Battle of the Birds: Both Looking for Bounce-Back Season

One of Sunday’s more intriguing contests will take place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when the visiting Philadelphia Eagles take on Atlanta. Despite combining for just eight wins last season, Sunday’s NFL Week 1 matchup of two last-place teams has the potential to be an exciting contest. After finishing with a 4-11-1 record last season, Philadelphia is hoping a new younger look will energize the team and compete for a playoff berth in the NFC East. Second-year pro Jalen Hurts takes over under center for new head coach, 40-year old Nick Sirianni.

The Falcons finished a disappointing 4-12 last season despite a stellar season from veteran quarterback Matt Ryan. The team decided to stick with Ryan as the starting quarterback for this season and is hoping the decision pays off.

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The Odds

According to MyBookie, one of the Top Sportsbooks at Online Betting Sports, the host Falcons are a slight favorite in this one, at -3.5. Bettors taking the Falcons to cover the spread have -105 odds, while those backing the Eagles will have -115 odds. 

Philadelphia is +150 on the Moneyline, while Atlanta is -180 outright.

The Over/Under is set at 48 with -110 odds on both sides of the number.

Can the Young Gun Lead to Success

Hurts won the starting job over Carson Wentz towards the end of last season and the second-year pro is hoping to learn from his experience in a rough season. The Eagles brought in veteran signal-caller Joe Flacco to backup Hurts before trading for Garner Minshew ahead of the team’s final preseason game. Hurts is the man right now, but could have a shorter leash than expected with the energetic Minshew wanting to get another shot to lead a team.

Old Veteran Looking to Continue Producing

Atlanta’s 4-12 record was by no way the fault of Ryan last season. The veteran quarterback finished fourth in the league with 4,581 yards to go along with 26 touchdowns. Ryan was also the most worked QB in the league last season as he led the NFL in receptions (407) and attempts (626). Julio Jones is not in Tennessee, but Calvin Ridley is more than capable of shouldering the No. 1 WR role, and rookie Kyle Pitts is expected to provide an immediate impact for the team as the top tight end.

Can the Falcons’ D Step Up?

As noted above, the last-place finish in the NFC South was no fault of Ryan or the Falcons’ offense last season. Atlanta was 29th in total defense last year in addition to allowing a league-worst 294 passing yards per game. The Falcons allowed 27 or more points seven times last season, although only two such games came in the last seven weeks — both coming against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Favorable Matchup for Heisman Winner

DeVonta Smith battled nagging injuries all throughout training camp and the preseason. However, according to Eagle reporters, Smith looked the part of a No. 1 receiver. Although the Falcons’ defense should be somewhat improved from a season ago, Smith should be able to wreak havoc against the Atlanta secondary. A big game from Smith could serve three-fold…for Smith, Hurts, and the overall team success. Jalen Reagor will also be a good compliment to Smith on the outside. 

Best Bet/Prediction

Expect Ryan to come out slinging the ball all over the field in this one to prove to the naysayers that the team made the right decision to keep him under center this season. Ridley, Russell Gage, and Pitts make up one of the top young trio of receivers in the league. And as mentioned above, the Falcons’ defense is still suspect. In the end, Atlanta has more experienced talent at the skill positions which should be the deciding factor. 

Prediction: Falcons 34, Eagles 24

Best Bet: Over 48 (-110)

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