What America noticed final weekend from the Atlanta Falcons was just like what the group confirmed for two quarters of final 12 months’s Super Bowl.
Can they stick with it as they head on the highway once more Saturday to Philadelphia?
The Falcons have that balanced offense — if Matt Ryan is environment friendly — to problem any opponents. Where they made their mark in opposition to the Rams was on protection.
“We don’t have a (difficult) protection, however we’re very detailed,” says defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, a former NFL participant who obtained the job final February. “And the element of expectations of understanding that they must make our protection come to life, they usually’re doing an superior job at it.”
Philadelphia’s protection has been up and down just lately, and it has handled a bunch of accidents. Depth has been a plus for Jim Schwartz’s unit.
The edge right here belongs to Atlanta at quarterback — if Ryan is environment friendly — with backup Nick Foles working the offense for the Eagles. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Foles fly. Or battle.
The Falcons are 2-point favorites over the top-seeded Eagles, a extremely uncommon prevalence. But one which, with Carson Wentz on the sideline, makes sufficient sense.
Tennessee (plus 13) at New England, Saturday
The Patriots are rested. They’re supposedly ticked off. They’re fairly wholesome.
And they’re miles higher than the Titans.
Still, let’s give Tennessee large credit score for the way it rallied in Kansas City. The Titans confirmed resolve and a capability to provide you with massive performs on offense that few anticipated.
“You’ve obtained each group preventing to play for the subsequent week,” Patriots security Devin McCourty says. “Nobody’s going to go on the market — and I don’t care should you’re down, should you’re up — like nobody goes to give up. So, that’s one thing I believe we at all times speak about, and clearly you might see it in that recreation in opposition to Kansas City.”
But this one is in New England. Yes, it’s gotten tiresome to journey (and journey, and journey) to Foxborough for playoff video games. There’ll be one other one up there subsequent weekend.
BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 30-10
Jacksonville (plus 7) at Pittsburgh, Sunday
One factor concerning the Steelers: They are inclined to play a lot nearer video games than they need to. Based on expertise alone, they in all probability are the NFL’s most expert squad.
Here comes Jacksonville, following an offensive stinker in beating outmanned Buffalo. Logic says this needs to be a rout.
Forget logic and do not forget that Ben Roethlisberger was so victimized in a 30-9 Week 5 loss to the Jaguars that he had one of many worst video games of his profession.
There’s additionally the Antonio Brown issue: How wholesome is the unanimous All-Pro receiver, who was injured in Week 15?
Jacksonville has a staunch protection with a terrific go rush, too. Its secondary is among the many league’s greatest.
OK, sufficient of that. We can’t make a case for Blake Bortles successful in Pittsburgh.
New Orleans (plus four) at Minnesota, Sunday
What figures to be the most effective recreation of the divisional spherical, a redux of the Vikings’ 29-19 dwelling victory within the season opener.
Both sides are balanced and have sufficient expertise to deal with the strain. While the Saints have the Hall of Fame-level abilities of Drew Brees at quarterback, Minnesota’s Case Keenum has been among the many most nice surprises within the league.
Look for this one to return right down to which protection asserts itself. Coach Mike Zimmer has constructed fairly the unit within the Twin Cities.
“Well, you wish to have go rushers, you wish to have guys that may cowl,” he says. “Without making a gift of all my secrets and techniques, I like a sure physique sort with guys. You can type of take a look at most of them and inform what we’re attempting to get. Athleticism, guys who can suppose shortly on their toes, safeties which have versatility, corners who can cowl.”
Sounds like a winner.
Last week: Against unfold (2-2). Straight up (1-Three)
Season Totals: Against unfold (119-122-10). Straight up: (163-95)
Best Bet: 9-9 in opposition to unfold, 10-Eight straight up.
Upset particular: 10-Eight in opposition to unfold, 9-9 straight up
For extra NFL protection: http://www.professional32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP–NFL