Falcons at Eagles Preview
Eagles -2.5 | Over/Under 45.5
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Well, here we are. After an excruciatingly long summer, football is back. What better way to kick things off than a clash of NFC powerhouses. In a rematch of the NFC Divisional Playoffs from last year, the Falcons will travel to Philadelphia, the home of the Eagles, and their Super Bowl LII MVP (usually backup) Quarterback, Nick Foles.
Doug Pederson’s announcement that Foles would start on Thursday which is a blow to the Eagles, as it confirms that Carson Wentz is not yet 100% recovered from last year’s ACL/LCL injury. However, the cloudiness surrounding the QB position isn’t the only of the Eagles’ worries. Alshon Jeffery will miss the first two weeks, as reported last week, due to his recovery from shoulder surgery. To add to the WR corps’ woes, Mack Hollins hasn’t played since Preseason Week 1, he has a groin injury that has slowed him down and has been ruled out for this contest.
The Eagles pass-catching duties will fall on the shoulders of TE Zach Ertz, and WRs Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace. Rookie TE Dallas Goedert should also get into the mix.
On the ground, banged-up RB Jay Ajayi seems to be trending in a positive direction, as he’s practiced twice in a row this week, and should be at full strength for Thursday night’s affair. Ajayi’s presence will certainly be helpful, as he made the most in his 10 games with the Eagles last year, averaging 5.3 YPC between the regular season and playoffs. Add the dynamic Corey Clement to the mix, and the Eagles should have enough firepower to keep the Falcons on their toes, with or without their star QB and top WR.
The Falcons come into Philly with something to prove, with their season having ended on the same field just months before. Atlanta hopes that former MVP Matt Ryan will regain his form from the 2016 season. Coming off a year where Ryan underwhelmed, throwing for 4,095 yards and 20 TD vs. 12 INT, the Falcons will certainly need more from their franchise QB if they expect to challenge for the NFC crown. Thursday night’s game should be a good barometer for the Falcons’ expectations. They return a potent slew of skill players, highlighted by All-World WR1 Julio Jones, and a lethal combination of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in the backfield.
With ancillary options like the sneaky-good Mohamed Sanu and Rookie Calvin Ridley, Ryan will have no shortage of options when he drops back. Freeman should be 100% after being slowed by knee sprains that lingered through the end of the 2017 season, and when healthy, the man produces. Over the past 3 seasons, he sports 35 all-purpose TDs and is a threat whenever he steps on the field. The Falcons offense is surely more dynamic when the defense has to worry about a dual threat like Freeman at all times, so look for him to play a huge role early on in this contest.
Both teams have some serious firepower on Defense and are anchored by some absolute superstars. The defending Super Bowl Champs return a strong defensive front that has a propensity for halting rushing attacks. To make things scarier, they’ve added some more brawn to their already stout line, bringing in Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata. Those additions, combined with arguably the NFL’s strongest line to begin with, will certainly keep Matty Ice and Devonta Freeman up at night. In the secondary, the Eagles aren’t as strong, but return the injured Sidney Jones, along with Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby. While I doubt they’ll set the world on fire, the pieces are there for this unit to take a step forward this year.
On the other sideline, the Falcons have their share of playmakers as well, and if everything clicks, they could have one of the best units in the game. Up front, Grady Jarrett is one of the best DTs in the game, and with Vic Beasley returning to his pass rushing DE position, the line should be one of the NFL’s most feared. A slew of superstars reside in the LB and DB corps, including Deion Jones, Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, and not to mention, Pro Bowler Keanu Neal.
Week 1 is never easy. Teams are fresh out of training camp, with their new-look 53 man roster. I look for both teams to play to their strengths early, as they get out the Week 1 jitters. The absence of Wentz and Jeffery is incredibly concerning to me. However, it is possible that Nick Foles returns to his playoff form and picks apart the Falcons D.
Despite the Eagles missing their two largest superstars, the line currently sits at Philadelphia -2.5, but I won’t be the one to take that side.
Thursday Night Football Prop Bets
Gridiron Experts has chosen MyBookie as it’s official sportsbook for 2018. All of our NFL Pick’em odds will be from them. MyBookie seems to have the best contests, bonus and more prop bets and NFL specials than any other site. Just about the entire Gridiron staff liked the interface and said it was a very clean and was easy to use.
Although I’ll admit, I had a hard time finding game specific prop bets. For those of you that love the prop bets like me, check out the image. There is a little box next to each game with 50+ prop bets for each game.
The following are some quick props that I’d recommend for this week’s Thursday Night Football matchup:
- Player to Score a Touchdown: Mohamed Sanu (+160) – Sanu could be a sneaky pick here. Julio Jones will (as always) be Ryan’s primary target, but Sanu has proven to be equally as effective when it comes to reaching the end zone. Fun Fact: Did you know Sanu and Julio have the same number of total TDs over the past two seasons (9 total)? I think the Falcons will try to shy away from the Eagles’ elite DL when possible, and throw the ball quite a bit. Given that, at +160, I like Sanu’s value here.
- Player to Score First Eagles Touchdown: Zach Ertz (+300) – Jay Ajayi hasn’t had a nose for the end zone as an Eagle thus far, scoring only one TD over 10 contests (including the playoffs.) I think it’s entirely possible that Foles is going to lean on his safety blankets when he gets into the Red Zone, utilizing the frame of Ertz in the middle of the field to go up high and bring down the biscuit. At +300, it makes for an interesting wager, and one I’m willing to make.
- Player to Score First Eagles Touchdown: Dallas Goedert (+1000) – See above for why Foles might look to his tight ends in the Red Zone. But specifically on Goedert, he’s blessed with ridiculous size at 6’5 and over 250 lbs. Eagles reporters have said that with the lack of WR depth, the team plans to use Goedert in more two tight-end sets, especially with Alshon Jeffery out for the beginning of the year. If you’re looking for longer odds or a flier that could pay off a higher return, consider Goedert to score in this affair.
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Best of luck in Week 1!