Atlanta Falcons (0-0) @ Philadelphia Eagles (0-0)
Location: Lincoln Financial Field
Where To Watch: NBC
The Super Bowl Champions will host the only team that managed to slow down their offense in the Playoffs last season. This is a clash of two of the most balanced teams in the NFL. One has the clear quarterback advantage, while the other has the home crowd behind them. Nick Foles has looked very shaky in the Preseason, and last year he was mediocre in the regular season before morphing into a Tom Brady clone for his final two games. Can the Falcons avenge their loss? Or will the Eagles defend their crown?
Match-ups To Watch
Eagles CB Ronald Darby Vs. Atlanta WR Julio Jones
Ronald Darby is one of the most talented young corners in the league. It feels like he’s been terrorizing opposing receivers for years, but he’s still only 24 years old. According to Jim Schwartz, he’s had arguably his best offseason of progression yet. But Julio Jones is a tough opponent for anybody. If Darby can hold his own, the Eagles are in luck. If he can’t, and they need to start doubling Julio, it could open up more for the RBs, Mohamed Sanu, and Calvin Ridley. No pressure Ronald.
Falcons LB Deion Jones Vs. Eagles TE Zach Ertz
Nick Foles will depend heavily on his star tight end, especially with Alshon Jeffery being out. Deion Jones is one of the few players in the entire league who possesses the necessary size and speed combination to slow down a force like Ertz. Jones is dealing with a nagging injury, which could impact him, but if he can keep Ertz out of the game, it will be tough for Philly to move the ball.
The Falcon’s Defensive Line Vs. The Eagle’s Offensive Line
In the end, if the Falcons can’t pressure Nick Foles or slow down the running game, he’ll find ways to be successful. It won’t be easy against one of the most daunting lines in football, but Atlanta has the personnel to make it happen. If Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, and the rest can keep Jay Ajayi in check and force Nick Foles into long passing situations, it will not be a fun day for Foles. We know that Matt Ryan and company can likely move to ball to some extent, even against a phenomenal defense like Philly. The question is, can Philly keep up?
Stat Projection – 6 Rec, 87 Yds, 1 TD
I do believe that Darby is gifted enough to at least somewhat contain Julio Jones. Obviously, Julio will likely make a few plays. But I don’t think the Eagles will be as prepared to slow down Calvin Ridley. Their cornerback depth is suspect, so that will create opportunities for him out of the slot. The Eagles are too good up front for me to pick a running back. Expect Ridley to enter the league with a bang tonight.
Final Score Prediction
Falcons Win 23-16
It will be ugly and low scoring, but in the end, Atlanta will prove to be too much. Last season, in cold weather, coming off of a west coast trip, the Falcons went in to Philly and were a play away from winning. It will be warmer. The Falcons are healthier. They feel like the victor tonight.
Image Credit – https://www.thefalcoholic.com/2018/1/14/16889318/one-unfortunate-stat-that-sums-up-the-falcons-red-zone-ineptitude-in-2017