At 6-0, Atlanta is the only undefeated team left in the NFL. At least on the scoreboard, that's perfection. The Eagles, with their 3-3 record and series of close games, are far from perfection. So should we just chalk Sunday's game up as a loss and move on?
I wouldn't. For an undefeated squad, the Falcons look relatively unimpressive. Not bad, for sure, but nothing special. Football Outsiders ranks Atlanta 8th in overall DVOA., with the 10th-best offense and 11th-best defense. Why the difference between performance and record? Look no further than the teams they've beaten:
- Kansas City (1-5)
- Denver (3-3)
- San Diego (3-3)
- Carolina (1-5)
- Washington (3-4)
- Oakland (2-4)
Not a single team above .500. It's been the 29th-most difficult schedule by DVOA in the league. You go through the numbers and nothing really stands out as being special about this squad, other than their ability to avoid turnovers. The passing game looks dangerous with Roddy White and Julio Jones, but it ranks below both the Giants and Steelers. Run game isn't going to frighten anyone. On defense, the pass coverage looks solid (Vick: beware Asante Samuel), but they are suspect against the run.
Plus, I have a reasonable amount of confidence in Andy Reid after the bye. I know there are other factors at play, but his record with two weeks to prepare is untouchable. He's won every game after the bye for 13 years, plus all three division playoff games where he also had the extra week. That's a full season of undefeated post-bye play. Tough to ignore.
On top of that Reid preparation time, the Eagles also have the addition-by-subtraction in the defensive coaching ranks. Todd Bowles has pledged to be less predictable in his play calls than Juan Castillo. I like the sound of that coming out of a bye. Matt Ryan is going to have a tough time preparing for coverages he can only guess are coming at him.
All in all, I'm surprisingly optimistic about the inconsistent Eagles potential to upset the Falcons.
Photo from Getty.