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September 09, 2023

Week 1 NFL picks: Rounding up the experts' predictions for Eagles-Patriots

Spoiler: The Eagles are the popular pick.

Only a day remains until the Eagles finally kick off their 2023 season against the Patriots up in Foxboro, and our sports staff generally feels pretty good about the Birds' chances of jumping out to a 1-0 start.

Wrote Shamus Clancy, maybe the one person who would bring the Montreal Expos into this:

As the Patriots prepare to honor failed Montreal Expos catcher Tom Brady, the Eagles will ruin that homecoming party for TB12. 
Bill Belichick is 25-25 in the post-Brady era and their once indomitable presence is gone. 
Against a banged-up New England offensive line, I expect the Birds’ pass-rushers to feast, including Jalen Carter’s first career NFL sack. On the offensive side of the ball, we’re in for an MVP-caliber performance from Jalen Hurts, throwing for a touchdown and rushing for two others in a 30-16 win. 

How's everyone else feeling? Here's a roundup of Week 1 predictions throughout the local and national media:  

The Inquirer: In a game-by-game breakdown of the entire 2023 slate, the Inquirer beats universally have the Eagles taking Week 1. Wrote Olivia Reiner:

The Patriots will welcome Brady back to Foxborough for their 2023 home opener, this time as a fan. But if everything goes according to the Eagles’ plan, they’re going to spoil the party. The Eagles boast a more talented offense with Hurts at the helm compared to the Mac Jones-led Patriots. Additionally, the Patriots will be without their starting right tackle Riley Reiff, who is on injured reserve. That’s music to Reddick’s ears. WIN | 1-0 [Inquirer]

• The Athletic: Mac Jones is coming in with a few reservations against him, while Jalen Hurts looks in for a big day against the Patriots' defense. The matchup favors the Eagles, for sure, but not so much a great bet with that -4 spread. Wrote Austin Mock:

Maybe I’m underrating Mac Jones playing under an actual offensive coordinator, but, again, that’s something I’m willing to bet against to start the season. The main reason that I love this bet is that the Patriots defense has struggled against mobile quarterbacks over the past few seasons. In the past two seasons, per my analysis, the Patriots are giving up over 32 points per game against quarterbacks that I considered “mobile.” Well, Jalen Hurts is considered mobile and I think he’s primed to have a big day in New England.

Worst line to bet: Eagles -4 (-110). [The Athletic/$]

MORE: Eagles-Pats predictions, betting odds, and more

• Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: The Eagles need this game and will get it, writes Prisco:

The defending NFC-champion Eagles are going to find out what it's like to be the hunted this season, starting in this one. They have the talent to handle it, but it's a tough road to navigate this season. New England will be good on defense this season, but the Eagles offense and Jalen Hurts will be too big of a challenge to open the season. Mac Jones won't keep up. 
Pick: Eagles 30, Patriots 22 [CBS Sports]

MORE: All of Jimmy Kempski's Week 1 NFL picks

• Sheil Kapadia, The Ringer: With a big factor being the Patriots' ability to protect Mac Jones, Kapadia sees New England emphasizing the run, and how Sean Desai responds in his first game as defensive coordinator will be key. 

Ultimately, however, Kapadia sees this one going Eagles:

This matchup will be all about the Patriots’ ability to protect quarterback Mac Jones. Earlier this offseason, New England’s offensive line looked like a strength, but the Patriots were hit with injuries this summer, and suddenly the line looks like a question mark. That could be bad news for a Week 1 matchup against the Eagles’ ferocious pass rush. Bill Belichick will know that going in. Look for the Patriots to try to run the ball, lean on run-pass options, and get the ball out of Jones’s hands quickly. How new Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai counters that game plan could go a long way toward determining the winner.

On the other side of the matchup, it’s strength versus strength. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts had a terrific summer and looks poised to produce another MVP-caliber season. The word “blueprint” gets tossed around way too often, but it’ll be interesting to see what Belichick thinks the best strategy is to contain Hurts and this dynamic Eagles offense.

Historically, it’s been risky to pick against Belichick as an underdog, but in the last three seasons (since Tom Brady left), the Patriots are 9-13 against the spread as underdogs. I think we’ll see a competitive game, but I like the Eagles to cover this number.

The pick: Eagles (-4) [Ringer] Eagles picks across the board. Maybe the Patriots find a way to hang around, but they'll be taking their first shots against a team that only hits that much harder, as Ali Bhanpuri wrote:

Nowhere to go but up for the Patriots offense after last year's debacle, but what a brutal test for this unit right out of the gate. The Eagles' size and depth up front should pose problems for New England's run game, putting too much pressure on Mac Jones' shoulders. Quick passes and a heavy dose of 12 personnel could help the Patriots hang around, but they'll be throwing jabs against a team that thrives on landing haymakers. While I expect New England to be feisty this year, not even an offseason worth of game planning from Bill Belichick or the G.O.A.T.'s return to Foxborough can compensate for the talent gap between these two clubs. Bill O'Brien might wish he had stayed in Tuscaloosa after this one. []

Bleacher Report: The outlet's panel of seven was unanimous in taking the Eagles. No Super Bowl hangover here:

Unanimously, our crew took the Eagles against the spread and straight up. On behalf of the group, Knox explained why Philadelphia will cover on the road.

"Will the Eagles' Super Bowl hangover start kicking in as early as Week 1? I wouldn't count on it," Knox said. "With a double coordinator change, Philly may experience some road bumps this season, but New England doesn't have the horses to keep pace with the Eagles offense.

"The Patriots should have a top-tier defense in 2023, and their offense will show improvement under Bill O'Brien, but the latter piece of the equation will take time. I expect New England to be a much tougher challenge for the rival Dolphins in Week 2. I also expect Philly to win by a touchdown." [B/R]

• Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Eagles win.

How far removed are we from that Super Bowl LII classic between these teams? Former Alabama quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Mac Jones will be the focus, but we're watching how D'Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny fare against the Patriots' interior defense. New England was 0-3 ATS as a home underdog last season. The Pats slow this one down, but the Eagles avoid the big mistake on the road. 

Pick: Eagles 24, Patriots 17. [The Sporting News]

Vinnie Iyer, The Sporting News: Eagles also win, but don't cover the spread. 

The Eagles took considerable personnel hits in the offseason and are hoping both defensive youth and a remixed backfield will help compensate in their quest to repeat as NFC champions as NFC favorites. The Patriots' defense is a tough first assignment and their new-look offense under Bill O'Brien will grind away with a few more big plays to stay in the game.

Pick: Eagles win 23-20 but fail to cover the spread. [The Sporting News]

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