It should be the marquee NFL game of the week this Sunday night when the Philadelphia Eagles face the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The game will air on NBC-TV Channel 10 (8:20 p.m.)
Both the Eagles and Falcons have Super Bowl aspirations. The Eagles have that “dream team” label. The Falcons were picked by Sports Illustrated as one of the teams to get to the Super Bowl.
In addition, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will be heading back to Atlanta where he started his career. This won’t be his first return trip. He played down there in 2009 during his first year with the Eagles when the team still had quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb. In that game, he scored his first touchdown as an Eagle on a five-yard run. He also threw a five-yard TD pass to tight end Brent Celek.
However, Vick will be heading back this time as the Eagles starting quarterback. Last Sunday, in the team’s 31–13 win over the St. Louis Rams, he started his first season opener since 2006 when he was a member of the Falcons. He completed 14 of 32 passes for 187 yards while throwing two touchdown passes.
Vick is still a popular athlete in Atlanta. In 2001, the Falcons drafted Vick No. 1 out of Virginia Tech making him the first African-American quarterback selected first overall. He spent six years with the Falcons.
Vick guided Atlanta to the 2004 NFC championship game where they lost to the Eagles. He was selected to three Pro Bowls during his time in Atlanta.
In 2007, he went to prison for his involvement with a dogfighting operation. After he was released, the Eagles signed him in 2009. Last year, he emerged as the Eagles starting quarterback. The Associated Press, The Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly named Vick the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year after registering career highs in quarterback rating (100.2), completion percentage (62.6) and passing yards (3,018) en route to his fourth career Pro Bowl berth.
He became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 3,000 plus yards, rush for 500-plus yards (676), and accrue a 100-plus quarterback rating in a season, joining Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who did so in 1992 for the San Francisco 49ers.
Vick appears to be off to a good start. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who actually replaced Vick as the franchise signal caller, struggled in his first game. Chicago spanked Atlanta, 30–12 in the season opener. Ryan completed 31-of-47 passes for 319 yards and one interception with no TDs.
Ryan, former Penn Charter and Boston College star, was the third pick overall in the 2008 by the Falcons. In his first two seasons as the team’s starter, he has guided Atlanta to an outstanding 13–1 home record. A year ago, he earned his first Pro Bowl appearance. In 16 starts, he set franchise records with 357 completions on 571 pass attempts. He threw for career-highs with 3,705 yards and 28 touchdowns with a career-best nine interceptions and a 91.0 passer rating.
This could be an early look at a possible NFC championship matchup. Atlanta and Philadelphia are certainly two of the conference’s top teams along with the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. It should be an interesting game. The Falcons don’t want to go down 0–2. So, the Eagles will be tested right away.