National Football League
                       === Unbeaten Falcons visit Eagles ===
 (Sports Network) - Asante Samuel apparently didn't fit the mold of Juan
 Castillo's defense and was eventually traded from the Philadelphia Eagles to
 the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason.
 Known as a gambler from his cornerback position, the brash and flashy Samuel
 will make his return to the City of Brotherly Love when the undefeated Falcons
 invade Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Eagles Sunday afternoon.
 Samuel enjoys playing off the line of scrimmage, a tactic Castillo frowned
 upon with physical cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
 already in the fold. Moving Samuel out of the equation made sense, right? It
 may have, but since then Castillo has been fired and Samuel is rolling deep
 with the unbeaten Falcons.
 It took Samuel six games to finally get his first interception with the team
 in a 23-20 win over the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 14, one week before Atlanta's
 bye. Samuel stepped in front of a Carson Palmer pass in crunch time and
 returned the pick 79 yards for a touchdown.
 "It was about time," said Falcons defensive end John Abraham of Samuel's INT
 for a score. "We've played six games, and that's what we expect him to do
 every game. I told him before the game, 'It's about time for you to get a
 pick, right?' We really needed that turnover in that point of the game, and it
 was the deciding factor in getting the win."
 The Raiders were able to tie the game later on, but a 55-yard field goal by
 Matt Bryant kept the Falcons with an unblemished record.
 Atlanta is off to its best start at 6-0, but there are some out there who
 believe the Falcons haven't proved anything. Well, they won at a hostile
 Arrowhead Stadium in Week 1, literally picked apart Peyton Manning and the
 Broncos, blasted the Chargers on the road and squeezed out a close win over
 Carolina. Wins over RGIII and the Raiders ensued for Atlanta, which now faces
 a trio of tests against Philadelphia, Dallas and New Orleans.
 "I think everybody knows where we're at. The really good thing about our
 football team is we're not satisfied," said Falcons head coach Mike Smith, who
 is one win shy of becoming the team's all-time wins leader. "There is a desire
 in there to play better football. We've been very fortunate and the thing
 about the NFL is it's a week-to-week proposition."
 Atlanta has played well in October under Smith, going 12-4, and is 3-1 after
 the bye under this current regime. That lone loss came against the Eagles back
 in 2008. Smith can tie Dan Reeves with a win Sunday. Reeves went 49-59-1 as
 Falcons head coach from 1997-03.
 Discipline and forcing turnovers have been the Falcons' calling card this
 season. Their 18 penalties against are the fewest in the league and they have
 a plus-10 turnover differential (Eagles are minus-9 differential). Atlanta
 has converted 45.3 percent of its third downs this season, which ranks tied
 for fourth in the NFL.
 Philadelphia made a big move during their bye week by firing Castillo. The
 decision came a few days after the Eagles blew a 10-point lead in the fourth
 quarter against the Detroit Lions in a 26-23 overtime loss on Oct. 14.
 Asomugha played arguably his best game as an Eagle, shutting down Lions All-
 Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson most of the game. But in the waning minutes,
 Castillo switched defensive assignments and opted to blitz more while taking
 Asomugha off of Johnson. After the loss, a dejected Asomugha questioned the
 coach's decision and Castillo was later axed.
 The Eagles promoted secondary coach Todd Bowles to defensive coordinator, and
 guess who is a big supporter of the move? You guessed it, Asomugha. The
 talented defensive back said he is not sure how much will change and likes
 Bowles' calm, relaxed demeanor. Asomugha said the mood hasn't changed in the
 locker room and that the players are eager to win, mentioning that the Eagles
 "have to put wins together."
 Asomugha said confidence in Castillo wasn't eroding before the switch.
 "We think this defense is good. The players, everybody feels that way,"
 Asomugha said. "We're still confident as a defense. There's a lot of
 confidence in his (Bowles) ability."
 Philadelphia's high-priced cornerback prefers that Bowles remain on the
 sidelines rather than in the pressbox under his new label since he is a
 specialist with the defensive backfield and can talk with him right away.
 Asomugha did reflect on Castillo and mentioned it was tough to hear the news
 and respects him as a man and a coach.
 Eagles head coach Andy Reid may have lost some fans by making a desperate move
 to fire Castillo, but blame can be spread around. Quarterback Michael Vick is
 still having issues protecting the football as evidenced by his eight
 interceptions and nine fumbles, five of which have been lost. Vick was
 interception free for three games until chucking up two free balls versus the
 Lions. Protecting Vick has been a problem, too. Vick has been sacked 17 times
 and at least twice in every games this season.
 Vick, a No. 1 overall draft pick by the Falcons in 2001, used the bye week to
 reflect on what needs to improve.
 "I understand the most important thing is for me to go out and continue to do
 my job, and try to help this football team the best way I can," Vick said. "We
 control our own destiny and gotta make things right. Just gotta come out
 fresh, gotta start fast, get better. Hopefully we get this thing turned around
 and I'm optimistic we will."
 If records mean anything, Eagles head coach Andy Reid is 13-0 after the bye,
 the longest win streak since the bye week was introduced in 1990.
 Atlanta ended a four-game losing streak to Philadelphia with a 35-31 win last
 Sept. 18 at the Georgia Dome. The Eagles, though, have won eight of the
 previous 10 matchups in this series, including the postseason. In two career
 games against his former team, Vick has thrown for 290 yards with three
 touchdown passes and an interception.
 Vick suffered a concussion in last year's showdown.
 Matt Ryan, the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September, will be the
 primary focus of an Eagles' defense that has experienced trouble getting to
 the quarterback this season. Ryan, who has been sacked just once in each of
 his last two games, leads the eighth-best pass attack into a hostile and loud
 environment, but pressure doesn't seem to bother him. He has led the Falcons
 on game-winning drives in the fourth quarter in three straight games, and
 doesn't want to be in that position for another week. A fast start is key.
 "It's important every week. That's one of the areas we need to improve," Ryan
 said. "We haven't done a great job of that the last couple of weeks. Smitty
 (Mike Smith) talks about it all the time. We want to start fast and maintain
 that throughout the game. Regardless of what they have going on, I think
 that's a point of emphasis for us this week."
 Ryan has thrown two or more touchdown passes in a game five times already this
 season and his 98.8 passer rating ranks fourth in the NFL. He is tied for
 fourth in the league with 14 touchdown passes and the Falcons are 27-0
 record when he notches a quarterback rating of 100 or better. Ryan's 67.8
 completion percentage is fifth in the NFL, and owes credit to a dangerous wide
 receiver duo in Roddy White and Julio Jones. Tight end Tony Gonzalez isn't too
 shabby either.
 What will make the game go a lot more smoothly is an effective Michael Turner
 running the football. Turner has just one 100-yard game this season and has
 totaled just 100 yards on the ground in the previous two games. The bowling
 ball-type Turner needs to step it up for Atlanta's weak ground game against an
 Eagles run defense that is permitting 104.5 yards per game. Turner could
 thrive against Philly's new-look defense, and is looking forward to playing in
 front of the Eagles' "friendly" faithful.
 "Oh yeah, it's fun, it's fun," Turner said when asked about playing in hostile
 environments on the road. "It's football, the spirit of the game. Going into
 hostile environments is what makes this league so great. We're going to expect
 a good football game. They (Eagles) know they can't take too many more
 If Philadelphia believes in the numbers game, then they know it will be
 important to get running back LeSean McCoy going early. McCoy has hit the
 century mark in rushing twice this season and has compiled only 75 total
 rushing yards in the past two games. Atlanta is 28th in run defense, allowing
 143.8 yards per game.
 McCoy wasn't pleased with his latest performance versus the Lions and carried
 the ball 14 times for a season-worst 22 yards. He'll have left tackle King
 Dunlap to run behind Sunday after a hamstring issue hampered the big offensive
 lineman. Dunlap takes back his starting job from Demetress Bell and will face
 a steady challenge against Falcons talented defensive end Abraham, who had
 three sacks against the Raiders and owns 10 1/2 in his past nine games.
 Since recording three sacks in a loss at Arizona on Sept. 23, the Eagles'
 defense hasn't recorded any in each of the past three games. Ryan was sacked a
 season-high seven times in a close win versus Carolina on Sept. 30, so perhaps
 Bowles will devise a scheme similar to what the Panthers did. Eagles rookie
 linebacker Mychal Kendricks said Bowles has a creative mind and has plenty of
 players to work with in stunts and schemes.
 "There's a sense of urgency. We got 10 games left, so it's time to get down to
 business," Kendricks said. "Everyone's held accountable."
 Besides having to worry about White and Jones at receiver, Philadelphia is
 facing a future Hall of Fame tight end in Gonzalez. Gonzalez went to the same
 college as Kendricks and the two Cal Bears will go at it Sunday. Gonzalez is
 one touchdown shy of 100 in his career, too.
 "I'm excited. I'm excited," Kendricks said of facing Gonzalez. "This game's
 fun for me. It's a game and he's one of the best tight ends to ever do it."
 Eagles safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman will have their hands full and
 must be in the right spots, or else it will be a long afternoon. Having
 Bowles, their secondary coach, calling signals should help in coverage.
 How will the Eagles' defense perform under a new coordinator? Can Vick keep
 the ball in the hands of those wearing midnight green? Will the Falcons be
 able to exploit Philadelphia's ineptitude to harass the quarterback? Those
 questions and more will be answered late Sunday afternoon, when Atlanta rides
 off in the sunset with its unbeaten record intact after a grudge match. Turner
 will be the Falcons' key to success in a close one.
 Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Falcons 24, Eagles 17
 10/26 09:00:28 ET