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NFL Playoff Picks: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles Point Spread
Falcons Will Soar Above Eagles
A year ago, they crushed everything in their path with a steamroller of a scoring machine. The Atlanta put up out of this world offensive numbers while rolling to the NFC Championship in 2016-17. This season, the revival that has put the 12-5 Falcons within a win of a return trip to the NFC title game is built around stymieing the opposition into submission.
Atlanta's defense has carried the day as the team won seven of the last nine games, holding four of their last six opponents - all of them playoff teams - to 17 points or less. This is not good news for the Philadelphia Eagles. The last thing they need to see on the other side of the ball is a ferocious defense. The Eagles rolled to an NFC-best 13-3 record on the shoulders of quarterback Carson Wentz, who threw for 33 touchdowns. But in the four decisions since Wentz suffered a season-ending ACL injury, the Eagles are 2-2, and in their meaningless season-ending home-field loss to Dallas, back-up Nick Foles was so ineffective he was benched in favor of third-stringer Nate Sudfeld.
Can the Eagles utilize home-field advantage and expected sub-zero temperatures to overcome the Falcons? Let's look at that, with odds supplied courtesy of Bovada.
The oddsmakers have so much faith in the Eagles with Foles under center, they've made the visiting Falcons the favorites in this game. It's the first time in NFL history that a No. 1 seed is a home underdog in the divisional playoff round, and to a No. 6 seed no less. Before he was injured, Wentz was likely passing his way to NFL MVP honors. The Falcons, meanwhile, have last year's MVP Matt Ryan at the helm, and Ryan will be in search of a share of NFL history.
Ryan has posted a QB rating of 100 or better in five straight playoff games. Hall of famer Joe Montana holds the NFL record with six such games in succession. While the likes of Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman haven't matched last season's record pace, they won't need to in order to topple the Eagles. With the defense doing their job, Atlanta's offense is only required to be decent and not beat itself and the Falcons will win this game.
Jones (ankle injury) returned to practice Thursday after sitting out two days and the Falcons will go into the game with all of their weaponry intact. He caught nine balls for 94 yards and a TD in Atlanta's wild card win over the Rams.
The Eagles didn't record the best record in the conference merely by riding Wentz's coattails. This team can do some other things, and will need to in order to emerge victorious against the Falcons. Philly suited up the NFL's fourth-best defense, and stellar work from that unit will be part of a two-pronged approach to success that when the Eagles have the ball, will require plenty of carrying the rock across the ground in the arms of running backs LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi.
The only chance for Philly is to keep the game close, run a ball-control offense and count on the Falcons faltering down the stretch. They have a rep for doing that, you know. And if that doesn't work, perhaps the Eagles will throw caution to the wind and throw Sudfeld in the game. Hey, putting an untested QB in charge worked for Alabama in the national championship game against a team from Georgia.BABB Pick: Atlanta Falcons (-3), under (41.5) Bovada
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