Jay Ajayi rushes for over 100 yards
Ajayi’s best game of 2017 came against the Falcons when he was still in Miami. He carried the ball 26 times for 130 yards in an upset victory over Atlanta. His workload reduced once he joined a loaded Philadelphia backfield, where he met the Falcons again in the playoffs. The results were not quite the same, as he only ran the ball 15 times for 54 yards. Those fifteen carries were the second most he had with the Eagles. With a year under his belt in a new system, I expect him to be much more involved as the lead-back in 2018.
The Eagles’ running back depth is still spectacular with Ajayi, Clement, and Sproles available as an optimal third-down back. However, LeGarrette Blount’s departure opens up more carries for the rest of the crew. Ajayi will benefit the most from this, playing behind the best offensive line in football.
Philadelphia was able to bully the majority of teams at the line of scrimmage. It is a primary reason why they were able to win the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback. If there is one weakness on the Falcons defense it comes against the run. Philadelphia ran the ball thirty-two times in their playoff matchup eight months ago. They did not have wild success, finishing with 96 yards on the ground (3.0 YPC), but it was the only way for them to win with Foles under center. That will likely be the gameplan again facing a defensive line that lost two key pieces from last year.
Ajayi records his first-game with 100 yards rushing in an Eagles uniform.
Julio Jones reminds us why he is the game’s best
Julio Jones has dominated the league for years now. Most recently, he became the second player ever to record four straight seasons of 1,400 yards. The most insane part about those four seasons: he was usually battling some sort of nagging injury. That does not appear to be the case heading into 2018, which spells trouble for opponents, beginning with the Eagles.
#Falcons WR Julio Jones said hasn't felt this good going into a season since 2015.
— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) September 3, 2018
The Philadelphia secondary is far from spectacular. They were able to prevent Jones from going off in the Divisional round, but a large part of that had to do with the pass rush they were able to sustain. Philadelphia’s ability to get after the passer remains second to none, but the Falcons offensive line is in a much better place now than eight months ago.
Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco will be starting at the guard position. Both will be upgrades from Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer, allowing Ryan more time in the pocket which should open up the playbook for Atlanta. Jones, who always performs when the lights are the brightest, will be the receiver who benefits the most. The Philadelphia secondary is going to have to be perfect to keep Jones under 100 yards receiving, and it should not surprise anybody if he sniffs the 200-yard mark.
Jones catches 8 balls for 146 yards, and most importantly, a score.
Falcons do not allow a touchdown
This might sound a little crazy considering the Eagles are coming off a Super Bowl in which they scored 41 points and punted just once. It is even more ludicrous when you imagine Ajayi running for over 100 yards. But while the Falcons may experience some troubles versus the run, the rest of their defense is absolutely stacked.
The secondary is among the league’s best and will feast on a Nick Foles led team without their top receiver. The Eagles only managed to score one touchdown against this same defense in the Divisional round. Keeping in mind, that game occurred after Philly had a week off to prepare when clicking on all cylinders. The Atlanta defense is notorious for bending but not breaking. That should be much easier to do against an Eagles team facing a host of distractions early in the season.