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Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles Point Spread - Pick

Atlanta Falcons (11-6 SU, 8-9 ATS) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3 SU, 10-6 ATS)
NFC Divisional Playoff
Date/Time: Saturday, January 13, 2018 at 4:35PM EST
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
TV: NBC

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: ATL -2.5/PHI +2.5
Over/Under Total: 41

The Atlanta Falcons come to Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday to face the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC Divisional Playoff game. The Eagles, the top seed in the NFC, had a week off during Wild Card weekend and now await their first postseason opponent in the defending conference champion Falcons. On Saturday, the Falcons were able to beat the LA Rams on the road in the Wild Card round, 26-13. With a strong finish to the season and the nice road postseason win last week, not to mention how well they did last postseason, the Falcons are a major threat, even against the top-seeded Eagles.

The Falcons would have been a tough challenge for the Eagles even if Philly had Carson Wentz. With Wentz out of the picture and backup QB Nick Foles now in the fold, there is a cloud of doubt surrounding the Eagles. Foles is a very capable fill-in and looked solid in his starts. The Eagles could very well continue to thrive, but things get a lot tougher starting now. You can't have a rising quarterback like Wentz, lose him, and not pay the price. Whereas his absence wasn't that jarring in the few regular season games they had without him, the postseason is a time when shortcomings come more into focus.

Luckily for the Eagles, there are other aspects to their overall game that at least suggest they aren't one of those teams that is totally quarterback-dependent. Foles is hardly the mobile mover that Wentz is, but there are backs at his disposal that can take pressure off, like LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement. Aerially, Foles will be able to work with some dependable ball-catchers, including a top tight end in Zach Ertz, along with receivers Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Trey Burton, and Torrey Smith. One of the top offenses this season in the NFC, can they maintain that level in the playoffs? Or have injuries made it so the Eagles' offense has already peaked this season and is a compromised unit? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

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With issues on offense, the Philadelphia defense is going to have to be at or near its best. Coordinator Jim Schwartz has done a terrific job this season and will need to have this group shot out of a cannon. Atlanta might not be the thrill-a-minute offense they were last season, but they are still a big-play group that can wreak a lot of havoc. The Eagles' top-ranked rushing defense will be needed in this game to at least put a crimp into that dimension of Atlanta's offense. With Vinny Curry, Tim Jernigan, Brandon Graham (questionable), and Fletcher Cox, that line is good enough to control games in spots. Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham were a handful at linebacker this season. This group can rush the passer and has provided a suffocating ground-defense. This "D" scored six touchdowns and they'll need all that playmaking prowess this week. The secondary, while not bad, can be exploited by an aerial attack like what the Falcons possess. They can make a lot of plays and this "D" has picked off a robust 19 passes this season. A few wouldn't hurt this week.

It's been an up-and-down season for the Falcons, but they are on the upswing. They have a lot more menace on their defense this season, as shown in giving up 13 points on the road to the Rams last week in the wild card. The most they've given up in the last 7 weeks was 23 points. On offense, they still pack a big punch and can give any defense trouble on the right day. They started off the season well, before going into a funk where they lost four of five games. With 6 wins in the second-half of the season and a playoff win over the favored Rams, they look pretty dangerous in this spot. And they did it before—just last season.

The Atlanta offense still flexes a lot of overall tools. Last season's MVP QB Matt Ryan operates behind a tough line and while his numbers were down this season, he is still an elite QB by any measure. And he works with the best WR in the conference in Julio Jones. Ryan can also lean on a run-game with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, two dangerous runners who also add some targets for Ryan to exploit aerially. Add in TE Austin Hooper, WR Mohamed Sanu, and others, and it's a pretty well-stocked group. Again, they're not as dangerous as they were last season, but they can still flash some of that form, while also having more reliance on the other side of the ball.

The Atlanta defense is solid—a definite team asset. They kept the team in a lot of games when the offense wasn't firing on all cylinders. They allowed less than 20 points per game this season and showed nice balance. Atlanta was good against the run and the pass. A lot of guys elevated their game on this side of the ball this season. On the edges, Adrian Clayborn and Vic Beasley can still do a lot of good things, including getting after quarterbacks. Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett have been good up-front against the run. In the middle, Deion Jones has been a key playmaker, with DeVondre Campbell also a handful. Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant have formed a nice corner-tandem, with solid play at safety from Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen. In a way, this Atlanta team could be better-built to win a championship than last season and this defense is a big part of that equation.

The challenge here is to figure out if the Falcons and Eagles have passed each other on the overall fulcrum of effectiveness. The Eagles have certainly hit higher notes this season, but Atlanta is undoubtedly on a more-upward trajectory heading into this matchup. Seemingly every season, there are teams like the Eagles who, for whatever reason, aren't able to translate a great regular season into the playoffs. While the whole issue with the quarterback could be overplayed in this analysis, I see Atlanta as being really hard for the Eagles to deal with on Saturday. But in a game that has a toss-up feel to it, I'm leaning toward taking the home team and the points.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Philadelphia Eagles plus 2.5 points. Bet the Atlanta vs. Philadelphia game for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets!

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