By Will Strome and Chris Lovi, NFLWeather.com
Hurricane Sandy is hitting the east coast hard and Philadelphia will feel her full effects. NFLWeather.com forecasts a 70% chance of rain and a northern wind swirling in around 15 mph inside Lincoln Financial Field for Sunday when the Eagles host the Atlanta Falcons (6-0),the last undefeated team standing in the NFL.
The Falcons haven’t played in a stormsince 2009. According to the NFLWeather’s historical analytics, the Falcons lost their last two road rain games by a combined score of 43-20. But that was when Matt Ryan was before Matt Ryan flourished into one of the premier quarterbacks in the league. Ryan has been outstanding all season, throwing for over 1,750 yards and 14 touchdowns with only six interceptions. But Atlanta a dome team, so the question is, what impact will the rain have on Ryan and his Falcons?
The Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) struggled in their only rain game this season but made it clear they’re ready for change on defense. Todd Bowles was hired from within when defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was fired after blowing a 10-point fourth quarter lead to lose at home in overtime. We’ll see what Bowles can bring, and most importantly, if he can get his defense to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. In a piercing rain storm, Ryan likely won’t be opening up the offense quite the same way he would at home in Atlanta. The secondary needs to be in tight coverage with the front seven pressuring him enough to make early and off target passes.
For the home team, Michael Vick has been a turnover machine with 13 of them, tied for second in the league. He’s also been knocked down 65 times, most in the NFL. The result is poor decision making forced passes and turnovers that he simply wasn’t making a year ago. Luckily, the Falcons defense is relatively bland for an undefeated team, surrendering over 140 yards on the ground. But if Vick can hold onto the ball, this may be the game to show case his mobility while the Falcons defense adjusts to the slick field and foul weather.
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is usually at his best in the flats but this could also be a big game for the speedster with the opportunity for 20+ carries. Given how often the Eagles have turned over the ball, a more conventional run game is likely to be in effect while the rain is pouring down.
For Atlanta’s ground game,Jacquizz Rodgers has added a versatile element to the offense.But in the mud, Michael Turner has the experience and is the obvious go to guy. Turner averages over four yards per carry. Yet, the Falcons rushing offense ranks 29th in the league with only 86.5 yards a game. The Eagles are going to do everything they can to get to Ryan so if Atlanta can’t take some of the pressure off his shoulder with a solid mix of passing and running right at the defense, one house blitz from Philly could lead to an 80-yard scamper from Turner.
Thankfully for the Falcons, the Eagles defense has yet to produce a complete performance for 60 minutes. Conversely, neither has Atlanta. Only once have the Falcons held an opponent to under 17 points. Thus, if Philly can avoid giving the ball back to Ryan, they just might be able to knock the NFL’sown big bird off its perch.
SD @ CLE: Ryan Matthews is Healthy; Trent Richardson is Questionable; Fan Interest is Doubtful.
After storming its way through the coast, Hurricane Sandy will likely travel inland where it will hit Cleveland, Ohio, the host of Sunday’s matchup between the San Diego Chargers and the Cleveland Browns. NFLWeather.com forecasts a chance of showers, mostly cloudy skies with winds gusting up to 21 mph. Since both teams like to air it, expect the two teams to keep it simple if weather becomes an issue on Sunday.
After losing double digit leads in consecutive weeks, the Chargers look to rebound in a big way against the Browns. Turnovers have been an issue for the Chargers offense; expect them to have a little more conservative approach to their game plan this week. If showers and thunderstorms threaten the vacation like climate of the Cleveland area, look for quarterback Phillip Rivers to commit to short passes through the air. Rivers has been sacked 12 times in the past three games and is only 2 for 12 with three INTs on throws 31 yards or longer this season. Not to mention he faces a Browns defense that leads the conference in sacks with 18.
In potential downpour, the Chargers will also look to rely heavily on running back Ryan Matthews to run all over the Browns defense if Rivers can’t get anything going in the rain. The Browns offense faces a dilemma with running back Trent Richardson questionable for Sunday’s game with a rib cartilage injury. San Diego’s defense ranks second in the league against the run so the real question is how effective will Richardson be with a banged up rib? Browns head coach Pat Shurmur’s offensive game plan will not evolve around Richardson in this case. Expect quarterback Brandon Weeden to get the green light to spread the ball around as best as he can. Last week, Weeden connected with nine different receivers. However he faces a tough test if weather conditions hold up. With the “Frankenstorm” hitting the East Coast, rain will likely limit his ability to throw down the field so expect short to mid-range throws.
Despite their losing habits, the Chargers are still tied for first place in the AFC West. San Diego has had two weeks to prepare for this game and they have the talent to succeed. A healthy running back will be the difference in this game. Ryan Matthews will have a big day in rain-soaked Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Fantasy Footballers should start Matthews.
Will Strome&Chris Lovi
NFP (at) NFLWeather.com