|Eagles Odds||+3.5 (-115)|
|Falcons Odds||-3.5 (-105)|
|Time||1 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
The Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons will face off this weekend in a game featuring two franchises searching for a fresh start in 2021.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts had an entire offseason to build a comfort level with the offense and will get his chance to lead this Philadelphia team from the onset this season, while Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will look to move past a lost season in 2020 that saw the team finish with just a 4-12 record.
With a thin spread between two closely matched teams and a total currently sitting at 48 points, where should we turn for betting value in this Week 1 NFC matchup?
Hurts saw varying levels of success in four starts last season. During that time, he compiled two 330+ yard passing games and finished with 354 rushing yards on just 64 attempts. He also highlighted his game-changing ability with a 106-yard rushing performance against the New Orleans Saints. Unfortunately, he was terribly inefficient through the air, completing only 52% of his passes.
He’ll take on a Falcons defense that was bottom-third among all teams last year with a 61.8 PFF Defense rating. They weren’t particularly strong in any area, ranking in the bottom third in both run defense and coverage rating, per PFF. Atlanta did little to improve the defense this offseason, which should bode well for Hurts’ ability to extend plays with his legs when needed.
With a thin receiving corps heading into the season, first-round pick DeVonta Smith figures to be the primary beneficiary of Hurts’ target tree on Sunday. The Falcons secondary will offer little resistance, with cornerback Fabian Moreau — and his pedestrian 64.3 PFF coverage rating last season — offering the toughest path to a big day. With a 48 game total that has been slowly rising throughout the week, plenty of targets should be in store for Smith in his first NFL game.
Ryan enters his 14th season and his first without future Hall of Famer Julio Jones since 2011. Jones left during the offseason for Tennessee, leaving the talented Calvin Ridley to take over as the top option in the offense. While the Falcons did add dynamic tight end Kyle Pitts in the first round of the draft, the receiving corps is remarkably thin behind those two.
Ridley is expected to take a huge leap forward as the top offensive option and he’ll have a substantial matchup advantage against all members of the Eagles secondary on Sunday. Pitts also figures to be heavily involved in his first NFL start and projects to have a 24% matchup advantage over primary defender K’Von Wallace, according to PFF. Both should expect a barrage of targets in this one.
While the Eagles defense was particularly bad against the pass last season, recording a 15.9% Defense Pass DVOA (per Football Outsiders), they added cornerback Steven Nelson and safety Anthony Harris during the offseason to shore up the secondary, both of whom should help them improve from that figure.
Running back Mike Davis, added via free agency from the Carolina Panthers, also figures to be heavily involved in the game plan. Davis stepped in last season for an injured Christian McCaffrey and was extremely effective, totaling 1,015 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games.
While there are still some question marks around Hurts’ ability to complete passes on a consistent basis, one thing is for certain: he’ll be looking Smith’s way early and often in passing situations.
Smith will have little resistance from a poor Falcons secondary in his first NFL game. Additionally, outside of tight end Dallas Goedert, Smith should have little competition for targets in a game with sneaky shootout potential and a game total that has steadily crept up throughout the week. It also doesn’t hurt that Hurts and Smith are both good friends and former college teammates.
If Hurts can just marginally improve on his 13.8 yards/completion average from a season ago, we’ll need just three catches out of Smith for him to collect more than his 44.5 yardage prop. In a game with a 48 total, there will be a chance for him to rack up substantially more than that.
Pick: DeVonta Smith Over 44.5 Yards (-115) at PointsBet