The NFL returns on Thursday night, and it’s back with a bang as Super Bowl champions Philadelphia face Atlanta in a rematch of last year’s Divisional Round play-off battle.
The Falcons looked a more prepared team in pre-season and are taken to hit the ground running, and with only 25 points in the last meeting and two great defences there shouldn't be too many points on offer. Foles has looked shaky in pre-season while Freeman and Jones represent two sold scoring options.
Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles (0120 BST Sky Sports Main Event)
The Eagles start the defence of their first ever Vince Lombardi trophy win with one of the toughest match-ups of the season with the Falcons well fancied to make a return to the play-offs themselves.
It’s a clash between the last two NFC champions who both played the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl – the Eagles winning in February and the Falcons famously blowing a huge lead when losing in 2017.
It was defensive arm wrestle back in January as the Eagles came out 15-10 winners with both defences managing to smother the usually expressive and effective attacks of both teams.
Lincoln Financial Field will be bouncing as the vociferous Philly crowd welcome back their Super Bowl heroes, but with injury problems and rustiness to shake off against a dangerous opponent, it could be the Falcons that make a flying start to the season.
Back-up Nick Foles starts the season at quarterback
The Eagles have the luxury of having two MVP quarterbacks to call upon this season. Carson Wentz, the league MVP of last year, is the undoubted starter in Philadelphia once he regains full fitness from the knee ligament injury that ended his season in December.
Nick Foles filled in as back-up and after some struggles eventually led them to a wild 41-33 Super Bowl win over the Patriots, even catching a touchdown pass himself as he scooped the MVBP for the game.
Foles starts on Thursday with Wentz still not cleared to return but going forward it will be interesting to see how both he and the team handles the tricky situation of having two top-calibre quarterbacks on their books.
If Foles is unhappy going back to a watching brief once Wentz returns then Philly may have a decision to make before the trade deadline.
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Falcons aiming for home Super Bowl
The Minnesota Vikings came within a game of becoming the first team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium and the falcons have a realistic chance of achieving that feat and making it all the way to Super Bowl LIII in their Mercedes Benz Stadium next February.
The Falcons averaged 11 points less last year than in their Super Bowl year, but they retain the pieces of a stellar attack and have added rookie receiver Calvin Ridley to the at times super human Julio Jones to help boost Ryan’s options.
The one-two punch at running back of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman at running back is as good as any in the league while their young defence allowed just under 20 points per game last season and should improve again after another training camp together.
As with last season with the Vikings, this home team has every chance of breaking that home field Super Bowl duck.
Can Matt Ryan figure out the Eagles defence?
Ryan may have grown up around Philadelphia but he’s not been at his best playing against the Eagles as his offence has scored just 25 points in their last two visits combined.
No quarterback likes pressure and Ryan is no different as he could just not get things going in their last contest when being sacked three times and throwing for just 210 yards and one touchdown – he’ll need to figure out this Philly defence quickly.
Not helping matters for Ryan is the fact that the Eagles have one of the best defensive lines in the game and with the likes of Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata and Fletcher Cox around there’s never time to take it easy.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 17-24 Philadelphia Eagles (Sky Bet odds: 100/1)