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NFL Divisional Playoffs Preview: Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles
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11 Jan 2018 05:48 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. (Image Source: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Here’s a look at the Divisional Playoffs matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons:

Series: Eagles lead 18-14-1; Streak: Falcons have won three of the past four; Last Meeting: Eagles 24, Falcons 15 (11.13.16)

Time (Saturday): 4:35 PM ET; TV: NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya)

How They Got Here:

With their 23-16 upset win at the Los Angeles Rams, the Atlanta Falcons advanced to the divisional playoffs, the third win in their past four playoff games. Dan Quinn has made the playoffs twice in his three seasons as headman in Atlanta, while Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson will make his postseason coaching debut on Saturday. The Eagles tied a franchise record with their 13 wins on the way to their first NFC East title since 2013. Philly tied for the NFL lead in point differential (+162) and led the NFC in turnover differential (+11).

When the Falcons Have the Ball:

Atlanta’s offense took a step back this season, but they can still move the ball and finished third in the NFC in total offense. Quarterback Matt Ryan set the record for most passing yards through 10 seasons (41,796), breaking Peyton Manning’s record. More importantly, he’s grown into quite the postseason passer. In his past five playoff games, Ryan has thrown 13 touchdowns to one INT for a 124.3 rating. He’s posted a 100-plus rating and completed at least 70 percent of his attempts in five-straight postseason outings. Wide out Julio Jones, who led the conference with 1,444 yards, has caught 39 passes for 610 yards and six touchdowns in his past five postseason games. He went for 94 yards and a score on nine grabs last week. Running back Devonta Freeman scored last week as well and has 399 scrimmage yards with four TDs in four career playoff games.

Setting the tone upfront on the NFL’s No. 1 run defense is Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who is one of six tackles with 10-plus sacks and at least two forced fumbles since the start of last season. Complementing Cox’s pass-rush ability is defensive end Brandon Graham, who led the way with a career-high 9.5 sacks. First-round pick Derek Barnett chipped in five sacks, second among NFC rookies. Cornerback Patrick Robinson led the club with four picks and 18 PDs, while Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins has 16 tackles (1 sack) in his past three playoff games.

When the Eagles Have the Ball:

With Carson Wentz out, backup Nick Foles has taken over at quarterback for the Eagles. In his only playoff appearance, Foles completed 69.7 percent of his passes (23 of 33) with two touchdown passes to no interceptions for a 105 rating in a Wild Card game in 2013. The trio of Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Zach Ertz were the only troika in the NFL to each have at least eight TD grabs. Jeffery led them with nine, Agholor set career highs across the board (62-768-8), while Ertz’s eight scores were second among all tight ends as he earned his first Pro Bowl bid. In-season addition Jay Ajayi rushed for 130 yards against Atlanta earlier this season with the Miami Dolphins and LeGarrette Blount has rushed for eight touchdowns in eight postseason games.

The duo of linebacker Deion Jones (138 tackles) and safety Keanu Neal (113) are one of two sets of teammates in the NFC with 100-plus tackles each. Jones, who ranked second in the conference, posted a team-high 10 stops last week. In four postseason games he has a forced fumble, an INT, and four PDs. Neal was the top safety tackler in the league and he came through with nine last week, as well as a forced fumble. They both fly to the ball and are hard hitters. Outside linebackers Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley each recorded sacks last week. Beasley had two sacks and a forced fumble the last time these clubs played.

Score: Falcons 20, Eagles 17

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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