Thursday, September 15, 2011

JZN NFL Predictions vs. Spread: Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons (Week 2, 2011-2012)

Michael Vick returns to where he started his NFL career and won his first playoff game. The Atlanta Falcons are desperate for a victory or they'll fall to 0-2. How can the Atlanta Falcons get off of the apparent hangover from last season's playoff game?

The early spread on this game is Eagles (-2.5). Here are some of the key aspects of the game and what to watch out for when betting. All lines from Cooper's Pick and Injury Reports from as of September 15, 2011. Always keep yourself updated with injury lines because they'll unexpectedly change throughout the week.

#0: Last Picks Involving Teams
Chicago Bears (+3) over Atlanta Falcons (2 of 2)
St. Louis Rams (+4.5) over Philadelphia Eagles (0 of 2)

#1: Injuries 
The Falcons have three players who are nursing knee injuries. These are C Todd McClure, DT Corey Peters and DT Jonathan Babineau. McClure would be a significant absence as the Eagles have Cullen Jenkins.

The Eagles have a lot of new faces in their front four. Some of that is due to injury. DE Victor Abiamiri was IR'ed this preseason. DEs Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp and Juqua Parker are also questionable-to-doubtful for this game. LB Akeem Jordan adds insult to injury.

That's not good against a team that will rely heavily on Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez for their offense.

#2: Michael Vick Returns to Atlanta
Michael Vick is coming to Atlanta with a chip on his shoulder. He didn't play well against the St. Louis Rams after going 14/32 for 187 yards, though he did have two touchdowns. This is also his first time back at Atlanta as a starting quarterback.

That means two things: Vick will either try to do too much or he will do too much.
#3: Eagles' Rush Defense
The Eagles' rush defense has been suspect since last season. James Starks had his breakout game against them in the 2010 NFC Wildcard last season. They're a very inconsistent run defense and that doesn't figure to change now that Quintin Mikell left via free agency.

The Rams averaged nearly six-yards per carry to Steven Jackson and Cadillac Williams. Williams had 19 carries for 91 yards with a long of 16. Jackson had runs of 47 and nine before his injury.

Falcons' had a miserable Week 1 showing. That was mostly because they abandoned Michael Turner, who had 100 yards on 10 carries. With Nnamdi Asomugha eliminating Roddy White, that probably isn't happening again. Turner must be used for offense and defense (keeping Vick off the field).

#4 Eagles' Offense Line
The Falcons acquired Ray Edwards this off-season to improve a suspect pass rush. While he did very little, they did have four sacks and six QB hits on Jay Cutler. Much of that was probably because the Chicago Bears have a horrible offensive line though.

The Eagles surrendered 11 QB hits and three sacks against Steve Spagnuolo's pressure defense. The Falcons need to hit Vick as much as possible.

#5: Are the Falcons overrated?
I've noticed that the Falcons have trouble with fast teams. That's especially true when they're playing teams with fast wide outs. The Falcons don't have the secondary that can contain these teams even somewhat effectively.

The Falcons were an overtime field-goal away from getting swept by the New Orleans Saints in 2010. The Green Bay Packers exploited their defense in the divisional playoff. The Bears are another fast team that trounced the Falcons 30-12 in Week 1. That didn't include the Eagles last season.

#6: Eagles vs. Falcons: 2010
The Eagles enjoyed a 31-17 victory in last season's game when they hosted it on October 17, 2010. Kevin Kolb was 23/29 with three touchdowns (Vick was injured). Turner only had 45 rushing yards on 15 carries. Jeremy Maclin had seven receptions for 159 yards and DeSean Jackson had a 31-yard touchdown run and 34-yard touchdown reception before getting injured. The Eagles were also able to pressure Ryan.

A great example of how the Falcons cornerbacks cannot stop fast receivers.
Final Predictions:
On one end, you've got an Eagles offense that has far too much speed for the Falcons to contain. They have a quarterback who'll be returning to the place where his NFL career started. They have a pass rush that's probably going to hurry Matt Ryan as the offensive line is a bit unstable with Harvey Dahl's departure and Todd McClure's injury.

On the other end, you have Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez. Turner had 10 carries for 100 yards while Gonzalez led Falcons' receivers with five receptions for 72 yards. These guys should be huge against the Eagles. The Falcons are also desperate; 0-2 is a borderline death sentence in the NFL.

The Falcons cannot play from behind. They've proven this time and time again. My mind is saying Eagles but my gut is saying Falcons. I said something similar when picking the Falcons' game last week. My mind is telling me Atlanta but my gut is saying Chicago. I went with my gut and the Bears won.

I'm going with the gut again, reluctantly.

Against the Spread: Atlanta Falcons (+2.5)
Straight: Atlanta Falcons 31, Philadelphia Eagles 27

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