- Despite being the defending Super Bowl champions and playing at home, the Philadelphia Eagles are only slight favorites in their season opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)
Thu. 9/6, 8:20 p.m. EST
Three things you need to know before betting on Falcons-Eagles:
1. In typical fashion, the inaugural game of the 2018 NFL regular season features the defending Super Bowl champions. The Philadelphia Eagles host the Atlanta Falcons in a rematch of their Divisional Round matchup last season. What isn't typical is the number of questions that surround the Eagles as they start the season with the goal of repeating as champs. That uncertainty is reflected in the narrow spread, which opened at Eagles -4.5 and is now at -2.5. By contrast, after the New England Patriots won Super Bowl LI, they entered their 2017 season opener as eight-point favorites. Of course, that Patriots team had Tom Brady lining up under center in Week 1. For the Eagles, franchise quarterback Carson Wentz will miss Week 1 as he continues to make his way back from an ACL injury. Of course, the Eagles were without Wentz for a chunk of last season and still won the Super Bowl. But backup Nick Foles hasn't looked like the quarterback who was named Super Bowl LII MVP just six months ago. In Philly's third preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, he threw two interceptions, was sacked three times and made a costly mistake in deep in Philly territory that resulted in a safety. Foles will be without wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who will miss at least the first two games of the season, and will have to face an Atlanta D that is quietly one of the best in the league. The Falcons held opponents to 27 points or fewer in all but one game in 2017, and should be able to take advantage of Philly's QB upheaval.
2. Philadelphia has a habit of covering against Atlanta in tightly contested home games. The last four times the teams have met in Philly, the spread has never been higher than 2.5 points either way and the Eagles have gone 3-1 ATS in those contests. And the Falcons struggled mightily on the road in 2017, going 3-7 ATS in 10 games including the playoffs. But the fact remains that Matt Ryan is still a top-tier quarterback. Julio Jones is still a top-notch receiver (albeit a disgruntled one due to contract disputes) who will be complemented in the passing game by the addition of rookie wideout Calvin Ridley. The Falcons also boast one of the NFL's top two-pronged rushing attacks in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. This is a team that has multiple ways to put points on the board and will be facing an Eagles secondary with question marks, particularly how it will fare with slot cornerback Patrick Robinson's departure.
3. Even for teams that make it through the offseason without any drama, the Super Bowl hangover is real. Remember, the Eagles weren't close to being Super Bowl favorites heading into last season. This is a team that fully embraced its underdog role on its way to a title. Now Philadelphia has a target on its back and will be getting every team's best. That is particularly true for the Falcons, who will be looking for revenge after last season's early playoff exit. The crowd at Lincoln Financial Field will certainly be amped up to welcome back the team that delivered the city its first Super Bowl. But it's also a crowd that can quickly turn should things start heading sideways, and it is just too easy to see the Eagles stumbling out of the gate.
Pick: Falcons +2.5
Confidence Level: Very High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)