NFL’s 99th season kicks off with Falcons, Eagles rematch
September 06, 2018 7:52 AM
by Bob Christ
The NFL’s 99th season kicks off tonight with the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles playing host to the Atlanta Falcons in a battle at The Linc.
It’s a rematch of last year’s divisional meeting in Philly, which the NFC’s top-seeded Eagles, coming off a bye, won 15-10 as a 2.5-point underdog against a Falcons team that earned a 26-13 wild-card win in LA the previous week.
This marks the 15th straight prime-time Thursday opener involving the reigning Super Bowl champ. The previous 14 went a collective 11-3 SU, but only 6-5-3 ATS, including the Patriots’ 42-27 home loss to KC last year as a 9-point pick.
Now to take a stab at how this game will play out. The odds are courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas:
Atlanta at Philadelphia
Time: 5:20 p.m. PDT
Line: Eagles by 1 (45)
Facts: The line opened with Philly a favorite by 4, but dipped as it became clearer No. 1 QB Carson Wentz (knee) wasn’t going to start. So, just as in the Super Bowl, it’s Nick Foles. ... Slumbering offenses: Atlanta scored a league-low three offensive TDs in four summer games. Philadelphia, meanwhile, didn’t get a point out of its first-team unit, with Foles having the 10th worst passer rating among the league’s auditioning QBs.
Eagles RB Jay Ajayi reportedly is a go despite a foot issue. WR Alshon Jeffery on the other hand will sit out with a shoulder injury. ... Atlanta, which gave QB Matt Ryan limited reps, finished its second straight 0-4 exhibition season. Such teams off winless summers have had trouble flipping the switch in their openers, going 4-17 ATS in Week 1 the past 21 games. ... Three Philly stars who missed last year’s title run are back: OLT Jason Peters, RB Darren Sproles and LB Jordan Hicks. ... Sound the alarm bells: The Eagles yielded 20 sacks in four exhibitions, most in the league.
Analysis: The Eagles will no doubt be juiced at the outset because of the championship banner ceremony, but will it be enough to carry them to victory? Can Foles regain the form that helped him skewer the Patriots in a 41-33 Super Bowl victory? Five years ago this guy had the third best single-season passer rating in NFL history, but in short order found himself almost waived out of the league.
Then came last year’s playoff renaissance, which included a 38-7 NFC title-game win over Minnesota’s top-rated defense. But his exhibition performance has to have Eagles fans queasy. Atlanta was relatively anemic this preseason, too, but might have a greater sense of urgency to win, especially coming from a division in which every loss carries that much more weight.
Forecast: Falcons 20, Eagles 16