The 2018 season is finally here and the Eagles are the reigning Super Bowl champions.
The Super Bowl LII banner is going to be raised to the rafters at the Linc, but then it's back to business. The Eagles have a tough opener against a good Falcons team.
Before we get to this season, congrats to Roob and Ray, who both finished with 17-2 records last season to share the crown. Really impressive, although Roob thinks the last regular season game against the Cowboys shouldn't count against him. Sore winner.
But back to the Falcons …
Our (cough) experts provide their predictions:
Reuben Frank (17-2 last season)
They couldn't score in the preseason. They're still missing their MVP-caliber quarterback. Their Super Bowl MVP looked awful in the preseason. They have huge unknowns at wide receiver, linebacker and nickel corner. They're dealing with a short offseason and the effects of a lot of celebrating. The Falcons are a legit Super Bowl contender and angry after watching their season end 7 1/2 months ago at the Linc.
Add it all up and it points to a Falcons victory Thursday night in the NFL opener at the Linc.
But I don't care. Until someone proves they can beat the Eagles, I'm not going to pick them to lose to anybody. They haven't lost at home since December of 2016. Nick Foles hasn't lost at home since October of 2013.
They're loaded on defense and potentially very good on offense, too. The Falcons are talented, but I just think the Eagles are better. Super Bowl Hangover or not.
Eagles 23, Falcons 17
Dave Zangaro (16-3 last season)
I think the Eagles have a real chance to win this game. After all, they seem to have a lot going against them in this one and that's when they seem to be at their best.
The Eagles are going to need Nick Foles to be good in this game because there are a lot of question marks. The offense was awful in the preseason. Darren Sproles and Jason Peters haven't played a game since last year. Nelson Agholor and Corey Clement missed time this summer. Jay Ajayi is getting over a foot injury. Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins aren't playing. Oh yeah, and did we mention Carson Wentz isn't back yet?
If the Eagles win, their defense is probably going to have to play really well to win this game, but they're without Nigel Bradham, who is suspended. That's even more of a problem because the Falcons are going to force the Eagles to stay in their base defense a lot.
Not saying the Eagles have no shot. But I think there's just too much stacked against them.
Falcons 24, Eagles 20
Derrick Gunn (16-3 last season)
It's finally here. New season and new hopes. The first time the Eagles ever step on the field as the defending Super Bowl champs to start a season. Thursday night will be electric. Packed house, championship banner unveiled and the Atlanta Falcons in the house.
We finally know that Nick Foles will be the starter. Last season in the playoffs, the Falcons' defense gave Foles and the Eagles all they could handle. Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Nelson Agholor all didn't have much of a preseason so it will be interesting to see how long it takes for them the shake off the rust (and who's available to play for that matter).
With Nigel Bradham suspended for the opener, how will defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz deploys his linebackers? The Falcons' receiving duo of Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu complement each other extremely well and now they welcome first-round pick Calvin Ridley to the mix. Matt Ryan needs no introduction and he has a great tandem in his backfield in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
The Falcons, as a whole, are fast and furious. Great chess match to open the new year. I hate picking games coming out of the gate, especially when they're so evenly matched. The last two times the Falcons were at Lincoln Financial Field, the weather was on the cold side. This time it's supposed to be in the 80s. I don't feel confident about this one but I'm leaning toward the home team.
Eagles 20, Falcons 17
Ray Didinger (17-2 last season)
It is supposed to be a celebration, another curtain call for the Super Bowl champions. Opening the new season in front of the home crowd, soaking up the adulation, unfurling the Super Bowl banner before a national TV audience. I mean, what could go wrong?
The New England Patriots found out last year when Andy Reid's Kansas City Chiefs came into Foxboro and wrecked the party to the tune of 42-27. You can bet Doug Pederson mentioned that to the Eagles this week - when he wasn't busy getting all huffy with the media, that is. Even factoring in the emotion and what is sure to be a rocking crowd, this is a very tough matchup for the Eagles.
The Atlanta Falcons are plenty good and plenty motivated returning to the stadium where their reign as NFC champs ended seven months ago. The Falcons probably have the edge in playmakers going into this game but the Eagles are stronger in the trenches, on both sides of the ball, and that is usually the difference.
Eagles 23, Falcons 20
Andrew Kulp (16-3 last season)
I suspect the Eagles offense will start slow. A whole mess of players were absent during preseason, Alshon Jeffery is still on the shelf and it usually takes Nick Foles some time to find his rhythm. Fortunately, Jim Schwartz's defenses have had the Falcons' number the last two seasons, limiting Atlanta's offense to 15 points in 2017 and 10 in January's postseason meeting.
The Eagles' front seven has undergone some changes since then. Nigel Bradham is suspended. Tim Jernigan is inactive. Vinny Curry and Beau Allen are gone. After finishing with the NFL's No. 1 run defense last year, the updated group with Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Jordan Hicks (returning from injury) is immediately being put to the test.
I'm tempted to pick against the Eagles based on that uncertainty, but the unit has something else working in its favor - the crowd after a Super Bowl champions banner is raised. With the Linc behind him, Fletcher Cox dominates the Falcons' line, while Foles leans on the ground attack before he inevitably gets his groove back in the second half.
Eagles 24, Falcons 16
Corey Seidman (14-4 last season)
It's 2018 and it seems most fans want blind optimism more than objectivity, but I just don't feel great about this season opener.
Between Nick Foles' shaky preseason and the absence of Alshon Jeffery in Week 1, this feels like a relatively low-scoring game for two teams with very good offensive skill players.
My biggest concerns in this game: The Eagles' linebackers, a 150-yard effort from Julio Jones, inefficiency from the Birds in the red zone.
Also feeling a Zach Ertz TD, a Jake Elliott miss from inside 45 yards, and at least one catch from Dallas Goedert that excites the fanbase even more.
Falcons 20, Eagles 16