These 5 Eagles Need to Play Better Vs. Falcons

The Eagles haven't even stepped on the field this postseason and they're already making playoff history. Not the good kind. 

They're the first No. 1 seed to ever be an underdog in the conference semifinal round.

Of course, that doesn't mean the Eagles can't win. It just means that the loss of Carson Wentz and their performance down the stretch did enough to force Vegas to make the sixth-seeded Falcons the favorite in Saturday's game. 

The Eagles have to play better than they did down the stretch if they want to move on to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 2008. 

Here are five Eagles who need to step up: 

Alshon Jeffery 
Jeffery brought up a good point after he went without a catch against the Raiders: No one asked him about his chemistry with Nick Foles after the Giants game. True. In that Giants game, Jeffery had four catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. It looked like the switch at quarterback wouldn't affect him too much. But that Raiders game is a real reason to worry. It was the first time since his rookie season he didn't have a catch in a game. And so much of Jeffery's game relies on trust between him and the quarterback; he simply hasn't played a ton with Foles. 

In the regular-season finale, the Eagles made it a point to get Jeffery involved early. The Eagles' first offensive play was an eight-yard pass from Foles to Jeffery. That makes sense. The Eagles would be wise to get Jeffery involved in the game plan early on Saturday against the Falcons. 

Jalen Mills
Remember earlier in the season, when some people were talking about Jalen Mills possibly being a Pro Bowler? Yeah, that was a long time ago. The Falcons can run the ball, but they're really dangerous through the air. They have a former MVP in Matt Ryan at quarterback and arguably the best receiver in the NFL in Julio Jones. They also have Mohamed Sanu, who isn't a bad No. 2 wideout. 

We've seen Jim Schwartz hesitate to have one cornerback follow a top receiver, so it seems likely that both Mills and Ronald Darby will face off against Jones. Both of them will need to be up to the challenge. Mills has been beaten by double-moves a few times this year; his aggressiveness is his strength and his weakness. The good news for Mills is he never lacks confidence. 

Fletcher Cox
It's not that Cox hasn't been playing well. He has. He's on his way back to the Pro Bowl and absolutely deserves it. But it's the playoffs now and he needs to elevate his game. Aside from Wentz, he's the best player on the roster and he has a $100 million contract to prove it. It's time to earn that money. Sure, Cox is going to get double-teamed in this game but he needs to beat those double teams. With some extra rest, he needs to be the type of disruptive force that can wreck a game. 

Jay Ajayi
Doug Pederson said there's a possibility he could use Ajayi as a workhorse in these playoffs, which would be something new. The most carries Ajayi has had as an Eagle is 15, but he has certainly shown the capability of carrying the load before. Simply put, he's the Eagles' best running back. LeGarrette Blount is huge and can help in short-yardage, and Corey Clement and Kenjon Barner offer changes of pace, but Ajayi needs to be the featured back. There's a reason why the Eagles traded for him, and now that he knows the offense, it's time to deploy him. 

Ajayi seems up to the challenge (see story). Last week, he talked about getting ready for war and said he wanted to "punish people." One reason to think he'll be able to do it is that he's rested. Ajayi touched the ball 55 fewer times this season than last and this extended break should have him fresh and ready to go in the playoffs. 

Nick Foles
We saved the best for last. None of those other guys really matter if Foles can't get it together a little bit. No, he doesn't have to be Wentz; no one expects him to be. But if Foles doesn't play a little better against the Falcons, the offseason is coming early. Over the last two games, Foles completed 46 percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 48.2. The Eagles need him to play more like the guy who finished the game in Los Angeles and took down the Giants in North Jersey. 

Now, a lot of this won't really fall on Foles. It'll be up to Pederson to put the quarterback in situations where he's comfortable. That's why Pederson was diving into film from 2013 last week. We'll see if he can come up with something to help Foles out on Saturday at the Linc. 

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