PHILADELPHIA – The NFL served an appetizer early Wednesday morning, releasing the opening game for each of its 32 teams. The main course will officially come hours later when the league will officially announce the entire schedule for all its teams at 8 p.m.
Leaks will bubble up between now and then. Some will be right, some wrong.
All that’s known for sure is the Nick Sirianni era will begin on the road when the Eagles travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in a 1 p.m. kickoff.
The openers for the Eagles’ three division rivals have the Cowboys playing on Thursday night at the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Giants hosting the Broncos at 4:30 on Sept. 12, and the defending division champ Washington Football Team hosting the Los Angeles Chargers at 1 p.m.
The Falcons are somewhat of a different opener for the Eagles, who have begun three of the previous four seasons against Washington.
There is plenty of history, however, between the Eagles and Falcons.
Here are some things to know about this year’s opener:
- The game will pit two of the league’s first-year coaches in Sirianni and Atlanta’s Arthur Smith. They are both rookie head coaches as well.
- The game will mark the pro debut of Kyle Pitts, the marvelously gifted tight end who grew up in the Eagles’ backyard. Pitts was raised in Abington but attended Archbishop Wood High School in neighboring Warminster.
- The Eagles hosted the Falcons to open the 2018 season. It was Philadelphia’s first game since winning its first Super Bowl just months earlier. The Eagles won that game, 18-12, with Nick Foles as the starting quarterback.
Also, in that win, the defense recorded four sacks, with Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks getting 1.5 each and Chris Long getting the other one. Rasul Douglas had an interception. Only Cox is left from that group.
- Of course, these two teams met in the division round of the playoffs during the 2017 season, and the Eagles needed a nice play by Jalen Mills in the end zone against Julio Jones to secure a 15-10 win that kept Philly’s Super Bowl train chugging.
- The Falcons hosted the Eagles in the 2015 season opener – a season that turned out to be Chip Kelly’s final one in Philly. Atlanta won, 26-24.
Like most of the games these two have played recently, this one was also close.
Cody Parkey missed a field goal with 2:27 to play that would have given the Philadelphia a 27-26 lead.
Along the way, Eagles QB Sam Bradford threw for 336 yards, Atlanta’s Jones had nine catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns, and the Eagles defense picked off Matt Ryan twice, with Walter Thurmond and Kiko Alonso notching the interceptions.
- The Eagles are 9-2 in their previous 11 season openers but have not won in Atlanta since the 2009 season when Donovan McNabb sparked a 34-7 romp with 238 passing yards and one TD. Also, in the win, Leonard Weaver ran for 35 yards, Eldra Buckley added 33, and sacks came from Darren Howard and Juqua Parker.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.