Editor’s note: NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian deliver their NFL picks every Thursday of the season, and here’s who they like in the Atlanta Falcons-Philadelphia Eagles NFC divisional-roudn game, with the line from OddsShark.
(-3) Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles, Saturday, 4:35 p.m.
A No. 1 seed never has been an underdog in the divisional round until now, and you can assume that fact isn’t lost on the Eagles, who are probably feeling pretty disrespected right now. Nick Foles’ struggles should give anyone pause when picking Philly, but that defense is one of the best in the NFL. The defensive line is an elite unit that has been great against the run at home this season, allowing just 3.3 yards per carry. Let’s not get too carried away with the Falcons just yet, as they still don’t look completely solved on the offensive side of the ball. I’m expecting a low-scoring game, so I’ll grab the points and take my chances.
I love the matchup inside for the Eagles, with defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan going up against a Falcons offensive line that lost starting guard Andy Levitre before last week’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. Philadelphia will slow Atlanta’s ground game, create pressure on Matt Ryan up the middle and force the Falcons into some third-and-long situations, where secondary options like Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper won’t be quite as effective as they otherwise would be.
Since December, the Eagles are 26th in yards-per-play differential. That’s bad. Foles also is averaging less than five yards per pass attempt this season — a full yard per pass attempt less than Joe Flacco, who was last in the league in that category this season. Meanwhile, Atlanta finished the season third in yards-per-play differential and has the advantage in the passing game, the ground game and possibly in the trenches. The Falcons have the fifth-best opponent sack percentage and the Eagles don’t really get to the quarterback (22nd in sack percentage).
Thumbnail photo via James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
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