA signing Adrian Clayborn to fix things. Maybe they help a bit, but a drastic improvement is unlikely.
That’s all I have time for. I’m feeling pretty good about this game, but it’s week one, so inherent uncertainty is high. Eagles win by a TD.