The Philadelphia Eagles would be wise to board the “Jay Train” for their NFL divisional round playoff game Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons.
After all, former Boise State running back Jay Ajayi already has torched the Falcons defense once this season.
Before he was traded to Philadelphia, Ajayi ran for 130 yards on 26 carries in the Miami Dolphins’ 20-17 victory over Atlanta on Oct. 15. He was the only running back to eclipse the 100-yard mark against the Falcons during the regular season.
“Same guys. My mentality hasn’t changed,” Ajayi told USA Today. “My mindset is always downhill, attacking, try to punish guys. One-on-one, it’s all about not being tackled.”
Although the Eagles (13-3) earned the NFC’s No. 1 seed and home-field advantage, they’re considered a 3-point underdog to the Falcons (10-6) without starting quarterback Carson Wentz, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
That makes Ajayi’s role even more vital.
“It’s win or go home. It’s a three-game war for us,” Ajayi told 247sports.com. “This is a team that’s in the way of what we want to accomplish. We understand what the outside world thinks of us right now, and we’re OK with that. We believe in what we have, who we have.”
Since he joined the Eagles, Ajayi has shared time in the backfield, rushing 70 times for 408 yards and one touchdown. LeGarrette Blount leads the Eagles in total rushing yards this season with 766, but Ajayi has the top yards-per-carry average at 5.8. Corey Clement has contributed 321 yards.
Ajayi has never had more than 15 carries in a game with Philadelphia, but that could change Saturday (2:35 p.m., NBC). Pittsburgh held him to 33 yards rushing last year in a wild-card playoff game.
“I just know that we’ve got a good plan going into this week. We’re working really hard in practice, and the coaches have kind of let us know what the plan is going to be this weekend,” Ajayi told ESPN.com. “I just know whenever my number is called on Saturday, how many times it’s going to be called, I’m going to be ready, and my hair is going to be on fire. I’m just going to be out there leaving it all on the line.”
There are three more players with Idaho ties on the remaining NFL playoff teams:
TE Josh Hill, New Orleans Saints, No. 89: The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Idaho State and Blackfoot High alum had three catches for 49 yards and a touchdown in the Saints’ 31-26 win over Carolina last week. The Saints play at Minnesota at 2:40 p.m. Sunday (FOX).
QB Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints, No. 7: The former Highland High (Pocatello) and BYU standout played on special teams but did not record a stat in the Saints’ wild-card win against Carolina last week.
LB Shea McClellin, New England Patriots, No. 58: The former Marsing High and Boise State star is on injured reserve. The Patriots host Tennessee at 6:15 p.m. Saturday (CBS).