The Atlanta Falcons continue to show they are over their Super Bowl hangover, advancing to the divisional round as the No. 6 seed with a playoff-opening win over the third-seeded Los Angeles Rams. Now it's off to Philadelphia to face the top-seeded Eagles, who will be without quarterback Carson Wentz after he suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
Reasons to be excited: The defense continues to play at high level and is fresh off holding the league's top-scoring offense, the Rams, to 13 points. The Falcons are excelling at all levels of the defense, pressuring up front, tackling in the open field and making plays on the ball. First-year defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel has teamed with head coach Dan Quinn to orchestrate a defense that now seems to be feared because of its speed and toughness.
Reasons to be concerned: Although the Falcons scored 26 points in their postseason opener, they still left some scoring opportunities out on the field. No one expects them to have a 100 percent conversion rate in the red zone, but not scoring touchdowns and settling for field goals could catch up to them. As running back Devonta Freeman said, "I think we're getting back," regarding the offense starting to regain the form it showed last year. Julio Jones catching nine passes on 10 targets against the Rams might be a sign of more playoff dominance to come.
What’s next: Things look good on paper for the Falcons to win on the road for the second consecutive week. Sure, the Eagles are the top seed but they don't have Wentz, who was the lead MVP candidate before his injury. Unproven Nick Foles steps in at quarterback. "I played him in college before and I know he can make all the throws," Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant said of Foles. "I've got respect for all those guys. We just have to be prepared and bring the energy." Despite Trufant's words about Foles, the Eagles likely will have to rely on a defense that ranked first in the league against the run (79.2 yards per game) and ranked fourth in both points allowed (18.4 ppg.) and yards allowed (306.5 ypg).