Eagles, Falcons heading in opposite directions
PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Eagles are going down a road the Falcons traveled last year.
After Philadelphia started 3-0, rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and first-year coach Doug Pederson were the talk of the town. But the Eagles have lost four of five, Wentz has been up and down and Pederson has made several questionable decisions.
In 2015, rookie coach Dan Quinn guided Atlanta to a 5-0 start. But the Falcons went 3-8 the rest of the way and many wondered whether quarterback Matt Ryan's time was up.
Ryan stuck around and is having his best season, helping the Falcons (6-3) lead the NFC South.
Wentz and the Eagles are hoping for a similar and even more immediate turnaround. They'll kick off the second half of their season at home against the Falcons on Sunday.
''We fully believe we're a good football team,'' Wentz said. ''We fully know all four of these losses we had a chance to win, and most of them we kind of hurt ourselves.''
Ryan grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and rooted for Donovan McNabb, so he understands what Wentz is going through in a city that's been waiting 56 years for a football championship.
''There are a lot of good things that come with (playing quarterback) and a lot of things that are tough to deal with,'' Ryan said. ''It seems like he has a good head on his shoulders up there. I know it's a place that can be tough. Growing up there, they can be tough on their teams for sure. But if you're winning, just like any place, winning is good.''
Wentz has a big fan in Quinn.
''The first time I saw him was at the Senior Bowl,'' Quinn said. ''He looked like a really good player on the very first day. … When we went through the cut-ups, he just looked like somebody that was going to be able to handle it early on.''
Here are some things to watch for when Atlanta visits Philadelphia:
GETTING DEFENSIVE: The Eagles have the league's No. 6 ranked defense, but they've got a tough task this week. Atlanta's offense is No. 2 in yards and first in scoring, averaging 33.9 points per game. Ryan leads the NFL with 2,980 yards passing and 23 touchdowns – with only four interceptions. Julio Jones leads the league with 970 yards receiving.
''I think this is the best offense that we will face all year,'' Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said.
CATCHING FLAK: While the Falcons have arguably the best receiver in the league and a solid group overall, Philadelphia's receivers are mediocre at best. Jordan Matthews leads the Eagles with 42 receptions for 507 yards. He's not in the top 20 in either category. Second-year pros Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham struggle to get open and make plays. Rookie Bryce Treggs opened eyes with a 58-yard catch last week, but it was only his first game.
SACKS ON THE RISE: After ranking last in the league with only 19 sacks in 2015, the Falcons already have 20 this season. Vic Beasley Jr., last year's first-round draft from Clemson, leads the team with 7 1-2 sacks. Adrian Clayborn has 4 1-2. Grady Jarrett initially was credited with two sacks in last week's win at Tampa Bay, but the league's review of the film this week took one sack away.
HOMECOOKING: The Eagles are 3-0 at home, 1-4 on the road. They've dominated opponents in Philadelphia, outscoring them 84-23. Their most impressive win was a convincing 34-3 victory over the Steelers in Week 3. They also handed Minnesota its first loss in Week 7. But the Falcons are better on the road (4-1) than at home (2-2). Something has to give.
''We've done a good job of approaching it with the right mindset,'' Ryan said. ''It is a business trip. We've got one objective for when we get up there. From the moment we started preparation earlier in the week until we finish the game, everything needs to be geared toward finding a way to win.''
TAMME OUT: Falcons TE Jacob Tamme is expected to miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury. Backup tight ends Levine Toilolo and Austin Hooper had TD catches against the Buccaneers. A third tight end, Joshua Perkins, dropped a chance for another scoring catch. Hooper, a third-round pick from Stanford, is expected to start as he tries to make his case as the team's future fixture at the position. Hooper has 14 catches for 241 yards and two touchdowns.
AP Sports Writer Charles Odum contributed to this report.
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