The Atlanta Falcons ended their 2017 season against the Philadelphia Eagles in a gutty defensive battle featuring virtually zero offense that ended in a loss. The Eagles, of course, went on to win the Super Bowl, and will get to host the Falcons on Thursday night in the very first game of the 2018 season.
Also predictably, the Eagles are favored, per CG Technology, which has them as four point favorites at the moment. They may or may not have Carson Wentz available for the first week of the season, and that means the Falcons may see Nick Foles (hopefully minus his playoff Flaccodust). The Eagles team they’ll meet will be missing offensive coordinator Frank Reich, now the head coach in Indianapolis, and saw defensive end Vinny Curry head to Tampa Bay after he was released. Otherwise, they’ve mostly added to their roster, bringing aboard Michael Bennett, Mike Wallace, Haloti Ngata, Matt Jones, and a handful of intriguing draft picks from their limited class. They’ll once again be in the running to be the NFC’s Super Bowl representative, unfortunately.
We have to be careful about reading too much into the first game of any season--recall the team’s listless effort against the Buccaneers in 2016—but this looks like a genuine early test for the Falcons. They’ll be on the road in front of an amped up defending champion with very few holes on its roster, so a win here would be absolutely huge for a Falcons team looking to prove it’s not going to scuffle the way it did for long stretches in 2017.
A win here would also put the Falcons at 1-0 and primed to dominate the early part of their schedule, which features some genuinely mild opponents and plenty of home games, keying a deep playoff run for Atlanta. Let’s hope they can get it.