This year’s season opener in the NFL pits the last two teams to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl against each other, with the Falcons visiting the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles. The champs won’t be at full strength, though, with QB Carson Wentz — who has been out of action since late last season — still not ready to return to the field. WR Alshon Jeffery has also been ruled out for the Eagles’ opener.
With Wentz ruled out, QB Nick Foles will get the start. He led the Eagles through the postseason to the Super Bowl title, but the numbers he has put up throughout his career aren’t overly impressive. Compare him to Falcons QB Matt Ryan, who was named the league MVP for the 2016 season, and the visitors have the advantage at the quarterback position, although Ryan threw for just 20 touchdowns last season.
The Falcons appear to have the advantage at the other offensive positions, as well, with WR Julio Jones one of the best in the game and WR Mohamed Sanu a strong No. 2 and rookie WR Calvin Ridley looking to make a name for himself early in his career. With Jeffery out, WR Nelson Agholor is the Eagles’ top receiver, but he has been dealing with injuries of his own. Expect a heavy dose of TE Zach Ertz in the Eagles’ passing game. On the ground, the Falcons’ running-back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman also have the advantage over the champs’ RB squad, led by Jay Ajayi and veteran Darren Sproles, with second-year RB Corey Clement also in the mix.
Both teams had top-10 defenses last season, with a slight advantage to the Eagles, but it’ll be tough for them to stop the Ryan-led Falcons offense.
If Wentz was playing, I’d give the Eagles a better chance to get a win to begin their title defense, but I think the Falcons’ offense is too good for Foles to be able to keep up with it. The Falcons are getting 3.5 points, per ESPN’s Pigskin PIck’em. I expect the Falcons to win the game outright, so if they’re getting points I’m taking the points. Give me the Falcons to win, sending the Eagles to an 0-1 record as they look to successfully defend their Super Bowl title. The over/under on Vegas Insider is 44.5, and I’ll take the over on that.
Stay tuned later in the week for my season and playoff predictions, along with the rest of my Week 1 picks.