Jay Ajayi is locked in. This could be his moment.
The running back is well-rested and ready to become a bell cow back if that's what the Eagles want from him this Saturday against the Falcons.
Standing by his locker on Wednesday, Ajayi said he has been really impressed this week by the laser-like focus he's seen from his teammates.
"It's win or go home," Ajayi said. "It's a three-game war for us. This is a team that's in the way of what we want to accomplish. We understand what the outside world thinks of us right now and we're OK with that. We believe in what we have, who we have. And that's just been our mindset. We're grinding right now and getting ready for a battle on Saturday."
While Ajayi claimed it didn't matter to him who the Eagles faced in their divisional round game, it would be understandable if drawing the Falcons was met with a smile from Ajayi.
After all, he's already faced the Falcons once this season and put together a tremendous performance. While still with the Dolphins on Oct. 15, Ajayi carried the ball 26 times for 130 yards in a 20-17 win in Atlanta.
It's the most yards the Falcons have given up to any running back in the last two years and the most they've given up since Adrian Peterson ran for 158 back in 2015.
It's safe to say the Eagles have dipped back into the tape of that game this week.
"Obviously it's good to know it's going to be the Falcons because I've seen it before a little bit," Ajayi said. "Familiar and just watching the tape as well, that's been helpful. I've been able to use my experience with playing them earlier this year, just remembering some of the things that worked, some of the things we can fix."
That day in October, Ajayi got off to a fast start. After one quarter, he already had five carries for 51 yards and by halftime, he had 11 for 71, but the Dolphins were trailing 17-0 after two quarters.
The amazing thing is that the Dolphins didn't get pass-happy because they were down big. Instead, Ajayi actually carried the ball more in the second half and helped the Dolphins score the last 20 points of the game to get the win.
"That's just what needed to be done that day for us to get the victory," Ajayi said. "I've taken many carries in my career before, so it's not something I'm not used to. I'll be ready this Saturday for whatever."
What made Ajayi's performance — which was his best of the season for either team — so impressive was that Atlanta stacked the box against him. For most of the afternoon, it packed eight guys in the box and tried to take away the run but couldn't.
Ajayi said that sometimes when teams load up the box there's a downside for them. If he gets through that initial wave, there's a lot of open space.
According to ProFootballFocus, 96 of Ajayi's 130 yards that day came after contact.
"I thought on that day, you guys have seen him now and covered him for half a year, he's got excellent change of direction," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said on a conference call with Philly reporters earlier this week. "So we lost some leverage on some tackles, where he was able to extend some plays. Definitely give credit to him. He's definitely a guy that we got our respect for."
Through his seven games with the Eagles, Ajayi has been used somewhat sparingly. His biggest workload was a 15-carry game against the Rams. But Doug Pederson didn't rule out using Ajayi as a workhorse back against the Falcons and that would make some sense (see story). The Eagles should be able to run.
In fact, the two largest individual rushing performances against the Falcons over the last two years have come from Eagles. Ryan Mathews ran for 109 yards with the Birds last season in a 24-15 win and Ajayi ran for 130 earlier this year.
Because of the trade during the season, Ajayi had a bye week with the Dolphins to start the season (Hurricane Irma) and then had a bye week with the Eagles. Then the Birds rested him in the final game of the regular season, which led into the first-round bye.
Those four bye weeks, combined with a lightened workload compared to a year ago, has Ajayi feeling really fresh with the playoff game on tap.
"It's interesting, because like you said, I did get a couple bye weeks," Ajayi said. "I guess I got lucky. I'm excited for this challenge. It's a one-game season, so for me, it's just leave it all out there."