Lincoln Financial Field – The wait is over, as the 2018 season kicks-off in dramatic fashion with the defending Super Bowl Champions the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Atlanta Falcons, in a repeat of last years divisional round playoff game.
The Eagles have dominated proceedings against the Falcons winning two of the last three encounters, and lead the overall series 19-14-1. The last time Falcons emerged victorious in Philadelphia was back in Week eight of the 2012 season.
During the off-season Philadelphia head coach Doug Peterson was quick to acknowledge that the tables have turned followed the teams success, and that all connected with the team need to embrace a different type of pressure “a great motivating factor for us to sort of rip off the dog mask and no longer be the underdog but now be the hunted and have the target on our back. We have to embrace it and use it as sort of motivation to get back to that game and to do it for the guys who didn’t have an opportunity to play in that game last year.”
The biggest question mark hanging over the team right now is the surgically repaired knee of star quarterback Carson Wentz. The 25 year old signal caller was in the midst of an MVP season before tearing his ACL and LCL in week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams. Wentz has remained upbeat throughout the rehabilitation process, “Week one is definitely my goal, Timetables and all those things are always such a fluid thing. Obviously I can’t come out and make a declaration on anything, but my goal is to be playing in Week one.”
In the likelihood that Wentz encounters a setback the Eagles will once again turn to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. In Wentz’s absence Foles became the unlikeliest of heroes completing 72.6% of his attempted passes during the teams post season run.
The Eagles addressed the need at tight end with the selection of Dallas Goedart during the second round of the draft, following Trey Burton’s departure to the Chicago Bears on a 4-year §32m deal. Tight end Zack Ertz lead the team in receiving with 824 yards and 8 touchdowns. Fellow pass catcher Alshon Jeffery (789 yards, 9 touchdowns) is expected to be ready for week one following offseason rotator cuff surgery. Nelson Agholor and free agent signing Mike Wallace add versatility to the group.
Tasked with the challenge of stifling an explosive Eagles offense is the dynamic safety duo of keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen along with one of the leagues more underrated cornerbacks Desmond Trufant. Linebacker Deion Jones along with defensive end Vic Beasley will look to nullify a run game spearheaded by Jay Ajayi.
Wideout sensation Julio Jones has grabbed the headlines leading up week one as the 29-year-old is looking to renegotiate his contract. Jones has recorder 1400 yards plus receiving for four straight years. Mohamed Sanu has the potential to a game breaker on his day, the 6ft 2” 210lb receiver will look I expose any single coverage. Rookie wideout Calvin Ridley will look to turn heads with the nation looking on.
The success of passing game hangs on the shoulders of former league MVP Matt Ryan. The signal-caller threw just 20 touchdown passes (his lowest number since his rookie year) The blame doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of Ryan as 2017 was the first time offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian had called plays within the NFL.
Following a year of scrutiny Falcons Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian looks set to hit the ground running during his second year calling the plays “I think the biggest thing for me is just overall comfort level, When I came in a year ago, it was learning the system that was in place. It was learning the players that were in place. In Year 2, I have a year into the system. Now I can make some of the tweaks that I feel like are needed for this offense to continue to grow”.
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The backfield duo of Devonte Freeman and Tevon Coleman Combined for over 1493 yards. The pair face a stern challenge against an Eagles defense that was ranked number one against the run, surrendering an average of just 79.2 yards per game. The addition of Michael Bennett via a trade with Seahawks adds even more depth to one of the NFL’s most talented defensive lines.
Atlanta wins 31-28 in a close game.