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Place: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Philadelphia Eagles had the bye week to get acquainted with a new defensive coordinator. Todd Bowles’ first test comes on Sunday afternoon, when the Eagles host the last unbeaten team in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons.
Philadelphia’s defense has not gotten much help from the offense and quarterback Michael Vick, who has committed 13 turnovers through the first six games and has had to fight off calls for his removal from the starting lineup.
The Falcons rank fourth in the NFL with 17 takeaways and are strong against the pass. Quarterback Matt Ryan had a rough start before the bye against Oakland but is completing nearly 68 percent of his passes while guiding the sixth-ranked scoring offense in the NFL.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-3): Head coach Andy Reid is 13-0 after a bye week, the longest winning streak since bye weeks were introduced. But this time he has had to oversee a change on the defensive side of the ball after firing Juan Castillo and promoting Bowles from the secondary.
The breakdowns on defense through the first six games were usually of the crushing variety, as Philadelphia squandered fourth-quarter leads in each of its last two setbacks. Castillo’s dismissal has helped deflect attention away from the offense during the bye.
The Eagles rank 30th in the NFL in scoring offense despite sitting in the middle of the pack in yardage. Turnovers are the difference. Philadelphia’s minus-9 differential is at the bottom of the pack. Vick has been a big part of that and will be facing Atlanta for the third time since being released by the team following his arrest on dogfighting charges. The former face of the Falcons was knocked out with a concussion in the third quarter of last season’s meeting, a 35-31 loss on Sept. 18.
Atlanta Falcons (6-0): Atlanta has benefited from a forgiving schedule and has had to eke out victories at home over Denver, Carolina and Oakland. Ryan threw all six of his interceptions in the three games before the bye but has done enough late in games to keep his team perfect in the win column. Ryan’s complement of targets will be a difficult test for Bowles and the Philadelphia secondary.
Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones each have four touchdown catches. The Falcons’ weak spot is one the Eagles have the capability to exploit – rushing defense. Atlanta has surrendered an average of 143.8 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground and will likely again be without tackle Corey Peters, who was removed from the reserve/non-football injury list but has not been activated.
1. With a victory on Sunday, Atlanta coach Mike Smith would pass Dan Reeves (49) for the most wins in team history.
2. The Falcons overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter of last season’s meeting as Ryan threw four TD passes.