A return trip to the Super Bowl is going to be much more difficult for the Philadelphia Eagles. They won’t be sneaking up on any teams and instead will have the proverbial target on their back. They also open the season without Carson Wentz behind center. The good news for the defending champs is that they have the best quarterback situation in the NFL and will go with Nick Foles against the Atlanta Falcons in Thursday’s season opener. Foles dealt with injury issues during the preseason and struggled when he was on the field, but he shined last postseason to earn Super Bowl MVP honors.
Watch this Week 1 regular season matchup on Thursday, September 6, 2018, at 8:20 p.m. ET at Lincoln Financial Field. The game will be televised on NBC.
NFL Opening Odds at BookMaker.eu
Atlanta Falcons +2.5
Philadelphia Eagles -2.5
There’s been movement on the line likely caused by the uncertainty at Philly’s quarterback spot. The spread hit the board at Eagles +4 and moved as high as +5.5 before falling in the last few weeks. Philly opened game week at +2.5, the lowest the line has been since originally coming out.
Neither team showed much with their first-teamers on offense during the preseason and that led to the total coming in at 45.5. Recent form suggests the number could drop before kickoff. The Eagles won last year’s playoff game 15-10 and the last three meetings all cashed the under.
Carson Wentz – Though the Eagles haven’t said as much, it appears as though Wentz will need additional time to recover from the knee injury he sustained late last season. That means Foles will get the starting nod with Nate Sudfeld serving as the backup. Foles led Philly to a Super Bowl victory with sterling numbers, but he’s been hurt this preseason and threw just 26 passes in two games.
Alshon Jeffery – The Eagles will likely be without one of their top pass catchers from last season as Jeffery continues to mend from offseason shoulder surgery. He was activated off the PUP list this week and returned to practice. However, he hasn’t participated in any preseason games and is expected to open the season on the bench. Jeffery led the Eagles with nine touchdown receptions, was second with 789 receiving yards and third with 57 catches in 2017.
The Falcons had a goal of getting back to the Super Bowl last season to make amends for their epic meltdown from the 2016 campaign. However, those plans were derailed in Philly in the divisional round of the playoffs. Atlanta entered that game as the favorite, but they were shut down by the Eagles’ defense and Matt Ryan struggled to get the offense going.
Even more depressing for the Falcons was that they had an opportunity late in the game. Ryan drove them inside Philly’s 10-yard line with a little over a minute to play, but on fourth-down from the Eagles 2, Ryan’s pass for Julio Jones was incomplete and the Eagles ran out the clock. Ryan threw for just 210 yards and the Falcons managed 281 for the game. The Falcons have lost their last two trips to Philly scoring a total of 25 points in those games.
Free ATS Pick
We saw the production of Atlanta’s offense fall considerably last season from their bloated numbers in 2016. There are reasons for that, one of them being coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who took over for Kyle Shanahan. The unit has many of the same faces and added Calvin Ridley in the draft. His presence will allow Jones to roam free. And having a season with the regulars working under Sarkisian should help the group overall.
There will be a lot happening on Thursday and that has to take away from the Eagles’ focus on the Falcons. And with the quarterback situation unsettled, I like Atlanta to take advantage. Foles is expected to start, but he got beat up in the preseason and the entire situation is different now. While most of the attention surrounds the offense of the teams, they are strong defensively, and that won’t change. The teams have played below the total in each of the past three meetings and that looks like the smart play in this one. And I like the Falcons and Ryan to do more to get the victory.
NFL Betting Odds: Falcons 23, Eagles 17
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