NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
Not long after the Super Bowl, a few sportsbooks put out a prop on which team the Philadelphia Eagles would host in Week 1 on Thursday night in the Kickoff Game as is now tradition for the reigning Super Bowl champs. Of course, there were only eight options. I thought it might be the Dallas Cowboys because they are America's Team and all. My second choice was the Minnesota Vikings in a rematch of the NFC Championship Game.
While both of those opponents would have been a great way to kick things off for 2018, certainly no complaints with the Atlanta Falcons, who preceded the Eagles as NFC champions and should have beaten the Patriots in the Super Bowl that season like Philadelphia did in this past one.
Unfortunately, Thursday's game loses a bit of luster because Eagles superstar quarterback Carson Wentz isn't ready to return from his torn ACL and LCL suffered in Week 14 at the Rams last year. No reason for the Eagles to rush their franchise player. I might circle Week 3 at home vs. the Colts. This is also the reason the team turned down some offseason trade options for Nick Foles, the unlikely Super bowl MVP.
Falcons at Eagles Betting Story Lines
Do you realize how close we were to the New Orleans Saints hosting the Falcons in last season's NFC title game? New Orleans, of course, lost in the most improbable fashion in NFL playoff history in Minnesota in the Divisional Round. The Falcons should have won in Philadelphia that same weekend. They were down 15-10 but had first-and-goal at the Philly 9 with just over a minute to go. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian then had some really questionable play-calling, and the Falcons never did punch it in.
Sarkisian is definitely on the hot seat entering 2018 because that 2017 Atlanta offense took a major dip from the record-setting 2016 team under Kyle Shanahan. Some regression really had to be expected, but it was a significant drop. Ryan's completion percentage dropped more than five points, his yardage by nearly 900, his TD passes by 18 and his picks rose by five. The team got Ryan a new toy this offseason in taking Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley with its first-round pick. He was definitely not expected to be on the board at No. 26, and sooner rather than later a Julio Jones/Ridley duo could be the NFL's best. Atlanta already has one of the league's top running back duos in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
As for Foles, he was 23 of 30 for 246 yards against the Falcons in the playoff game with no TDs but then torched the Vikings and Patriots. He opens without top wideout Alshon Jeffery (shoulder), who is expected to miss the first two weeks of the season. No. 1 running back Jay Ajayi is dealing with a lower-body injury, but he'll play. The Eagles also love third-string QB Nate Sudfeld, so don't rule out a Foles trade during the season if Wentz looks back to 100 percent and some team is desperate enough to send the Eagles a first-round pick.
Falcons at Eagles Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Philadelphia is down to a 1-point favorite (-125) with a total of 45. That spread opened most places at -4, but the money is flowing on the Falcons with the Wentz news. On the moneyline, the Falcons are +115 and Eagles -135. There are a gazillion alternate lines. The Eagles at -7.5 are +240. Atlanta at -3.5 is +195. The Falcons were 11-7 against the spread last season including playoffs (6-4 on road) and 5-13 "over/under" (3-7 on road). Philadelphia was 13-6 ATS (7-3 at home) and 10-9 O/U (4-6 at home).
The Falcons are 7-1 ATS in their past eight Thursday games. They are 4-1 ATS in their past five in September. The Eagles are 4-1 ATS in their past five season openers. They are 12-4 ATS in their previous 16 vs. the NFC. The under is 7-0 in the Falcons' past seven. It's 7-3 in Philly's previous 10 in September. The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 9-3-1 in the previous 13.
Falcons at Eagles Betting Prediction
I'll admit that I liked this pick a lot better back when the Falcons were getting at least 3.5 points. And that's the number I'll go find or buy up to. I realize the defending Super Bowl champions have largely dominated in this game, but the Falcons look way better on offense right now with Ryan, Jones, Ridley and their two running backs over Foles and the Eagles' meh tailbacks and banged-up receiving group. Foles didn't look good this preseason, either. In addition, the top Eagles tackler from last year, LB Nigel Bradham, is suspended for the season opener.
Take Atlanta and the under.
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