The Philadelphia Eagles are the reigning Super Bowl champions and will face off with the Atlanta Falcons this Thursday night at home in the kickoff of this NFL season. The Eagles will be without quarterback Carson Wentz who underwent ACL surgery over 8 months ago. While the off-season goal was to be ready for week one, he was not cleared for contact and will be inactive for this game. The Eagles will start Nick Foles who took over for Wentz last year and ended up the surprising Super Bowl MVP. Atlanta is healthy and will be returning a defense that finished in the top 10 last season in both points and yards allowed. There will be extra motivation for this Falcons team, as they were eliminated in the Divisional round of last year’s playoffs 15-10 by Philadelphia. Atlanta had a great chance to win in the final moments but couldn’t convert on 4th down from the Eagles 2 yard line.
Philadelphia will be without another huge offensive weapon as wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey is out while recovering from a rotator cuff injury. Jeffrey had 789 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns last year and his absence will certainly be felt. The Eagles defense is healthy and has proven they can shut this offense down as evidenced by just the 10 points they allowed in that playoff victory over the Falcons last season. Their defense finished in the top 5 last year in both yards allowed per game with 306 and points allowed with just 18.4.
The Falcons are healthy and rested as coach Dan Quinn didn’t let wide receiver Julio Jones nor running back Devonta Freeman play a down this pre season. In the offseason they drafted wide receiver Calvin Ridley with their first round pick out of Alabama. Ridley ranks second all time on the Crimson Tide’s all time list in receptions and touchdowns despite playing just 3 seasons. He could be a legit third option behind Jones and Mohammed Sanu. Their running game also has 2 legit weapons in Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Matt Ryan is back at quarterback and will be looking to regain his 2016 MVP form. He has the benefit of playing behind an offensive line that ranked in the top 10 of several categories last season.
As the defending champions, the Eagles will have a much bigger target on their back than they did last season. With all the injuries they have suffered they are just 2-point favorites despite having home field advantage. Philadelphia will also be without Mack Hollins who has a groin injury leaving them without 2 of their top 4 receivers. They have to rely on a defensive line, which is considered one of the best in the league with Chris Long and Michael Bennett. For Atlanta, this is a great chance to extract some revenge and this figures to be a close game amongst the NFC’s last two Super Bowl representatives. Expect the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field to be extra amped up as they welcome home their champions.