Falcons, Eagles meet in opener after dismal 2020 seasons

PHILADELPHIA (4-11-1) at ATLANTA (4-12)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, Fox

OPENING LINE: Falcons by 3, according to FanDuel SportsBook

SERIES RECORD: Eagles lead 20-15-1

LAST MEETING: Falcons beat Eagles 24-20 on Sept. 15, 2019 in Atlanta

EAGLES OFFENSE: OVERALL (24t), RUSH (9), PASS (28), SCORING (26).

EAGLES DEFENSE: OVERALL (19), RUSH (23), PASS (15), SCORING (20).

FALCONS OFFENSE: OVERALL (18), RUSH (27), PASS (5), SCORING (16).

FALCONS DEFENSE: OVERALL (29), RUSH (6), PASS (32), SCORING (19).

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Eagles minus-10; Falcons plus-3

EAGLES PLAYER TO WATCH: For the second year in a row, the Eagles used a first-round pick on a receiver. They’re hoping Alabama Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith can help bolster one of the league’s least-productive offenses. Philadelphia hasn’t had a player with 1,000 yards receiving since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.

FALCONS PLAYER TO WATCH: Under new defensive coordinator Dean Pees, the Falcons will be looking for ways to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback. They’ll need a much better season from defensive end Dante Fowler, who managed just three sacks in his Atlanta debut. That was a huge letdown after he had 11 1-2 sacks in 2019 with the Rams.

KEY MATCHUP: Eagles QB Jalen Hurts vs. Falcons secondary. Atlanta allowed more passing yards than any team in the NFL a year ago and has a pair of new safeties. That should provide some inviting targets for Hurts, who is now the unquestioned starter in Philadelphia and looking to bolster one of the league’s worst passing games.

KEY INJURIES: Both teams are in good shape heading into the opener. After an injury- plagued 2020 season, the Eagles expect everyone to be available, including OG Brandon Brooks, who tore an Achilles tendon in back-to-back seasons. He was limited in practice with a knee injury, but that was largely a precautionary measure. Also limited were OL Landon Dickerson (knee), S Rodney McLeod (knee), and LB Davion Taylor (calf). … Falcons LB Brandon Copeland was limited by a hamstring injury.

SERIES NOTES: The Eagles are 11-5 against Atlanta since 2000, including the playoffs. … Philadelphia is 4-1 in season openers since 2016, while the Falcons haven’t won their first game since 2017. … The Eagles are 94-73-1 on the road since 2000, the fourth-best record in the league. … The Falcons haven’t had much of a home-field advantage since moving into Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2017, going 14-18 in Atlanta, a 2-6 mark last season.

STATS AND STUFF: Philadelphia’s Nick Sirianni and Atlanta’s Arthur Smith are both in their first heading coaching jobs at any level. … Sirianni previously spent three seasons as offensive coordinator in Indianapolis after various assistant roles with the Chargers and Chiefs. … Smith was on the Tennessee Titans staff for a decade, serving as offensive coordinator the last two seasons …. Hurts makes his fifth career start for the Eagles. He was 1-3 as a rookie after replacing Carson Wentz last season. … Despite starting only four games, Hurts became only the fourth quarterback since 1950 to produce two games with 300-plus yards passing and 60-plus yards rushing. … Philadelphia RB Miles Sanders is fourth in NFL with 4.9 yards per carry average the past two seasons. … Three-time All-Pro center Jason Kelce has started 105 straight regular-season games. … Eagles DE Brandon Graham is coming off his first Pro Bowl season in his 11th year in the league. … The Falcons will play their first game since 2010 without WR Julio Jones on the roster. The seven-time Pro Bowler was dealt to the Titans over the summer. … Atlanta has a new pair of safeties after cutting ties with longtime duo Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal because of salary cap issues. They’ve been replaced by Erik Harris and Duron Harmon. … WR Calvin Ridley had eight games with at least 100 yards receiving in 2020, most in the NFL and third most in franchise history.

FANTASY TIP: With the Falcons looking to bolster a dismal run game, newcomer Mike Davis is worth a look. He’s coming off the best season of his career with the Carolina Panthers, gaining 642 yards rushing, 373 yards receiving and scoring eight TDs (six rushing, two receiving). Davis had a career-high 59 receptions, fourth in the league among running backs.

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