1. What is biggest key to victory for the Falcons?
Andrew Hirsh: It all comes down to the O-line. If Atlanta's starting five can keep Matt Ryan upright and open some holes for the running backs, it will be difficult for Philadelphia's defense to slow the Falcons down. Sam Bradford and the Eagles offense are going to put up some points, and if Atlanta hopes to keep up, it will have to stop Philly's front seven from getting its way.
Jay Adams:I'll likely answer this question for any opponent the same way for a while. I think the biggest key to victory for the Falcons is how the offensive line performs. Matt Ryan has all the talent in the world but it's hard to show that in a crowded pocket or, worse, on his back. The line looks vastly different from last year and how those pieces have come together — some on extremely short notice — will be on display Monday night. If they can keep Matt clean, the Falcons can move into the win column.
Kelsey Conway:The performance of the Falcons' O-line on Monday will determine how this game goes. We know the Eagles will try and put up as many points as they can with their up-tempo offense, so the Falcons will need to counter this. The Falcons will need to put together a strong performance in the run game, and that all starts with the offensive line. Also, the way the offensive line protects QB Matt Ryan will be another key factor as the Eagles have a solid front seven, and finished second in the NFL in total sacks last season. 2. How do you think Atlanta can slow down Philadelphia's offense?
AH: In my mind, slowing down the Eagles' talented stable of RBs will be the most important job for Richard Smith's defense. DeMarco Murray can gash any opponent in the NFL; should he have a big night, Atlanta will likely struggle to keep up. On the other hand, if the Falcons force the Eagles to rely heavily on their passing game, it'll be a lot easier to keep Chip Kelly's offense at bay. Sam Bradford is a good QB, but he's no Peyton Manning. Philadelphia needs its ground attack to show up.
JA: Get the defense off the field. If you make those third-down stops, you kill any opponent's momentum. Philly's offense can't be dangerous if it's on the sideline watching the Falcons offense work, so getting the defensive off the field after third downs or creating turnovers is how you keep Philadelphia from dictating the speed of the game.
KC: Getting Sam Bradford and Co. off the field, quickly. Atlanta can't let Philadelphia get in a rhythm on offense, that is when they are dangerous. Keep an eye out for Paul Worrilow, Justin Durant and Desmond Trufant as they will be expected to lead this defense on Monday.
3. Who's one under-the-radar player you think will step up on Monday?
AH: I'll go with Phillip Adams. He should see a lot of time in Atlanta's nickel package and could greatly affect Philadelphia's passing game. Desmond Trufant should be himself and lock down his half of the field; Robert Alford looks like he can hold his own on the inside. The Eagles have a lot of talented receivers, though, so Adams will need to hang tough opposite Trufant. Based on training camp and preseason, fans should feel confident in his abilities.
JA: I'm not sure he's completely under-the-radar, but I think Leonard Hankerson could find himself with some solid opportunities Monday. If Roddy White's elbow is completely healthy, then he'll get his fair share of looks, but I expect Julio Jones to be the center of attention, leaving receivers like Hankerson with the chance to make a solid impact.
KC: Ricardo Allen will play his first regular season game at free safety and will tasked with stopping a strong passing attack from Philadelphia. I expect to see Allen involved a good amount. Over/under: Julio Jones 80 receiving yards
AH: Over. Byron Maxwell is a tremendous corner, but Jones has proven he can get the best of virtually every defensive back in the world. My guess is Atlanta's superstar receiver ends up with 90-100 yards and a touchdown.
JA: I don't care who he's playing, I'll always take the over on this. Until any defense proves it can really shut him down, I'll feel this way. Philadelphia's coming into the game with question marks in the secondary. Julio Jones exploits that Monday and I think he tops 100 yards.
KC: Defintely going over with this one. I wrote this week that Julio Jones put up over 100 yards and a touchdown against Philadelphia in 2012, and I expect him to have another monster night.