This won’t be said about many matchups the Falcons have this season, but the Falcons will have the two best players on the field Sunday — Matt Ryan and Grady Jarrett. I can understand Eagles fans thinking this is so far off base, but I might convince you when you hear my reasoning.
First off, the parameters are the best offensive and defensive player. It can’t be two defensive or two offensive players; secondly, positional value matters in this instance. So quarterbacks, left tackles, cornerbacks, and EDGE defenders are more important in this case than other positions like guards, off-ball linebackers, and tight ends.
The Eagles’ top four players are Lane Johnson, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and Jason Kelce in no particular order. Graham is 32 years old and was just named to the first Pro Bowl of his career. Nobody would argue that Graham is better than Cox, so the argument is between Grady Jarrett and Cox — two interior defenders.
According to ESPN Analytics, Jarrett ranked third (19%) in pass-rush win-rate among interior defenders behind only Chris Jones (20%) and Aaron Donald (24%), while Cox isn’t even ranked in the top ten of the same category. Jarrett also ranks eighth (39%) in run-stop win-rate among interior defenders; again, Cox wasn’t even in the top ten. Once upon a time, Cox was the superior player, but it’s Grady Jarrett’s time now.
The best offensive player between Matt Ryan, Jason Kelce, and Lane Johnson could be a debate. Still, I see that Johnson is the third- or fourth-best right tackle in football behind Ryan Ramczyk and arguably Taylor Moton and Tristen Wirfs. At the same time, Kelce is around the fifth- or sixth-best center behind Ryan Jensen, Frank Ragnow, Rodney Hudson, and Corey Linsley. Both have dealt with injuries but are supremely valuable when healthy.
However, a top-five right tackle or center isn’t more valuable than a top-ten quarterback in the league right now. Quarterbacks are far and away the most valuable position in football, and someone as consistent as Ryan will always be the better player than two offensive linemen who have dealt with injuries and struggles since winning the Super Bowl a few years ago.