USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Deion Jones and Nick Foles.
- The Road to Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta begins Thursday in Philadelphia as the Falcons and Eagles (-1) face off in the season opener.
- The Eagles' significant injuries -- including quarterback Carson Wentz -- have bettors fading the reigning champs.
Betting odds: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
- Spread: Eagles -1
- Over/Under: 44.5
- Time: 8:20 p.m. ET Thursday
- TV: NBC
>> All odds as of 10 a.m. ET on Thursday.
By PJ Walsh
Philadelphia opened -4 at Pinnacle, and sharp bettors have consistently bet against the defending Super Bowl champions.
With professional money backing Atlanta, oddsmakers have dropped this line to -1 at the majority of sportsbooks across the betting market.
The question now: Will Eagles buyback show up to grab Philly at a discount before kickoff?
By Mark Gallant
The Eagles are flirting with history, as the mere 31% of bets they are receiving at the time of writing is quite low for the first game after winning a Super Bowl (see live betting percentage numbers here).
Dating back to 2004, 11 of 14 Super Bowl champs have received the majority of spread bets in Week 1 of the following season.
The Broncos in 2016 had by far the lowest support at 28% in their rematch against the Panthers. Of course, they had Trevor Siemian under center instead of Peyton Manning (slight difference), while the Eagles are sending out Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. (Yes, it’s still hard to believe that happened.)
The good news for Eagles bettors?
The Broncos closed as 3-point dogs and won by a point, while the two other reigning champs that were unpopular bets (2006 Steelers, 2007 Colts) also won and covered.
By Ian Hartitz
The Falcons don’t have any starters on their final injury report, and are the league’s only team without a player on injured reserve, reserve/PUP or reserve/NFI (per Adam Caplan).
Meanwhile, the Eagles have ruled out starting quarterback Carson Wentz (knee), along with receivers Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) and Mack Hollins (groin).
Banged-up running back Jay Ajayi (foot, not listed) is good to go for Philly’s offense.
The Prime-time Factor
By Evan Abrams
Since Matt Ryan became the starting quarterback for the Falcons in 2008, he’s 19-8 against the spread (+10.2 units) when playing in prime-time games (7 p.m. or later).
Ryan is the second-most profitable quarterback in the NFL during this span, behind Russell Wilson (+11.2 units).
By John Ewing
Stand-alone NFL games, those played in prime time, are the most bet and are great opportunities to be contrarian.
It has been profitable to wager on teams in prime-time games when the line moves by two or more points against them: 86-60-5 (59%) ATS since 2003.
The line movement is often an overreaction by casual bettors to a single piece of information. In this case, that’s Foles starting over Wentz.
Looking to the Under?
By Chris Raybon
Both of these defenses have the talent and speed to get after the quarterback, so don’t be surprised if this is a low-scoring game.
Including the postseason, the over is only 9-15-2 (38%) when Dan Quinn takes his team on the road, and it’s only 6-12 (33%) in Eagles home games under Doug Pederson.
By Ian Hartitz
Yes, Julio Jones had a poorly timed last-second drop during the Falcons’ divisional round loss to the Eagles last season.
But don’t overlook how much he’s owned this team, catching at least five passes and gaining 100-plus receiving yards in each of his past four matchups against the reigning Super Bowl champs.
Jones faces off against an Eagles defense that didn’t noticeably upgrade its cornerbacks in the offseason after allowing at least 115 yards to a single receiver in eight games during 2017 (including playoffs).
While the Falcons have scored an additional 2.6 PPG at home over the past three seasons, Jones has averaged the fourth-most DraftKings PPG on the road among all wide receivers since 2014.
Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings
Bet to Watch
I love this Falcons team heading into the season.
Over their final seven games last season (including the playoffs), they allowed a ridiculously stingy 16.1 points per game — a mark that would have ranked second in the NFL over a full season (Vikings 15.8).
Those seven opponents: Eagles, Rams, Saints twice, Vikings, Panthers and Bucs. That’s six playoff teams and a 2017 Bucs offense that finished in the top 10 in yards per game.
Their defense has speed and Pro Bowl potential at every level.
Atlanta’s secondary — including Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford — should shut down a depleted Eagles wide receiver corps.
I don’t expect much from an Eagles offense that can’t match the Falcons’ overall team speed.
After preparing all offseason for the RPO, Atlanta will be ready for all of Philly’s offensive wrinkles.
The Falcons’ offense led the NFL in third down conversion rate (45%) and finished third in yards per play last season. Atlanta’s issue was scoring inside the 20 (TDs on just 50% of their red zone trips, 23rd in the league).
That should improve in offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s second year, as he is now much more familiar with the personnel.
As far as Week 1 is concerned, do not sleep on the loss of Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham (one-game suspension).
That is by far the Eagles’ weakest position group, and the Falcons have one of the better running back duos in football to take full advantage.
It’s also worth noting that Matt Ryan is a notorious fast starter.
Per Pro-Football Reference, Ryan has the highest Week 1 passer rating of any active quarterback (min. 100 passing attempts) at a sparkling 102.1.
There is no doubt the Eagles will be strong in the trenches on both sides of the ball, but they have way more questions than the Falcons heading into Week 1.
I picked Atlanta +5 in the app back in May (follow me here). I still like the Falcons to get their revenge and win outright in what should be the start of a promising year in Atlanta.
Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.