NFL Football is back! This Thursday, the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles will take on the Atlanta Falcons in a divisional round rematch from last season. With Carson Wentz still recovering from ACL and LCL tears, the Eagles will have Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles, under center.
Carson Wentz, QB: As noted, Wentz is expected to miss the opener as he recovers from knee surgery. He still hasn’t been cleared for contact and his absence may last longer than just one week. Foles will be in for the Eagles and the question is which version of Foles will show up for the them. He has been inconsistent throughout his career, with fourteen starts with a passer rating over 100.0, sixteen starts below 80.0, and just nine starts that fall in between those marks.
Jay Ajayi, RB:Ajayi has been limited throughout the preseason with a foot injury. He was a great pickup for Philly last season as he gained 408 rushing yards on 70 attempts for a excellent YPC of 5.8. The Eagles are reporting that Ajayi is expected to play on Thursday. If he sits out, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement will receive extended playing time.
Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins, WR: Jeffery has been out all offseason, recovering from shoulder surgery that he had back in March. He is expected to be out until week 3 when the Eagles play the Colts. Hollins is someone whom I’m very high on and expect to have a breakout season. However, his preseason was slowed down by offseason hernia surgery that will keep him out of week one. With Jeffery and Hollins out, Mike Wallace and second year receiver, Shelton Gibson, will start on the outside with Nelson Agholor starting in the slot. DeAndre Carter and Markus Wheaton are the other wideouts on the roster.
At the moment, the Falcons are generally healthier than the Eagles. During practice on Monday, three players did not participate: starting guard, Ben Garland, long snapper, Josh Harris, and cornerback, Blidi-Wreh Wilson.
Deion Jones, LB: Jones has been limited this week with a nagging hamstring injury from training camp. However, he is not expected to miss Thursday’s opener. Jones burst onto the scene last season for Atlanta, leading the team with 138 tackles and three interceptions. Should Jones have to miss their matchup with Philly, Kemal Ishmael and Foye Oloukun would be in line for playing time.
The X factor:
The play of Nick Foles: As I noted above, Nick Foles has been quite inconsistent throughout his career. He did not look good at all during the preseason and made several bad decisions that resulted in turnovers. He played well enough to get the win in the Eagles divisional round matchup with Atlanta last season, completing 23 of 30 passes for 246 yards and a 100.1 QB rating. The Eagles offense still had struggles scoring in that game as they won 15-10. 15 points will not cut it this week for the Eagles. If the Falcons defense can limit Nick Foles’ production, they should be in a good position to win.
Who will come out on top:
The Eagles are currently pretty depleted at receiver and my confidence in Shelton Gibson is pretty low. Gibson had just 2 catches in his rookie season but had a very strong preseason. Foles did not look good in the preseason although to be fair, neither did Matt Ryan. Starting linebacker, Nigel Bradham, is suspended for week one which is a huge loss for Philly since he was the team’s leader in tackles last season. Jordan Hicks, Nate Gerry, and Kamu-Grugier Hill will start at linebacker. The Falcons come into Thursday’s game as the underdogs and I expect them to pull off the upset. The reigning super bowl champs will start the year 0-1 with Atlanta going to 1-0
Final Score: Atlanta 31, Eagles 23