Week 1 is finally here! The Eagles travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons for what seems like the 100th year in the row. In reality they have played them 5 out of the last 6 years. They have played in some memorable games too. Of course everybody remembers the 4th down stops in the Divisional round of the Super Bowl season, and then week 1 the following season. Then there is the “we were catching them…. unlike Agholor” game where Agholor dropped a game winning touchdown in Atlanta. This matchup is less hyped than the previous matchups, though. Both teams were a disaster last year and have new coaches in 2021. Both teams also have low win totals in vegas. The Eagles over/under is 6.5 wins, while the Falcons is 7.5. There is some hope in both cities as well, so whoever gets the win here could convince themselves of a bounce back season. So, where does the betting value lie? Let’s get into it! As always, odds are from DraftKings.
Odds: Falcons -3.5 (-105), over/under is 48.5
The Falcons being 3.5 point favorites makes sense. They are the home team, have a more established quarterback in Matt Ryan, their head coach was more sought after in the offseason hiring process, and even without Julio Jones they have more juice at the skill positions. As detailed in the Eagles preseason bets to make article, the Eagles are somewhat of an unknown heading into the season. Nobody knows how Hurts will be as the starting quarterback, and what kind of head coach Nick Sirianni is going to be.
What those of us who follow the Eagles closely know, though, is that the Eagles are deep and talented at both of the line positions. Unless a surprising injury happens between now and Sunday, the Eagles should be at full health at both offensive and defensive line. For most teams that wouldn’t be a big deal, but heading into week one last year the Eagles were missing 50% of their starting defensive line and 60% of their starting offensive line. So, getting to week 1 healthy is huge.
The two factors that are going to decide the outcome of this game is how Eagles starting cornerback Darius Slay is able to guard Calvin Ridley, and how the Falcons 24th ranked offensive line (via PFF) is able to block the Eagles talented and deep offensive line. Let’s start with Slay first. He was brought into Philly in 2020 with hopes that he could shut down opposing offenses number 1 receivers. He wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t as good as the Eagles would have hoped. He ended the season the 56th ranked cornerback in the NFL. He also got lit up by elite receivers such as Davante Adams and DK Metcalf. Ridley, meanwhile, is now the alpha in Atlanta now that Julio Jones is in Tennessee. He was phenomenal last year, finishing with 90 receptions for close to 1400 yards and 9 touchdowns. The winner of Ridley vs Slay will go a long way towards deciding the outcome here.
The battle in the trenches will be the deciding factor, though. Even in todays game that focuses so much on spreading defenses out, the winner of the line of scrimmage is generally the winner of the game. Think back to the most recent Super Bowl where Mahomes was running for his life all game and the Bucs dominated. As I mentioned before, the Falcons have the 8th worst offensive line in 2021 according to PFF, while the Eagles have the 5th best defensive line. This is where the game will be won for the Eagles. They should be able to get to Matt Ryan and force a turnover or two and that will be the deciding factor. There will still be points scored, so the over is the better play here.
Official Picks: Eagles +3.5, Eagles ML +150, and over 49 (-110)
Player Prop: Miles Sanders anytime Touchdown Scorer (+150)
The fantasy, and football community as a whole is sleeping on Miles Sanders. He was a popular player going into 2020 after a great rookie year in 2019, but ended up disappointing. The connection between him and Wentz was just never right. One play Wentz would miss Sanders by 15 yards, the next play would be perfectly placed to Sanders and he would drop it. For whatever reason that connection was snakebitten, and Sanders ended up grading out as the 3rd worst pass-catching running back last year. That still doesn’t mean Sanders had a bad year. He only played in 12 games, but even in a year where the Eagles offense was dreadful he averaged 5.3 yards per carry. He also had multiple runs over 70 yards. He brought some juice to a lifeless offense.
Thanks to the matchup against the Falcons, Sanders has the possibility of starting off the year strong. The Falcons have the 2nd worst rated defensive line in the NFL, and with the Eagles healthy and top 5 offensive line they could dominate the line of scrimmage. Sanders also has big play ability, with 3 runs over 70+ yards last season. So, all in all, getting + odds on Sanders to score is a good bet to make.
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