The Georgia Dome hosts the first Monday Night Football game of the 2015 NFL season as the Atlanta Falcons welcome the Philadelphia Eagles in what looks to be an offensive shootout (7.10pm ET, Monday on ESPN).
The Eagles enter the season with one of the most intriguing stories in the league. Not only did the team and its backups completely dominate the first three weeks of the preseason, but they did it behind a new and improved offense that saw full-level changes in quarterback, wide receiver, and runningback. In large part due to this new-look offense, the Eagles find themselves in the top five teams heading the Super Bowl betting.
The Falcons are keying in on more of a redemption story this year as they won just 10 games over the last two seasons. Atlanta is much better than that record suggests and they will look to prove that against an improved Philadelphia defense.
Philadelphia enters as road favorites but it is only a field goal’s worth of a spread (-3pts). The total points for the game is set at a conservative 55, given the way both teams have an ability to score almost on demand. Our betting picks are published at the end of this preview, but you can see the way we are going.
Birds of Prey
If we are speaking specifically to real-life elements, both the falcon and the eagle are high-flying birds that pick apart their prey one by one. In terms of the NFL, this couldn’t be more of the truth for the teams behind the birds as well. Both the Eagles and Falcons begin and end with an aerial attack.
For Atlanta, this is bolstered by veteran quarterback Matt Ryan (pictured). The Pennsylvania native is now 30 years old and in his eighth season in the league. In those years, Ryan has had his ups and downs, but most recently he is coming off of one of his best seasons. Ryan finished the 2014 campaign with 28 touchdowns (3rd best in his career), 4,694 yards (2nd best) and a completion percentage of 66.1 (3rd best).
Ryan’s numbers were helped by the career year of his fifth year receiver, Julio Jones. Jones, who became Atlanta’s top weapon as Roddy White suffered from injuries and an aging body, finished with 104 receptions on 164 targets. He accumulated 1,593 yards and six touchdowns.
For the Falcons, this is where things began to fall apart. The fact that Jones only caught six touchdown passes helps to explain why the team only won six games in 2014 because beyond the 26-year-old receiver, Atlanta’s weapons are really few and far between. This makes things a little easier for the Eagles defense, who the last time they faced the Falcons back in 2012, allowed Jones to catch five balls on five targets for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Speaking of those Eagles, Philadelphia has its own aerial attack and it is one with the potential this team hasn’t seen in years. For the green birds, the offense is led by Sam Bradford, who injuries aside, may just have one of the best throwing arms in the entire league.
Bradford is a vast improvement over Nick Foles, who was traded for the former first overall pick in the offseason. If he can stay healthy, the Eagles boast a three-headed attack that should be incredibly difficult to stop. If the preseason means anything, Bradford could be in for a great year. That all begins against an Atlanta defense that last year was dead last in the league in stopping the pass and 27th in stopping the run. It doesn’t bode well that they’ll be facing last year’s rushing champion, DeMarco Murray, as well. It might be a tough day for that defense.
Our Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons Preview’s Betting Picks
Offense is the go-to strength for both of these teams and that will be the storyline for this game. Yes, Philly’s defense is much-improved as additions like Byron Maxwell from Seattle and Eric Rowe from the draft have thus far paid dividends, but the team will be challenged this season. Against the Falcons, last year’s fifth best passing team in yards per game, they’ll be tested early. So it’s pretty safe to say this won’t be a game focused on that side of the ball.
Chip Kelly has always been an offensive mind, focused on putting as many points on the board as possible and now he finally seems to have the QB he has been looking for the past few seasons. With Kelly and Bradford, the offense should look to have a big day in a place where they’ve been known to have success.
Taking into account the points made in this preview, these are our betting picks predictions: