Source: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images North America
The season tipoff of Monday Night Football on ESPN for the 2015-2016 NFL season begins at 6:55 PM EST at the Georgia Dome as the Atlanta Falcons (0-0) take on the Philadelphia Eagles (0-0). An intriguing matchup between two teams that have been perennial playoff teams, but both missed the playoffs last season.
Both the Falcons and Eagles have made a plethora of moves to their rosters this past offseason; now both are ready to make their respective pushes to a postseason return. It all begins on Monday night.
Eagles’ head coach Chip Kelly gained a majority of the power in Philadelphia’s front office; with that deciding to turn this past offseason into one similar to a Madden 15 Franchise Mode. After trading away seemingly the entire Eagles’ roster and rebuilding it to his own attire, Kelly still managed to book an extremely talented roster.
The Eagles’ offense sees major changes all over the depth chart. Trading away Nick Foles and Lesean McCoy, losing Jeremy Maclin to free agency and releasing Pro Bowl OL Evan Mathis; Chip Kelly filled holes by brining in Sam Bradford, Demarco Murray and drafting rookie wideout Nelson Agholar. Along with the signings of Ryan Matthews and Miles Austin, this Eagles’ offense has signs of being very dynamic.
Philly’s defensive unit has also seen changes; with Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso coming in with Trent Cole and Brandon Boykin going out.
All players on the Eagle’s roster should be able to go come Monday. However, two players may be limited come game time. Tight end Zach Ertz and linebacker Marcus Smith both were limited in practice today due to recovering injuries. Ertz, coming off surgery in the groin area, and Smith, back from a hamstring injury, are expected to play. Perhaps not as much time as they would like to be, but they’ll be out there.
While the face of the Falcon’s franchise remains as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, many changes have come throughout Atlanta’s whole organization. Notably the coaching staff; with a new head coach (Dan Quinn), offensive coordinator (Kyle Shanahan) and defensive coordinator (Richard Smith). These guys don’t only bring a new scheme to this talented Falcons’ team; they bring a new image.
Atlanta’s defense looks much, much improved from a season ago when they were one of the worst defenses in the league. The Falcons’ front seven looks deadly now, with rookie Vic Beasly alongside newly acquired linebackers Brooks Reed and Justin Durant. Joining forces with tackling machine Paul Worrilow along with Jonathan Babineaux, Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai on the defensive front; this group made Atlanta’s pass rush look formidable.
The Falcons will also be debuting perhaps their future franchise running back; rookie Tevin Coleman will be starting in his first career game Monday. This is a kid that rushed for over 2,000 yards in his senior season at Indiana, and won the starting job over second year back Devonta Freeman. Both are likely to receive their fair share of carries.
Everyone should be ready to go on Game Day; despite starters William Moore, Brooks Reed, and Desmond Trufant dealing with minor injuries.
These two have met before; 31 match ups between the Eagles and the Falcons overall, including three playoff games. Philadelphia leads the all time series 17-13-1, but Atlanta has won the past two meetings.
The previous time these two played each other in Week One was 2005. The Eagles were coming off a Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, right after they beat Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game. Mike Vick and company got their revenge with a 14-10 opening week win. The last time these two met at the Georgia Dome was in 2011, when the Falcons won a 35-31 thriller.
The Matt Ryan-Julio Jones combo looks to continue their reign of dominating opposing secondaries. Jones will be matched up against former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell; who is playing his first game in an Eagles’ uniform after signing a six year deal in the offseason. This will be a key matchup; if Julio Jones isn’t getting his touches, Atlanta is typically not going to do as well. Coming of a year where Jones was third in the NFL in both receptions and receiving yards, Maxwell is going to have his hands full.
The battle between Philadelphia’s wide receivers and Atlanta’s secondary will be key. Neither are particularly great, but both have talent. The Falcons have an elite cornerback in Desmond Trufant; who will likely be matched on Philadelphia’s number one receiver Jordan Matthews for most of the snaps. Outside of that, it’s Riley Cooper, Nelson Agholor and Miles Austin battling Robert Alford as well as rookie Jalen Collins at cornerback (split snaps), William Moore, Ricardo Allen and Charles Godfrey for yardage.
This matchup is similar to a game that was played back early in the 2012-2013 season. It was Atlanta against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football; in Peyton Manning’s first season in Denver. Denver had limitless talent all over the roster, and Peyton Manning leading it. However, any team that is debuting as many new key players Denver was will likely struggle right off the bat. That was the case with this Broncos team; Peyton Manning had not yet completely adjusted to his new team, and despite being heavily favored Atlanta came in and dominated for almost the entire game.
The same is likely going to be the case for this Eagles’ team. There is so much talent spread out over this entire team, but so much of it is going to be officially playing for the first time together. Communication issues, adjustment issues and playing well together is all going to be an issue for a team like the Eagles.
That being said, this Falcons team is a lot better than people are realizing so far, and they will send a big message and beat the Eagles in the Georgia Dome.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 31 Philadelphia Eagles 21