The Atlanta Falcons booked their trip to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday, January 13 with their win over the Los Angeles Rams this past Saturday. The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to be a one seed underdog to a six seed, with Atlanta being favored by two and a half points. How do the Eagles stack up versus the Falcons? I take a look position by position throughout the week in a five-part series leading up to Saturday’s game. Today’s focus: Quarterbacks
There is no doubt that the Eagles would be the favorites in this game if Carson Wentz never tore his ACL in the week 14 win over the Rams. However, Nick Foles will be taking the snaps on Saturday, which is why Las Vegas has decided to make the Eagles the underdog on their home field. Foles has never faced the Falcons in his career, with the previous six meetings against the Falcons being started by Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick, Sam Bradford, and Carson Wentz respectively. Foles has started in one playoff game in his career, a home loss to the New Orleans Saints 26-24 in 2014. Foles played fairly well in that game, completing 23 out of 33 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
Nick Foles ended the 2017 regular season rather lethargically, playing four series against the Dallas Cowboys and completing four out of 11 passes for 39 yards and one interception. Foles knows he needs to be better to compete in the playoffs but he isn’t lacking confidence, stating, in a post-game transcript provided by the team, “we also know what we’re capable of and how talented we can be because of how we play together. We’re just going to keep working on that, keep our confidence high. There’s no reason not to be confident.” However, despite any confidence Foles may have, head coach Doug Pederson seemingly left the door open for a quarterback change if needed. Pederson, when asked in a press conference about a possible quarterback change to backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld, stated that Foles will still start but followed with “it’s hard to be in desperation mode, but if you are in that mode, who knows?”
The weather calls for milder temperatures than what Philadelphia is accustomed to in January, with the range being 40-50 and a low of 28. In temperatures between 21 and 40, Foles has career statistics of 59% completion rate, averaging 203.8 yards per game and totals of eight touchdowns to four interceptions. In temperatures between 41 and 60, Foles has career statistics of 57.5% completion rate, averaging 180.1 yards per game and totals of 10 touchdowns to eight interceptions.
The Atlanta Falcons’ season has been a roller-coaster ride, enjoying the highs of two separate three-game win streaks and the low of a three-game losing streak, which included a loss to the non-playoff Miami Dolphins. Veteran quarterback Matt Ryan is having a strong year throwing for 4,095 yards and 20 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, but these numbers pale in comparison to his 2016 MVP season when he threw for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns to eight interceptions. Ryan is coming off a strong performance in Los Angeles, where he threw for 218 yards and one touchdown in the wild-card win over the Rams.
Ryan returns to his home state of Pennsylvania on Saturday, where he grew up in Exton, 32 miles west of Philadelphia. Although growing up near Philadelphia, Ryan has one win against the Eagles in Philadelphia and three losses, while being undefeated against the Eagles in the two matchups in Atlanta. In the four games in Philadelphia, Ryan has a 58.1% completion rate, averaging 264 yards per game with eight touchdowns and four interceptions.
In the aforementioned weather conditions, Ryan has had some success. In temperatures between 21 and 40, Ryan has career statistics of a 54.8% completion rate, averaging 263.5 yards per game with five touchdowns and one interception. In temperatures between 40 and 60, Ryan has career statistics of a 65.4% completion rate, averaging 268.5 yards per game with 44 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Ryan plays his home games, and one in division away game, in a dome. Ryan does not have as much success in his career outdoors as he does indoors, but it’s close. In 61 games outdoors, Ryan has a 63.2% completion rate, averaging 263 yards per game with 102 touchdowns and 49 interceptions. In 97 games indoors, Ryan has a 66% completion rate, averaging 265.5 yards per game with 158 touchdowns and 77 interceptions.
Will the weather be a factor in this game? History tells us it should, but both quarterbacks have experience in the cold, namely Foles in the Snow Bowl in 2013, and should be able to find success in the milder temperatures. The advantage is on the Falcons’ side as far as quarterback experience goes, but don’t count out Foles finding some of the magic he had back in 2013 as the Eagles look to advance to the NFC Championship game for the first time since 2004.
Tomorrow I take a look at the running backs in this matchup.