The 2018 NFL season gets kicked off with a game that has a lot of intriguing matchups and one that I think will be really interesting and will be a great game. The last two NFC title winners will be facing off as the Eagles will be hoisting their Super Bowl championship banner they earned from last season. These are also two teams that should be contenders in the NFC and it’s a rematch of a divisional round playoff game from last season. A game in which the Eagles won 15-10. Nick Foles will also be starting the game at quarterback for Philadelphia while Carson Wentz continues to try and come back from an ACL that he tore near the end of last season. I’m very excited for this game.
Eagles offense vs Falcons defense
This should be a fun matchup to watch. Last time we saw Nick Foles, he was winning Super Bowl MVP, but he’s going up against a very good defense and now teams have had the whole offseason to look at the run/pass option scheme the Eagles relied on heavily in the playoffs so it’ll be interesting to see if teams have adjusted at all. Alshon Jeffery will also be missing this game, taking away a huge target for Foles. They also lost Trey Burton to free agency in the offseason so there will be some moving pieces for this Philadelphia offense, but the constant is the offensive line and the presence of Jay Ajayi in the backfield.
There’s really not a weak level of the Falcon defense. They have studs in the back end in Desmond Trufant, Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. They’re also moving Vic Beasley back to defensive end, where he thrived two seasons ago, and they have Deion Jones manning the middle of the defense and he is someone that can chase down anything and take away that level right behind the defensive line.
A lot of who wins this unit vs unit matchup will come down to the Eagles offensive line against the Falcons defensive line. I think Philadelphia could struggle to throw the ball based on what we’ve seen from the Eagles offense in the preseason, but if they can get a running game going with Jay Ajayi and the other backs they could do fine.
I would also expect to see a lot of multiple tight end sets with Zach Ertz and rookie Dallas Goedert and for them to use Darren Sproles and Corey Clement in creative ways in the passing game. I expect Doug Pederson to have something creative prepared and I look forward to seeing what it is.
Eagles defense vs Falcons offense
Atlanta’s offense isn’t missing anyone that’s overly significant like Philadelphia is with Alshon Jeffrey, but they will be going up against a pretty loaded unit that was very good last season and I think it’s safe to say there’s some pressure on Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian after the way that things went last season.
They still have a dynamic duo of running backs with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, they still have an excellent cast of receivers, led by Julio Jones, Austin Hooper is still a good tight end and they still have a good offensive line. So what I’m saying, is there’s no excuse for the Falcons to not be able to put up points this season.
If there is a weakness in the Philadelphia defense I would probably say that it’s the linebackers, and I really only say that because they have some new pieces that are question marks right now and they are so good on the line and are very good in the back end. This does mean that if the Falcons offensive line can neutralize the Eagles up front a little bit they could get a running game going if they can get to the linebackers. That is a big ‘if’ though, because that Eagles defensive line is as deep as anyone in the NFL so they should be able to stay fresh, and they are great at wreaking havoc, especially Fletcher Cox in the middle.
Another way they could try and take advantage of the linebackers in by using their tight ends, mainly Austin Hooper. Hooper is a good athlete that can really run and he could be a difficult matchup for some of the young Eagles linebackers that’ll also have to be concerned with the running game.
Of course the Eagles could counter that with using Malcolm Jenkins to cover Hooper because Jenkins is a versatile player, but that would leave less help for Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills and some of the other guys in the secondary as they try and deal with guys like Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and this years first-round draft pick, Calvin Ridley.
Those guys are very tough matchups in one-on-one coverage as everyone knows, but that was the case last season and the Falcons offense was pretty underwhelming.
Atlanta has the players to put up points even on a defense as good as the Eagles, but Steve Sarkisian’s play-calling will be just as important as the talent they have on the field.
I’ll give a slight edge to the Eagles in the special teams department. I like both teams’ kickers and think they’re both pretty reliable and can make some long field goals, even for NFL standards, but the reason I’m giving Philadelphia a slight edge here is because of the presence of Darren Sproles. Yes, Sproles is not what he once was, but he’s still a big-play threat, especially on punt returns, which is what matters most because the kick return is rarely a thing that teams even allow to happen now. I expect this game to be close so special teams could play a big factor and it does help that Atlanta has Matt Bosher, but Philadelphia has Sproles and the special teams battle in this one will be fun to watch.
Pick: Falcons win 23-17