Eagles Opposition Report: Falcons Offense

Eagles Opposition Report: Falcons Offense

Here's our weekly look at the key players facing the Eagles. First up, the Atlanta Falcons offense. Kulp will be along later with a look at the D.

QB Matt Ryan

Matty Ice came into the 2011 season with a lot of promise, manning the helm of a high-powered offense. That promise glanced against the rocks in Atlanta's opening weekend 30-12 loss to the Bears, but I doubt permanent damage was done. In fact, I'd rather the Falcons hadn't gotten smoked in week 1, because they'll be desperate to stay out of the 0-2 hole. Ryan in particular will be eager to put last week behind him, having been turfed five times by the Bears, in addition to being picked off and fumbling awkwardly, resulting in a Brian Urlacher touchdown. He did throw for more than 300 yards though, and he has weapons enough to have a huge day if he can keep the turnovers to a minimum. If his line can't keep him upright, that'll be a tall challenge against an Eagles pass rush that looked good in Week 1 and of course the cornerback tandem of Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel.

Ryan, a native of Exton, averaged 263.5 yards in his first two starts against the Eagles, with four touchdowns and three interceptions (250, 3 TD, 1 INT last meeting).

RB Michael Turner

Many of the preseason stories about Turner conclusively stated that he lost a step down the stretch last year, and that he was in danger of regression if not injury at some point in 2011. His YPC trended downward in 2010, as did the Falcons' overall ability to control the game by running the ball. Turner also suffered and played through a groin injury that required surgery in the off-season. Red flags? To be sure. But that's not to say he's done, and durability issues are unlikely to be a major factor in a Week 2 game. The reports of Turner's demise also overblown. He finished third in rushing yards and scored 12 TDs, four of which came in weeks 14 and 17. Turner also topped 100 yards rushing seven times last year, and he did it again in week 1 despite getting only 10 carries as the Falcons played from behind. Surprisingly, the 250-pounder picked up 40 yards on three receptions as well. His partners in the Atlanta backfield also did well in the receiving game, with Jason Snelling picking up 32 yards on five carries and rookie Jacquizz Rodgers adding three more for 33 yards. Neither were factors in the ground attack, which isn't surprising given the deficit the team faced for most of the game.

After Steven Jackson broke off a long TD run to open the Eagles-Rams game and Cadillac Williams picked up where he left off, bottling up Turner could be a tough task for the Birds. Regardless of whether you think he has enough in the tank for another productive season, it's unlikely his previous heavy workloads will catch up with him as early as Sunday. Of course, that was true of Steven Jackson in Week 1 too, and we know how that turned out. Castillo's defense isn't counting on an injury though, and if the offense doesn't get off to a great start, Turner will have an opportunity to bang away at the Eagles' linebackers.

In the Eagles' 31-17 win over the Falcons last year—Atlanta's only loss over a 13-game stretch, Turner was contained to the tune of 45 yards on 15 carries. So, we know it's certainly possible they do the same on Sunday night.

WR Roddy White

Beast. Led the league in receptions last year (115), second to only Brandon Lloyd in receiving yards (1389), plus double-digit TDs (10). Dayyyummmmn. I'm not entirely sure I need to say much about one of the best receivers in the game, a guy who has gained some help in the addition of Julio Jones. Fortunately, the Eagles are about as well built to stop a top receiver as any team in the league, especially if they can get to Ryan the way the Bears did. Even if they do, it's hard to imagine Roddy not being a factor. He was kept in check for the most part in Chicago, with his eight receptions going for only 61 yards and no paydirt.

WR Julio Jones

The Falcons moved up to the sixth pick in the first round to ensure getting Jones, the 6'3, 220-lb wonder out of Alabama. He's a stunning athlete, clocking a 4.39 40 and broad jumping 11 freaking feet, per Football Outsiders. He's still a rookie, and like the rest of the freshman class, hasn't had a whole lot of time to get acclimated to his new system. Still, he's a threat to rack up yards lining up opposite White, where he picked up 71 on five catches last week, and for most teams, a mismatch waiting to happen. Like Roddy, the Birds' best bet of neutralizing any deep threat from Jones is probably more a factor of hurrying Ryan to throw short passes than it is blanketing the streaking wideout.

WR Harry Douglas

Now a year removed from knee surgery that kept him off the field in 2009, Douglas is already battling the injury bug in 2011. He suffered a concussion against the Bears, and while Rotoworld informs us he has passed his mid-week concussion test, he was limited at practice on Thursday. We'll presumably know more about his availability sometime today. Douglas hasn't scored more than one TD in either of his two full NFL seasons, but if healthy, he could be a decent producer with defenses trying to figure out how to stop both Turner and the two receivers listed above, and the guy below.

TE Tony Gonzalez

Another Falcon widely seen as in decline is the 35-year-old Gonzalez, whose 2010 season featured six TDs, but 400 fewer yards than his final season in Kansas City (2008) and over 200 fewer than his debut in Atlanta. Gonzalez says he feels great though, and there was certainly nothing wrong with his five-catch, 72-yard performance against the bears. As we talked about in this section last week, the Eagles haven't exactly been stout against TE producers in recent seasons. They lucked out a bit last week with Lance Kendricks dropping the ball both literally and figuratively, but Gonzalez enjoyed a two-touchdown day against the Eagles in 2010, albeit on just three catches for 19 yards. 

As you can see, Juan Castillo will have his hands full. We're not expecting a repeat of last week's troubles from Atlanta, but at least there's some good tape for the Birds to analyze on how to make things go wrong for Ryan.

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike some other NHL teams coming off their bye week, there wasn't a spot of rust on the sleek Columbus Blue Jackets.

In their first game following a five-day break, the high-energy Blue Jackets blew out the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday as backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo earned his first career shutout.

Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, and David Savard had a goal and three assists. Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored to help the Blue Jackets end New York's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Zibanejad scores in OT to help Rangers beat Devils again
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Rangers are finding ways to win, and the New Jersey Devils just aren't.

Moments after goaltender Antti Raanta stopped Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway, Mika Zibanejad scored 1:16 into overtime and the Rangers rallied to beat the Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

"I had to redeem myself after that letdown on the breakaway the other way," said Zibanejad, whose mistake gave Palmieri a chance to complete a hat trick. "Rants came up big and it's nice to see that puck cross the goal line once again and win the game."

The goal was Zibanejad's first in 16 games and it gave the Rangers their ninth win in 11 games (9-1-1). Struggling New Jersey got its fourth loss in five games (1-3-1) (see full recap).

Shaw's OT goal gives Canadiens 14th straight win over the Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday night for their 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.

Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

DALLAS -- Harrison Barnes scored 19 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 18 points and nine rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks ended a three-game losing streak by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 96-83 on Saturday night.

The Pelicans fell to 0-2 since trading for DeMarcus Cousins and pairing him with Anthony Davis.

Davis had 39 points and 14 rebounds but scored only 12 in the second half. Cousins finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Seth Curry scored 10 of his 13 in the fourth quarter to help Dallas pull away. His 3-pointer with 4:49 to play gave the Mavericks an 84-72 lead, and the Pelicans never got closer than six after that (see full recap).

Harden leads Rockets past Timberwolves in 142-130 shootout
HOUSTON -- James Harden had 24 points and 10 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 142-130 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves as both teams set season scoring highs in a Saturday night shootout.

Houston won for the sixth time in seven games, handing the Timberwolves their first road loss in more than three weeks.

Minnesota committed a season-high 25 turnovers that led to 38 points for the Rockets.

Playing against Houston's guard-heavy rotation, Minnesota went inside all night and outscored the Rockets 68-44 in the paint. Karl-Anthony Towns had 37 points and 22 rebounds, and Andrew Wiggins added 30 points (see full recap).

Bulls benefit as James sits with strep, beat Cavs 117-99
CLEVELAND -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points and Jimmy Butler recorded a triple-double, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 117-99 victory Saturday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who played without LeBron James.

James missed the game with strep throat, and coach Tyronn Lue said he wasn't sure how long the Cavaliers would be without the four-time MVP. Cleveland struggled as it often does without its star - they are 4-19 without him since he returned to Cleveland in 2014, including 0-4 this season.

Chicago has won all three games against Cleveland this season. It took advantage of James' absence to win its fourth straight overall (see full recap).

George ejected, Heat stay hot with 113-95 win over Pacers
MIAMI -- Paul George had another frustrating night in Miami.

Hassan Whiteside scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, Dion Waiters added 22 points and the red-hot Miami Heat pulled away late to beat the Indiana Pacers 113-95 on Saturday night. Miami outscored Indiana 42-22 in the final 16 minutes, all with George watching from the Pacers' locker room after an ejection.

"It felt like a playoff-type game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said (see full recap).