Published: Sun, January 14, 2018
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

NFL NFC and AFC Divisional Round preview and predictions

NFL NFC and AFC Divisional Round preview and predictions

Long-suffering Philadelphia Eagles fans, who bit the collective bullet throughout the abysmal Chip Kelly era and have not seen their beloved Birds in post-season play since January 4, 2014, against the New Orleans Saints, are now being rewarded for their loyalty and patience.

And the road to the Super Bowl remains through Philadelphia.

Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Falcons offense will need to be sharp against defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and the Eagles' No. 4-ranked defense. It has been nine long years since the Philadelphia Eagles have won a playoff game. When the Falcons reached the Super Bowl last season, they did so largely because Ryan did an incredible job of spreading the ball around. The Falcons converted a 4th-and-6 with a 20-yard pass from Ryan to Jones, but the Eagles wouldn't let them score on the drive. He was 12 of 15 in the air in the second half and outplayed Ryan, who led Atlanta to last year's NFC crown.

In 2013, Nick Foles had a banner year throwing 27 TDs and 2 INTs, but sadly that was at the apex of his National Football League career.

The story is much different in the night game Saturday. He had 465 yards rushing, an average of 3.4 yards and no touchdowns. He was sacked three times and under constant pressure. He tied a season high with 15 carries, gaining 54 yards, and broke loose for a 32-yard gain on a screen pass - sprung by a pair of blocks from guard Stefen Wisniewski - on the fourth-quarter scoring drive.

For the game, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, making just his second career playoff start as he fills-in for injured QB Carson Wentz, completed 23-of-30 passes for 246 yards without a touchdown or an interception. A 42-yard interference call that opened the game was followed by Jay Ajayi fumbling the ball away at the Atlanta 33.

The Eagles frankly were lucky to only be trailing 10-9 at halftime. "They're playing very well in the secondary, and it's going to be a good challenge for us on Saturday".

- Last week, Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota became the first quarterback in league postseason history to catch a touchdown pass. That was right after Foles had to fall on a fumble the play before, a pretty fortunate turn of events. The Eagles kicker, who was always consistent, Caleb Sturgis, went down with an injury which resulted in picking up Jake Elliott. The Eagles defense does things the Atlanta defense just doesn't do.

The Eagles have played with arguably the NFL MVP for the majority of the season and now are a home underdog to the Falcons. "Without 11 (Carson Wentz), we're nothing basically".

The Eagles, who are 14-3 at home over the last two seasons, outgained Atlanta 334-281.

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