Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles Tips | Saturday 13 January 2018

NFL boffin Tom Selwyn analyses the weekend’s NFL divisional play-off matches, starting on Saturday night from Philadelphia.

Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles | Saturday 13th January 2018, 21:35 | Sky Sports

I can’t think of too many times a wildcard entry has been favoured in the betting against a #1 seed, but that’s what we’ve got here after Eagles QB Carson Wentz went down late in the season.

Philadelphia limped to the #1 seed with a suddenly handicapped offense and after Atlanta finally put it all together to oust the Rams last week you can see why they’re the favourites here.

The most glaring drop-off when you compare Wentz to his backup Nick Foles is pocket movement. Wentz made so many plays escaping from pressure, but Foles just looks to be a statue when passing.

If he is given time he can make all the throws, but when he’s under pressure everything looks to be a mess. If I know this, you can be damn sure the Falcons coaches know this and will be looking to make Foles uncomfortable from the outset.

With both their DBs and LBs playing well at the moment, if Atlanta is able to get pressure with just it’s down linemen then I’d think they’d win the game and cover the 2.5-point handicap.

The Falcons will have to play considerably better up front on offense themselves for this to happen though – Rams DT Aaron Donald was constantly in the backfield, wrecking plays last week and in Fletcher Cox the Eagles have a player who can do similar things.

If they aren’t able to block him, an opportunistic Philadelphia defence will have a chance to add to their 19 INTs.

Wentz missing this game is a shame, but there’s still a lot of intrigue to be had as to whether Foles sinks or swims. My inclination is the former.

Player to Watch – Atlanta

Vic Beasley – LB / Edge Rusher: The whole of Atlanta’s DL will have a part to play, but Beasley had a sack last week and will be key to collapsing the pocket and making Foles skittish.

Player to Watch – Philadelphia Eagles

OL: If Philadelphia is to get the “good” Foles, he’ll need to be kept clean by his OL. That includes clearing running lanes as well as pass protection – a strong running game is a QB’s best friend.