Philadelphia Eagles (-3, 54.5 o/u) at Atlanta Falcons
Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly took a lot of heat for his offseason roster moves, getting rid of starting QB Nick Foles, star RB LeSean McCoy, and top receiver Jeremy Maclin from a team that posted ten wins in 2014-15. But, if the preseason is any indication, the Eagles may be even stronger this year after bringing in the likes of QB Sam Bradford, RB DeMarco Murray, and LB Kiko Alonso.
Philly went 3-1 during the exhibition slate and the starters had instant chemistry in their limited playing time. Tonight, Kelly and company will have a chance to show they can do the same when it counts as they open the season visiting the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on Monday Night Football (7:10 PM Eastern).
Murray, in particular, should have Eagle fans feeling confident. The ex-Cowboy racked up 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground last season, leading the league in rushing by a wide margin. He had the benefit of Dallas’ phenomenal o-line, though, and will be required to improvise a bit more in space in Kelly’s fast-paced system.
The Philly receivers remain a big question mark coming into the year. The team didn’t really replace Maclin, though they did draft rookie Nelson Agholor (USC) and will be hoping he can continue the recent spate of success rookie receivers (like Odell Beckham Jr., Kelvin Benjamin, and Mike Evans) have had of late.
Atlanta’s first-year head coach Dan Quinn certainly isn’t taking the Eagle offense lightly, in any aspect of the game.
“A lot of respect in terms of the way they run their system,” said Quinn to the Associated Press. “They play fast-paced offensively.”
The young Philly receiving corps will be facing an Atlanta defense that was shredded week in and week out last year. The team finished dead-last in the league in yards allowed, and were condemned to a 6-10 recover in the dreadful NFC South. Quinn – formerly the DC with the Seahawks – was brought in to remedy the defensive woes, but the personnel is much the same as last year, and it’s unclear what his impact will be in year one.
Fortunately for Quinn, the Atlanta offense should keep them in games most weeks. Quarterback Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones form one of the most potent aerial attacks in the NFL, while RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman should keep the run-game consistent.
In the trends, Atlanta has won the last two head-to-head meetings, and Ryan threw for seven TD passes in those wins; but the teams haven’t squared off since 2012. The Eagles are a different beast now, and Kelly’s high-powered offense looks like a terrible matchup for Atlanta. The Falcon defense should improve over the course of the year with Quinn at the helm, but with largely the same cast of characters back, don’t expect any miracles in Week 1.
Pick: Eagles (-3).
(Photo Credit: By Georgia National Guard (Flickr: Playoff Pass) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)