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Eagles-Falcons scouting report

Recent history: The Eagles defeated the Falcons, 24-17, on Oct. 26, 2008, at the Linc, 27-14, and lead the series, 15-11-1.

Recent history: The Eagles defeated the Falcons, 24-17, on Oct. 26, 2008, at the Linc, 27-14, and lead the series, 15-11-1.

OFFENSE

Eagles: 357.1 yards per game (11th)

Falcons: 339.5 yards per game (16th)

Quarterback

Eagles: Donovan McNabb has completed 64 percent of his passes over the last five games. Last week, he had just seven incompletions that weren't drops or batted passes. Despite engineering two fourth-quarter comebacks the last 2 weeks, just two of McNabb's 15 touchdown passes this season have come in the fourth quarter.

Falcons: With Matt Ryan out with turf toe, career backup Chris Redman will make just his fifth start in the last 7 years. Redman has a strong, accurate arm and protects the ball pretty well. He has averaged an interception every 39 attempts in his career and didn't have any in 41 attempts last week.

PICK: EAGLES

Running back

Eagles: With Brian Westbrook out, the Eagles have mainly become a one-back-formation team. In the last two games, 92 of their 133 offensive plays (69.2 percent) have been out of one-back sets. Rookie LeSean McCoy has averaged 4.9 yards per carry in the last five games. Fullback Leonard Weaver also is being utilized more.

Falcons: Falcons had the league's second-most productive ground game last year, averaging 152.7 yards per game. This year, they're averaging just 118.2. Injuries have been the biggest culprit. Their 245-pound workhorse, Michael Turner, likely will miss his second game in 3 weeks with an ankle injury.

PICK: EAGLES

Receiver

Eagles: With DeSean Jackson not expected to play, little-used Reggie Brown (just three receptions) will replace him as the "Z'' receiver in many of the two- and three-WR sets. Slot receiver Jason Avant is on fire. He's caught 17 passes in the last three games. Of his 32 receptions, 20 have produced first downs.

Falcons: A backup QB and a defense that has had problems shutting down opposing TEs will equal a lot of passes to Tony Gonzalez. He has 61 receptions, including 17 in the last two games. Chris Redman relied on him heavily last week. At 6-4, Michael Jenkins is a matchup problem, but might be sidelined by an ankle injury.

PICK: EAGLES

Offensive line

Eagles: The longer this unit plays together, the better it is getting. Their pass protection and run-blocking is improving every week. Eagles have averaged 4.7 yards per carry the last two games. LT Jason Peters is a punishing run-blocker, but still is giving up too much ground to pass-rushers on Donovan McNabb's blind side.

Falcons: This unit cut its sacks-allowed total from 47 to 17 last year, but already has given up 20 this season, including five in last week's 20-17 win over Tampa Bay. Injuries have been a major factor. They played much of last week's game without LT Sam Baker (elbow/ankle) and RG Harvey Dahl (ankle/Achilles').

PICK: EAGLES

DEFENSE

Eagles: 304.9 yards per game (9th)

Falcons: 373.9 yards per game (27th)

Defensive line

Eagles: DEs Trent Cole and Juqua Parker have combined for 14 1/2 sacks and 33 hurries. But the Eagles haven't been getting enough of a pass-rush contribution from their DTs lately, either in their base or nickel packages. In the last three games, DTs have accounted for just one sack and two hurries and gotten little inside push.

Falcons: A year ago, DE John Abraham was one of the best pass-rushers in the league, collecting 16 1/2 sacks. This season, he's got just 3 1/2, a big reason the Falcons are 26th in sacks per pass play. Abraham hasn't had an unassisted sack since Week 4.

PICK: EAGLES

Linebacker

Eagles: The Eagles have had major problems defending TEs, and this injury-ravaged unit is a big part of the reason why. In the last eight games, opposing TEs have caught 55 passes for 634 yards and seven touchdowns. And dead ahead is Tony Gonzalez. If WLB Akeem Jordan (knee) can play, it will strengthen the base and nickel packages.

Falcons: MLB Curtis Lofton leads the league in tackles and always seems to be around the ball. For an offensive line like the Eagles that often has had trouble getting to the second level, he's going to be a handful. Once a first- and second-down 'backer, he now also plays in nickel.

PICK: FALCONS

Secondary

Eagles: CB Asante Samuel, who ran his interception total to seven with two impressive picks vs. Jason Campbell, no doubt will try to bait Chris Redman, who is making just his fifth start in the last 7 years. S Macho Harris, who is being used as the nickel corner in Joselio Hanson's absence, had a rough game vs. Redskins.

Falcons: In the last six games, opposing QBs have completed 68.7 percent of their passes, averaged 9.09 yards per attempt and thrown 13 TD passes. Their entire secondary has just six interceptions. The left cornerback position has been a problem ever since starter Brian Williams suffered a season-ending injury.

PICK: EAGLES

Special teams

Eagles: PK David Akers is kicking as well as he ever has and has hit his last 16 FG attempts. With DeSean Jackson not expected to play, Jeremy Maclin will return punts against a team that is 29th in the league in punt coverage. Eagles punt-coverage unit continues to excel (3rd in league) even without Joselio Hanson.

Falcons: Falcons cut struggling PK Jason Elam this week and signed veteran Matt Bryant, who beat the Eagles with a 62-yard field goal 3 years ago when he was with the Bucs. Falcons' 29th-ranked punt-coverage unit has been a liability. Eric Weems is a competent return man who is averaging 9.9 yards per PR and 25.8 per KR.

PICK: EAGLES

Key matchups

1. Eagles LT Jason Peters vs. Falcons RDE John Abraham: Peters has been inconsistent and is playing on a bum ankle. Abraham's bull rush could give Peters problems if he can't depend on his ankle. Advantage: Falcons

2. Eagles WLB Akeem Jordan vs. Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez: Jordan has missed the last three games with a knee injury and still is a question mark. Gonzalez is the best pass-catching TE in league history. Advantage: Falcons

3. Eagles WR Jason Avant vs. Falcons nickel CB Brent Grimes: Avant has 17 catches in the last three games. Grimes is a Northeast High grad with good cover skills. Advantage: Eagles

Hot and not

HOT:

Eagles: WR Jason Avant. Has 17 catches in last three games. Twenty of his 32 receptions have been for first downs.

Falcons: TE Tony Gonzalez. Has 17 catches in the last two games. Has 65-plus receiving yards in four of last five games.

NOT:

Eagles: TE Brent Celek. Had four drops last week vs. Washington. Is averaging just 8.2 yards per catch in the last three games.

Falcons: DE John Abraham. Has just 3 1/2 sacks this season and hasn't had an unassisted sack since Week 4.

Domowitch's prediction

Eagles 23, Falcons 20

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