Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles Pick Week 1
NFL Week 1
Date/Time: Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 8:20PM EDT
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
by Loot Levinson, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ATL +2.5/PHI -2.5
Over/Under Total: 45.5
Editor’s Note: Keith Allen did an EXCELLENT early breakdown of this game. Since then Carson Wentz was put back on the shelf. But the picks is still worth a read.
The Atlanta Falcons come to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday Night Football to kickoff the 2018 NFL regular season. It’s going to be a raucous crowd, enlivened by it being the isolated first game of the new season—a sweet sight for long-starved football nuts. The crowd will be showing its appreciation and adulation for an Eagles team that was finally able to grant the football-crazed city of Philadelphia its first Super Bowl title this past February. The Falcons will be in hostile water come Thursday.
The NFC looks like it will be hotly-contested by a group of potentially-great teams. The Falcons and Eagles have been in winning form in recent seasons, but will need to fight hard to stay afloat in this treacherous conference. Last season, playing in the demanding NFC South, the Falcons somewhat maintained their strength and made the postseason, even beating the Rams on the road in a playoff game. They then lost to the Eagles in the next game, 15-10, after going scoreless in the second half.
Again, the conference is hot. It’s a bit strange how little respect both teams are getting; being that each team has represented this conference in the Super Bowl the past two seasons. With the Eagles, the common Super Bowl hangover is being predicted by many, despite there being no real reasons to forecast that. The fact that teams so seldom repeat rings true to some extent, but until the Eagles show different, a really good team should be expected to hit the field.
With Atlanta, who is expected to win 10 games, it’s as if they’ve had their shot and it gives people license to blow them off when discussing conference contenders. Sure, they’re still good, but when you can’t sew it up after being up 25 points in the second-half, then what’s the point? Nevertheless, they remain a dangerous force—with an offense that can strike fast and often, along with a defense that has made tremendous strides over the past couple of seasons.
The Eagles will be going with Nick Foles for week one, as Carson Wentz continues to rehab his injury. For most teams, their franchise QB not starting the season could have severe consequences, but an exception to that would certainly be when the guy filling in took you through the playoffs and to Super Bowl glory just last season. Sure, there were some coaching losses to Doug Pederson’s staff, along with some integral pieces of personnel, but they still look to be the real deal.
One can maybe see the Atlanta offense stagnating some as time carries on. After an MVP season in 2016, Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan was hardly amazing last season. The Atlanta offense dipped to 22.1 points a game and only a rising “D” kept them in contention into the playoffs. Julio Jones isn’t getting any younger, or happier, presumably. Devonta Freeman is less of a marvel than he was a few seasons ago. It feels odd to be talking about the Falcons and their offense is actually a bigger concern. With some luck on the health-front, the defense should continue to get better and keep them in a lot of games.
The Super Bowl hangover is something that could manifest, but that shows up later. In week one, for the purposes of a team covering a spread, it’s not going to resonate. With a frothing crowd buoying their spirits, one should look up for a pumped-up Eagles’ squad. But despite winning the Super Bowl, are they on a different level than Atlanta? At home in the playoffs, they won by a scant five points and got in the end zone one time—and that was with the Falcons getting blanked over the 35+ minutes of play.
Not to belabor the point, but that collapse by Atlanta in the Super Bowl seemed to spawn a disturbing behavior in 2017. Time and again, whether it was in a SU or ATS sense, the Falcons never seemed to finish very strong. And in games like this, that’s a trait you generally would like to avoid, especially in this environment. Still, it has all the earmarks of a close game.
Take the Points with the Road Underdog
We can see the case for the Eagles. Giving less than a FG at home with the place bumping is a move that can be justified. In a way, it’s almost like the book is trying to get you to play the Eagles. One doesn’t want to start getting too cute playing that game of chicken with people who are smarter, but you can probably see that angle, as well. Typically, in a spot like this, you’d think a home team could be getting upwards of 4.5 points.
With a little more juice in their aerial game this season with guys like Calvin Ridley coming into the fold, combined with the Eagles losing some depth in the secondary, we think the Falcons have the potential to put up some points. And their defense held up well against this Philly offense last time they played with the only Eagle to score a TD no longer on the team in LeGarrette Blount. The first game of the season is always a tricky endeavor. The fresh start gives rise to a different way of looking at things. Until, you know, you don’t really know. Our best guess is that this is going to be a competitive, last-possession type of game where having the points is going to provide a good feeling.
Loot’s Spread Pick: I’m betting on the Atlanta Falcons plus 2.5 points.