Scouting The Opponents: Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons are coming to town as a desperate team and desperate teams are always dangerous. When they get here though, they'll find a determined Eagles team looking to win the NFC East. Our look ahead at the Falcons starts with a look back at a record-setting Eagles/Cowboys game...

...The Eagles and Cowboys wasn't just a big game in Philadelphia and Dallas. The game was the most watched NFL game this season, with 23.2 million viewers tuning in. It beat out the over-hyped Manning Bowl way back on September 10, by 500,000 viewers.

Now, a look ahead...

As you probably know, Sunday's game was moved to 4:15 on FOX. The network was allowed to protect one game from being taken by NBC for their Sunday night broadcast and they chose the Eagles/Falcons game. The move to a later time was made because there are more viewers for the later afternoon game.

With all of those people tuning in, they'll be seeing an Atlanta team whose playoff hopes have been reduced to nothing short of hoping against hope after falling at home to the Panthers 10-3.

The Falcons are mathematically alive heading into Sunday's game against the Eagles. The Falcons (7-8) are going to need a lot to happen in order to earn an NFC wild card berth.

Possibly the toughest task will simply be beating the Eagles (9-6). The Birds are fired up knowing that they can wrap up the NFC East title with a win over Atlanta, giving them their fifth consecutive triumph.

So, if Atlanta does win, what else needs to happen? The Giants, Panthers, and Packers would all have to either lose or tie this weekend. All of those teams are 7-8 and all of them hold the tiebreaker advantage over Atlanta.

If the Falcons finish tied with New York they'd lose out via their head-to-head result, a 27-14 Giants victory at the Georgia Dome back in October. End the season even with Carolina, who they split their two NFC South contests with, and Atlanta still loses out because Carolina has a better record (4-1 presently) in the division than the Falcons (3-3). And, finishing equal with Green Bay would also be a losing proposition, as the Packers possess a 6-5 record in the conference heading into the final weekend, while Atlanta is 5-6.

One factor that could play a positive role for the Falcons is that all three of the teams that they're competing with also be playing tough road games. The Giants will visit the Redskins in Washington Saturday night, while on Sunday the Packers must play the Bears in Chicago, and the Panthers take on the Saints in New Orleans.

But, all of the outside possibilities are a moot issue if the Falcons can't beat the Eagles. If they do, it will be only the second victory this season for Atlanta against a team with a winning record.

Falcon News and Notes...

  • WR Ashley Lelie is out for the season finale in Philadelphia with a separated left shoulder. Lelie suffered the injury attempting to make an acrobatic catch late in Sunday's loss to Carolina.
  • WR Roddy White will return to the starting lineup now that Ashley Lelie has been ruled out with a separated shoulder. White, the team's first-round draft pick in 2005, lost his starting assignment due to continued dropped passes earlier in the season. He hasn't started since the October 22 contest against the Steelers.
  • WR Adam Jennings will move up to the number three position as a result of Ashley Lelie's shoulder injury and Roddy White getting the start in Philadelphia opposite Michael Jenkins. Also, WR Jamin Elliot will be elevated from the practice squad to the active roster.
  • CB Jimmy Williams accumulated six tackles for the second time this season and was solid in his first 'real' start at right cornerback. The rookie had previously opened games on several occasions in the team's nickel package, but against the Panthers he was part of the Falcons base defense.
  • Despite gaining just 29 and 32-yards, respectively, on the ground Sunday, RB Warrick Dunn and QB Michael Vick remain the only teammates in the top 20 on the NFL rushing list this season. Dunn is 14th with 1,082-yards, while Vick is 19th with 1,022.
  • WR Michael Jenkins established a new career best with his only catch on Sunday. The nine-yard reception was his 37th of the season, topping his previous high of 36 set last year. Jenkins also carried the ball for the first time this season, picking up two-yards on a reverse. It was the second rushing attempt of his three-year career, equaling the two-yard gain he had in 2004.
  • After helping save the Falcons with his heroic performance in Tampa Bay when tailbacks Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood went down with injuries, and then catching two TD passes against Dallas, FB Justin Griffith was relegated to just his blocking assignments versus Carolina.
  • CB DeAngelo Hall, who was named to his second consecutive NFC Pro Bowl several days after giving up a pair of touchdowns to Terrell Owens, bounced back with a solid performance. Even though the Panthers threw just seven passes on the day, Hall had two passes defended and didn't give an inch to Steve Smith all game long.
  • CB Jason Webster was inactive for a seventh consecutive game as a result of the groin tear he suffered during a practice session leading up to the Cleveland game. He has practiced the last several weeks, but only with the scout team.
  • RB Jamal Robertson, who was signed several weeks ago when running backs Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood were injured in the Tampa Bay game, was inactive against Carolina after playing on special teams the week before vs. Dallas.

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