The start of football season is inching closer as the 2021 season kicks off on Thursday, September 9.
The Eagles will make their debut on the road in their Week 1 NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons. Philadelphia not only has the fourth-best road winning percentage in the NFL since 2000, but in that span, they have an 11-5 record against the Falcons.
So, who will take the win Sunday?
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
The Eagles’ biggest weakness going into Week 1 is the unknown. Nick Sirianni will begin his first official season as a head coach, providing the team with a new philosophy. Though players have seemed to adapt well thus far, fans can only hope that his style continues to translate universally.
The same can be said for second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts. Philadelphia saw a small glimpse of his abilities in the latter half of the 2020 season, but his training camp was neutral. Hurts completed three of seven attempts during preseason, finishing with 54 passing yards.
Additionally, Hurts’ most anticipated target, first-round pick DeVonta Smith has no true NFL experience. Players including Jalen Reagor and Zach Ertz will also try to make a comeback this season after an off-putting year.
But what most teams seem to forget is that the Eagles have many strengths. Philadelphia’s offensive line is one of the top in the league, ranking as No. 13 according to Pro Football Focus. With some of the best players at their respective positions, Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks are returning after injuries. Paired with Isaac Seumalo and Jason Kelce, they are adding Jordan Mailata, who outcompeted Andre Dillard for the left tackle position.
Philadelphia’s running backs are also underestimated. Miles Sanders has proven to be one of the best in the league, and Boston Scott has shown progress this offseason. The Eagles also picked up Kenny Gainwell, who is already making a name for himself despite being a rookie.
The Eagles have also filled their hole at the cornerback position after adding Steven Nelson. The defense, however, has their work cut out for them this week as they lack depth at the safety and linebacker position.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE ATLANTA FALCONS
The strengths for the Atlanta Falcons lie in the offense. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been with Atlanta since 2008, and though not outstanding, he’s consistent. He remains among the top 12 quarterbacks in the league. Ryan will have a strong group of wide receivers to get the ball to despite trading Julio Jones, as Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage both return this season. Atlanta also acquired rookie and No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts, who took the TE1 position over Hayden Hurst.
Atlanta’s defense is their biggest weakness. Last season, their defense ranked No. 29 in the NFL. This year, Pro Football Focus ranked them No. 31. The Falcons allowed 7.0 yards per pass play last season, struggling with consistency. They lack depth, particularly on the edge, which the Eagles will be prepared for. Grady Jarrett has been valuable to the team; however, there isn’t much around him. The Falcons have two strong linebackers in Deion Jones and Foye Olukotun but are looking for improvement in the cornerback position.
WEEK 1 PREDICTIONS
This week’s game will undoubtedly be a close call.
The Eagles and the Falcons are coming off really bad seasons (4-11-1 and 4-12, respectively). Both teams also have new head coaches (and defensive coordinators), and neither team gave fans much insight during their preseason games.
Last week, I predicted the Atlanta Falcons would take the win, but my gut feeling is shifting as Sunday gets closer. Though Atlanta will have a home-field advantage, the energy coming from Philadelphia will be intense. Though no one can guarantee fluidity among the Eagles, logistically, Philadelphia’s players are individually stronger in their respective position.