• SIGHTS & SOUNDS: Falcons 1 win away from NFC Championship Game

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    ATLANTA - The Atlanta Falcons are one win away from returning to the NFC Championship Game.

    After last year’s Super Bowl run, it’s safe to say the Falcons are going into Philadelphia as an experienced bunch.

    Atlanta’s Matt Ryan will be making his 10th playoff start Saturday.


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    Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles will make his second playoff start against the Falcons.
    The Eagles -- in their first playoff game since 2013 -- have only two players on the active roster who have won a playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field. 

    The Falcons, ready to right their wrongs from an epic Super Bowl LI collapse, are 1-2 in playoff games against Philadelphia.

    The Eagles beat the Falcons, 27-10, in the NFC Championship Game in 2004 and 20-6 in a divisional matchup in 2002.

    The Falcons’ lone playoff win against Philadelphia came in Atlanta in the 1978 NFC Wild Card game.

    Atlanta is 10-13 all-time in the playoffs, including 0-2 in Super Bowls.

    The Eagles are 19-21 in postseason play, and also 0-2 in Super Bowls.

    MATT RYAN

    Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was back at practice Wednesday. Ryan did not practice with the team Tuesday due to a personal matter. 

    Coach Dan Quinn gave no further update.

    Ryan asked that his privacy be respected and would not discuss his absence.

    ROBERT ALFORD

    Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon included Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford Wednesday on his list of under-the-radar NFL players who could be difference-makers in the Divisional Round this weekend.

    Gagnon writes Alford outplayed Desmond Trufant and Keanu Neal in the Falcons secondary Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams.

    “Trufant is a better player, which is why he doesn't get tested as often. But it's a good sign Alford had nearly twice as many passes defensed during the regular season (20 to 12), and he ranked fourth in the league in that category,” Gagnon wrote. “With Trufant likely to cover Alshon Jeffery most of the day, Alford should have a wide range of assignments against the Eagles and could be asked to move into the slot to cover the dangerous Nelson Agholor. If Alford remains hot, that could be the difference for the Falcons on the road.”

    MARQUAND MANUEL

    On the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” on Tuesday, Nate Burleson discussed the impact Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel has made on the Falcons’ defensive storm that “has been brewing all season.”

    Last season under defensive coordinator Richard Smith, the Falcons were the 27th best defense in the NFL, giving up 25 points per game.

    In 2017 under Manuel, the Falcons are allowing an average of 19 points.

    Manuel previously served as the Falcons secondary coach from 2015-2016.

    “Basically, a touchdown that they subtracted off of each game so shout out to that defense. Of course, having certain guys back healthy always helps, but when you’re new to the job and you’re young, you’re in your 30s and being a defensive coordinator and your team is still in (the playoffs) ... your team's advantage is that defense,” Burleson said. “What I learned is Marquand Manuel (is) not just as a good defensive coordinator but in the next five years he’s going to be talked about as one of the new hot head coaches.”

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.

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