September 06, 2018
It's finally arrived. The 2018 NFL season — and the Eagles' quest to repeat as Super Bowl Champions — officially kicks off on Thursday night when the Birds host the Falcons in the season opener at the Linc.
It's been just under nine months since these two teams last met in the divisional round of the playoffs, a game the Eagles won 15-10, and aside from the stakes, not much has changed. With Nick Foles (and not Carson Wentz) again getting the start, bookmakers aren't loving Philly in this one — the line has dropped all the way down from Eagles -3.5 to Eagles -1.
Will Foles' be able to recapture some of that magic from a year ago, or will Matt Ryan and the Falcons get a bit of revenge for their earlier playoff exit last winter?
Here's how the PhillyVoice sports staff sees tonight's season opener playing out in South Philly...
TV: NBC | RADIO: 94.1 WIP
SPREAD: Eagles (-1) | TOTAL: 44.5 (via Bovada)
Carson Wentz, Nigel Bradham, Alshon Jeffery, and a handful of other Eagles contributors are all out, while the Falcons come into this game very healthy. That’s kind of a big deal, and in my view, the Falcons are the better team as a result.
Still, what can’t be ignored is the Eagles’ dominance at home under Doug Pederson. In 2017, they went a perfect 9-0, if you exclude the meaningless Week 17 game in which the Eagles’ JV team almost beat the Cowboys’ varsity team. They outscored their opponents 282-124 (point differential of +158) at home. In 2016, even the 7-9 Eagles managed to go 6-2 at home, including a win against the Super Bowl-bound Falcons. They outscored their opponents 194-124 (+70) in those games.
The Linc is going to be absolutely lit, as the kids would say. The Eagles eek one out against a very good Falcons team, with the defense leading the charge.
Nick Foles is coming off of terrible performances that have given very little confidence to Eagles fans. But with a hugely important game against the Falcons ahead, the team has no choice but to hope he finds his confidence and groove magically out of thin air.
Wait… this exact thing happened already.
Last time, Foles led the Eagles over the Falcons and Vikings before winning Super Bowl MVP. The first time I said the Eagles had no chance. This time, I will also say they have no chance. So my pick is Falcons 31-27 — which means the Eagles will more than likely win in Week 1.
Nick Foles has not looked great this preseason. Then again, Nick Foles didn't look good in the regular season last year before going on to light up the playoffs. And, the Eagles didn't need a great performance from their quarterback to beat the Falcons last time around, just a good one — Foles saved his best stuff for the NFC title game and the Super Bowl.
Last time, the Eagles beat the Falcons with their defense, holding one of the NFL's better offenses to just 10 points, all of hem them in the first half. they'll likely need a similar performance from Jim Schwartz's unit on Thursday night. That, and a few big kicks from Jake Elliott.
Ultimately, I think they get the job done and pick up right where they left off last season.
It seems like just yesterday that we were waiting for an Eagles home game against the Falcons, having just watched the first-team offense offer a whole lot of nothing in the weeks prior. And that one ended with the home team pulling through by the skin of their teeth.
Everything about this game says Eagles loss to me, with Atlanta motivated to get revenge for the playoff game and the Eagles missing a lot of their top skill guys. In limited preseason action, Nick Foles looked a lot more like the guy who couldn’t find an NFL home than the guy who outdueled Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. And though I have high hopes for the defense this year, they’re integrating some big new parts, so it’s maybe a bit unfair to expect them to carry the load this soon.
But football is not always about logic or what we have already seen. There will be wrinkles in the playbook, there will be returns for major contributors on the offensive side of the ball, and there will be a home crowd ready to cheer on their team in a real game for the first time since they won the Super Bowl. Those things will not make up for Wentz’s absence, but they will make it a tough place to play.
I picked the Eagles to win almost every week last year, and it seemed to work out alright. I’ll continue to give them the benefit of the doubt until they prove they don’t deserve it in games that matter.
I think the Falcons are closer to a complete team right now than the Eagles are. I know the Eagles are banged up and have guys coming off the IR from last year. I know Doug Pederson runs some intense practices. But no practice can or will ever match the game speed of a regular-season NFL game.
I think the Eagles will ride a wave of emotion in getting off to a great start, but I can’t see them maintaining that. The Falcons will come back late and go ahead, with the Eagles driving to respond. This time, however, the Nick Foles magic won’t be there.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin
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