Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:02 AM
TNF - Falcons at Eagles
Atlanta at Philadelphia (-1.5, 45), 8:20 pm ET, NBC
Most plays, even those made in the playoffs with everybody watching, quickly get forgotten. Unless it’s something like “Philly Special” or the Vikings’ desperation walk-off touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs against New Orleans now known as the “Minneapolis Miracle,” we don’t normally re-hash events longer than a day or two after they go down.
Julio Jones being unable to come down with a Matt Ryan pass on 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line as the clock dipped under a minute will certainly go down as one of the pivotal plays in Philadelphia’s improbable championship run since it all could’ve been snuffed out in the divisional playoffs before really getting started. The Eagles prevailed 15-10 as a 3-point home underdog, surviving the week after backup quarterback Foles and third-stringer Nate Sudfeld had been unable to lead the offense to a single point in a meaningless home loss to Dallas.
Foles had played poorly for consecutive weeks to close the regular season and didn’t throw for a score against Atlanta in the postseason opener either. He threw for three touchdowns in both the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl, survived all the trade speculation throughout the spring and summer and will take the first snaps of the season for the defending champs in place of Carson Wentz, who is still working his way back from a torn ACL suffered on December 10.
Wentz will get his starting job back once he’s ready to go, but that will wait until the Week 2 game in Tampa Bay on Sept. 16 at the earliest. Foles starting was deemed “best interest” of the franchise despite a rocky preseason where he failed to throw a touchdown pass, was intercepted twice and completed 61.5 percent of his passes.
The 29-year-old veteran should seek out Jones before the game begins and thank him for not coming up with that crucial fourth-down pass that he probably secures about half the time. In the blink of an eye, Foles went from certain scapegoat to playoff survivor, then turned himself into a hero. A nine-foot-tall statue of him and head coach Doug Pederson discussing whether to run “Philly Philly” was unveiled on Wednesday and will be outside Lincoln Financial Field for at least this season.
As we turn the page, the Eagles open their title defense more banged up than most teams typically are at the beginning of a season. Besides Wentz not being ready, top receiver Alshon Jeffery is also sidelined and there are other issues detailed in the injury report below. For those reasons, in addition to the Falcons stewing all offseason over the one that got away and getting an immediate chance to exact some revenge, Philly is favored only slightly despite being at home.
Backup Tevin Coleman outperformed starter Devonta Freeman in January’s divisional playoff, gaining 79 yards to the two-time Pro Bowler’s nine yards when each had 10 carries. Coleman scored Atlanta’s lone touchdown, while Jones came up with 101 yards on nine receptions despite not coming up with the catch his team needed most.
For as bad as the Eagles were this preseason, beating only the Jets in their final outing thanks to a last-minute touchdown that produced a 10-9 win, Atlanta’s exhibition run was worse. The Falcons were outscored 96-27, losing each contest by double-digits. Second-year coordinators Steve Sarkisian and Marquand Manuel each had their ups and downs in 2017, so seeing their next act start off so poorly has to be at least a bit disconcerting despite the fact that games haven’t counted in the standings.
Ryan commanded five drives in Atlanta’s dress rehearsal against Jacksonville that produced only two field goals. He didn’t have Jones or Freeman out there alongside him since both of the Falcons’ top playmakers sat out every preseason game.
“I’ve played long enough to know that some years, you are 4-0 in the (pre)season and it doesn’t certainly pan out that way in the regular season,” Ryan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think the veterans and the experienced guys that we have make you feel good about what we are going to be and who we are going to be as we move forward throughout the year.”
The Eagles lost LeGarrette Blount, who scored their lone touchdown against Atlanta, to Detroit via free agency. They’ve also promoted Mike Groh to offensive coordinator, taking the place of new Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich. Darren Sproles is back from injury and Jay Ajayi returns for his first full season to anchor a ground game that also brings back young standouts Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood.
Philadelphia ranked third in the NFL in scoring (28.6 PPG) and rushing, and finished seventh in total offense. The Eagles finished fourth in total defense, finishing first in stopping the run and fourth in points allowed (18.4). Atlanta ranked eighth in the league in scoring defense (19.7 ppg), finishing ninth in total yards allowed and run defense while finishing 12th against the pass.
The Falcons won six of 10 road assignments last season despite the divisional playoff setback but finished just 3-7 against the spread. Philadelphia won nine of 10 home games (7-3 ATS) en route to its first Super Bowl victory, losing only the meaningless regular-season finale against Dallas by a 6-0 score.
The ‘under’ went 12-5 overall for the Falcons, including 6-3 in their nine road outings. They saw the low side come in seven consecutive times, which is one reason that this number opened much lower than the high-40s/low-50s we’re used to seeing on Atlanta games. The 40.5 placed on January’s divisional playoffs was the lowest total Atlanta saw last season and was never threatened.
The ‘over’ went 10-9 in Eagles games last season, but the low side won six of 10 in games held in Philadelphia. The Falcons have won 13 of 19 straight up on the road but is just 2-6 ATS over their last eight. Atlanta is 1-8 (1-7-1 ATS) in Philly since 2000, winning only back in 2012. This will be the third time these teams open the season against one another since 2005. The Falcons won both meetings. The 'under' hit each time.
Season win total: 9.5 (Over -120, Under +100)
Odds to win NFC South: 11/5 to 9/5
Odds to win NFC: 9/1 to 7/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 16/1 to 14/1
Season win total: 10.5 (Over +130, Under -150)
Odds to win NFC East: 5/8 to 5/7
Odds to win NFC: 5/1 to 7/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 10/1 to 14/1
According to Westgate LV Superbook, both teams have settled in with the same odds to win both the NFC and Super Bowl, part of a pack listed behind conference co-favorites Minnesota and the L.A. Rams.
The Eagles are listed as the favorite in the NFC East, while the Falcons are the second option behind New Orleans.
As far as this matchup is concerned, the Eagles were installed as a 4-to-4.5-point favorite, opening as high as 5.5 at some global books. The total opened in the 46.5-to-47.5 range but has been bet down and is most widely available at 44.5 with many 45s around.
Philadelphia opened at -200 on the money line but is now in the -110/-120 range, which means that should be your bet if you're riding the Eagles since that makes more sense than laying the 1.5 points. The Falcons opened at +170 but is now even money (+100) at most shops.
George Trees of [...] dropped knowledge on what his shop is seeing as of Wednesday afternoon.
"Thursday's line opened Philly -4 but has since been bet down to -1. It's a big rematch spot for Atlanta with Philly and its quarterback struggling this preseason. We'll see if Philly has that Super Bowl hangover."
Besides the absence of Jeffery due to a shoulder injury, backup WR Mack Hollins will also miss the contest. That makes the inclusion of Shelton Gibson after getting through concussion protocol a big deal as the Eagles look to piece together a receiving corps for Foles, who will have new options in Mike Wallace, Markus Wheaton and DeAndre Carter.
The Eagles will also have Ajayi and DE Michael Bennett in the mix but will be without DT Tim Jernigan and LB Paul Worrilow, who is on IR.
The Falcons still don't know if they will be able to count on long snapper Josh Harris but will be without corners Blidi Wreh-Wilson (shoulder) and Isaiah Oliver (ankle). Guard Ben Garland (calf) is also sidelined.
RECENT MEETINGS (Philadelphia 6-4 SU, 5-5 ATS last eight; UNDER 7-3)
1/13/18 Philadelphia 15-10 vs. Atlanta (ATL -2.5, 40.5)
11/13/16 Philadelphia 24-15 vs. Atlanta (PHI -2, 48.5)
9/14/15 Atlanta 26-24 vs. Philadelphia (ATL +2.5, 54.5)
10/28/12 Atlanta 30-17 at Philadelphia (ATL +3, 43)
9/18/11 Atlanta 35-31 vs. Philadelphia (ATL +2.5, 49.5)
10/17/10 Philadelphia 31-17 vs. Atlanta (PHI -1.5, 43)
12/6/09 Philadelphia 34-7 at Atlanta (PHI -4, 43.5)
10/26/08 Philadelphia 27-14 vs. Atlanta (PHI -9.5, 45)
12/31/06 Philadelphia 24-17 vs. Atlanta (PHI -8.5, 43)
9/12/05 Atlanta 14-10 vs. Philadelphia (ATL +2, 41.5)
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA