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By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Eagles come into this week’s game at 3-3, and an ugly 3-3 at that. Every win counts, but even the team would admit it’s been a struggle so far.
The Falcons come into the game 6-0, the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team.
So this would seem like a terrible spot for the Eagles, right?
Maybe not. The Falcons have played the easiest schedule in the league, and the Eagles are 13-0 after the bye week under Andy Reid.
I spoke to Dave Choate (follow on Twitter @thefalcoholic) (check out Dave’s writing,) of the the tremendous Falcons blog, The Falcoholic (check out the site), about just how good the Falcons are or aren’t.
Spike: The Falcons are the only undefeated team left in the NFL, but regular season success is nothing new for them. What, if anything is different about this year’s team that will lead them to more success in the playoffs?
Dave: I think the coordinators are in a better position to maximize this talent. In the past, the Falcons have struggled in the playoffs because defenses have keyed in on their essentially conservative gameplan and managed to shut them down. The Falcons are a more aggressive team now, one that is more effective at getting to opposing quarterbacks and more willing to take shots downfield. I think that they have the talent to make that work.
Spike: The Falcons have the best record in the NFL, are they the best team in the NFL?
Dave: think that’s a tough one. I would say by virtue of their record and talent they are, but if you want consistent impressive play, you may be better off with the Bears or (perhaps) Texans at the top spot. Both of those teams, of course, have lost games. I would put the Falcons at the top, but I’m aware it’s tenuous and that they have to play more complete football games to stay there, especially against tough competition like the Eagles.
Spike: The Falcons running game is neither impressive statistically nor to the eye. Is this something other than a personnel issue? Has Michael Turner hit that wall running backs so often do?
Dave: I think Turner’s hitting a wall, for one. He’s 30 years old, has had frequent leg injuries and never was as useful a power back as everyone thought he was. The run blocking is still the major culprit. The line simply has not blocked as well since Harvey Dahl left, and the ground game is suffering as a result.
Spike: The Atlanta run defense has struggled, how much does the return of Corey Peters help?
Dave: A lot. Peters is a space-eater but he’s also extremely mobile for a defensive tackle and absolutely tenacious against opposing running backs. Mike Nolan’s wholesale change to a more nickel-friendly defense hasn’t helped, but it’s no accident that the run defense has been much worse without Peters.
Spike: Imagine the Falcons win this game, tell me the most likely way the game unfolds, then tell me how the game unfolds if the Falcons lose this game.
Dave: I think if the Falcons win, it will have been because they force a couple of turnovers from Michael Vick. A rested Falcons team should be able to gun it all day if they can protect Matt Ryan, and combined with the turnovers the Falcons should be able to win by a couple of scores. If they lose, it will be because they couldn’t force Vick into mistakes and couldn’t protect Ryan. Simple, perhaps, but likely to be the difference.