Here is our weekly look at what we will be watching in the Eagles game:
1. Getting off the field: In the Eagles’ three wins, their opponents managed to convert just 4 of 36 third-down opportunities (11.1 percent). In their three losses: 24 of 46 (52.2). Eagles have been atrocious on third-and-7 to third-and-10. Opponents have converted 10 of 22 opportunities from that distance. The good news is the Falcons aren’t a very good third-down offense (21st).
2. Eagles kickoff coverage: There’s been a dramatic disparity in the Eagles’ ability to cover punts and kickoffs. They’re a respectable 10th in the league in punt coverage (6.8), but an abysmal 29th in kic koff coverage (25.7). Sixteen of David Akers’ last 29 kickoffs have been returned for at least 24 yards. As luck would have it, they’ll be facing the NFC’s top kickoff returner this week in the Falcons’ Jerious Norwood (29.0).
3. Turning off Turner: Falcons running back Michael Turner is third in the league in rushing. In his team’s four wins, he’s averaged 5.2 yards per carry. In its two losses: 3.1. Falcons use their run game to set up their pass game. Eagles need to contain Turner and sidekick Jerious Norwood so they can focus on pressuring rookie quarterback Matt Ryan.
4. Airing it out: Don’t look for the Eagles to run the ball a lot Sunday. They’ve thrown the ball 35 or more times in five of their first six games. Against a defense that has struggled to stop the pass, look for the needle to hit 40. In their last three games, the Falcons have been gashed for 8.2 yards per attempt and six touchdowns, even though they managed to win two of those games.
5. In the zone: The Eagles’ offense continues to struggle in the red zone. They’ve converted just 12 of 26 trips inside the 20 into touchdowns, the 11th worst percentage in the league. In their last four games, they are just 5-for-15. Their inability to convert short-yardage situations and a lack of production from the tight end position have been the biggest red-zone problems.