Odds are Vegas is wrong about Eagles-Falcons

Odds are Vegas is wrong about Eagles-Falcons

4:35 p.m. on NBC
Eagles +3

After what felt like an eternity, the Eagles are finally set to play their first postseason game since 2013, hosting the defending conference champion Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday.

Coming off a first-round bye and a regular-season finale that was irrelevant in the standings, the Eagles haven’t played a meaningful game in almost three weeks — since Christmas night, to be exact. The long layoff gave players time to rest and recuperate, but the dreaded slow start is always a concern after an extended break, too.

Meanwhile, the Falcons appear to be hitting their stride. A 26-13 win over the Rams in a wild-card playoff game last week marked the fourth time in six games Atlanta held an opponent to 17 points or fewer. All of a sudden, the No. 6 and lowest seed in the conference has people talking about a potential repeat trip to the Super Bowl.

They have to go through No. 1 first, and while the Eagles are without starting quarterback Carson Wentz, there’s still plenty working in their favor in this matchup with the Falcons.

They’re no offensive powerhouse
Led by reigning league MVP Matt Ryan, the Falcons are perceived as a team with a prolific offense. While that was certainly true in 2016, it’s not necessarily been the case this season.

Though Atlanta ranked eighth in the NFL in total yards in ’17, it was only 15th in scoring. Simply put, the Falcons have not been good in the red zone, finishing 23rd with a 50.0 percent conversion rate. They were also 2 for 4 against the Rams last week.

There’s a lot of Pro Bowl talent on that offense — Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones, running back Devonta Freeman, center Alex Mack. However, the unit hasn’t been the same this season, after offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan took the 49ers’ coaching job.

They’re hurting
As if Atlanta’s offense wasn’t already somewhat limited, some key injuries could conspire to further cripple the unit’s production.

Jones, perhaps the most physically dominant receiver in the NFL, has an ankle injury and missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. He’ll play, but may not be nearly as imposing as a result. Left guard Adam Levitre also went on injured reserve, and the interior of the offensive line has been a bit of a mess ever since.

Between Jones and Levitre, as well as knee injuries that limited Freeman and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu in practice this week, the Falcons’ offense is less than 100 percent. Not that they were firing on all cylinders to begin with.

Their journey has been a logistical nightmare
It’s been a rough week on the road for the Falcons, to say the least. Their game against the Rams in Los Angeles last Saturday wrapped up around midnight on the East Coast, which means a flight back to Atlanta only got in early Sunday morning. Now it’s back on a plane to ship up to Philadelphia and play the Eagles.

As anybody who’s ever traveled can tell you, it takes a toll. As for the Eagles, they’ve been home the last four weeks, and haven’t wandered any farther than New Jersey since Dec. 10. Not only do they have home-field advantage, but they should be settled in and comfortable as well.

Their opponent is rested and motivated
Let’s not forget, Wentz or no Wentz, the Eagles are still a quality team. They’re the No. 1 seed in the NFC, after all, and they’ve had a month to prepare for this game.

The Eagles started dialing back practices and game plans back in Week 16, before they even clinched the top seed. While the performance of the offense was concerning in the last two contests against the Raiders and Cowboys — particularly the play of quarterback Nick Foles — they were also being treated as glorified preseason games.

Players were being rested and should be fresh now. The intensity was ratcheted up at practice beginning last week, Foles had opportunities to work on his timing in the offense, and the coaching staff won’t hold anything back against the Falcons. Oh, and now the Eagles are playing the “disrespect” card after being installed as the underdog by Vegas.

The Eagles are prepared and motivated. The Falcons are hurting, road weary and limited offensively. It all sets up very nicely for the home team.

Eagles Injury Update: Latest on Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard

Eagles Injury Update: Latest on Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard

Derek Barnett and Nelson Agholor will likely be game-time decisions for Monday Night Football, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said on Saturday morning. 

Barnett (ankle) and Agholor (knee) both missed all three days of practice this week. 

Meanwhile, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He was just placed in protocol on Thursday, so he’s going to miss the Giants game. 

And Jordan Howard (shoulder) has still not been cleared for contact; he can’t play until he is and that’s not happening before Monday. So he’s going to miss his fourth straight game. 

Lane Johnson also missed practice on Friday and Saturday for a non-injury reason but is expected to play on Monday. 

If Agholor is unable to play, the Eagles would be left with just three healthy receivers on the roster: Alshon Jeffery, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward. 

“We’re very comfortable, obviously, with the guys we have,” Pederson said. “So if it’s three, it’s three. We brought up [Josh Perkins] a week ago to help us there, so it’s an addition there. We go and we go play. We’ll discuss those over the next couple of days leading up to the game. If we have to make a decision we will. We feel good with the guys we have in that receiver role.” 

If the Eagles do decide to make a roster move, they have three wide receivers on their practice squad: Robert Davis, Marcus Green and Marken Michel. 

While Agholor had his knee injury before last week’s game, Barnett got hurt during the loss in Miami, but was still able to play through the injury and play 50 snaps. Barnett has played the third-most defensive snaps on the team this year, so losing him for this game wouldn’t be insignificant. 

If Barnett can’t play, expect Josh Sweat and Vinny Curry to get more reps. After that, Genard Avery, Daeshon Hall and even Shareef Miller could see a few snaps. 

For the Giants: 

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Eagles vs. Giants 2019: TV schedule, storylines, game time and more

Eagles vs. Giants 2019: TV schedule, storylines, game time and more

The Eagles (5-7) are hosting the New York Giants (2-10) at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday night. 

Here’s everything you need to know: 

• 6:30 p.m.: Eagles Pregame Live on NBCSP 
• 8:15 p.m.: Eagles vs. Giants on ESPN 
• 11:30 p.m.: Eagles Postgame Live on NBCSP 
• 1 a.m.: Birds Outsiders on NBCSP 

The ESPN broadcast crew for this game is Joe Tessitore (play by play), Booger McFarland (analyst) and Lisa Salters (sideline). 

Merrill Reese, Mike Quick and Howard Eskin will have the call on 94WIP. 

The Eagles opened as 8.5-9.5 favorites over the Giants. They were 7.5-point favorites on the road last week against the Dolphins and lost. 

The referee for Eagles-Giants is Scott Novak. For the second straight week, the Eagles have pulled a first-year ref. Novak had been a side or field judge since 2014. He was the ref for the Eagles’ loss to the Vikings in Minnesota earlier this season. In that game, the Vikings were penalized four times for 30 yards, while the Eagles were penalized seven times for 49 yards. 

So you're telling me there's a chance 

No one wants to win the NFC East. With a win on Monday night, the Eagles can tie the Cowboys (6-7) for a lead in the division. According to FiveThirtyEight, if the Eagles beat the Giants, their chances to win the division would be at 47 percent. In any other season, they’d be completely out of contention but the NFC East is awful this year and it’s still wide open. 

Hello, old friend 

Rookie Daniel Jones has a high ankle sprain, so it looks like Eli Manning is going to start this game for the Giants. It’ll be his first start since he was benched early this season. The Giants’ offense will obviously change with Manning under center. We know he isn’t going to run or hold onto the ball. He’s going to get it out quickly. 

By the way, Manning’s career record right now is 116-116. 

Recent domination 

The Eagles haven’t lost to the Giants since Week 9 of the 2016 season, which means they’ve won five straight against the G-men. The Eagles are 9-1 in their last 10 games against the Giants and are 16-4 in their last 20 against them. This has been a very lopsided rivalry for a decade. 

But it is worth noting that four of those last five wins against the Giants have come by one score. Just one was a blowout. 

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