Sunday Night Football Preview: Will the Underdog Falcons Defeat the Eagles?
A tight game could be on the menu again tonight, as Philadelphia is a two-point favorite in Atlanta. According to oddsFire, 66% of the money has come in on the Eagles to cover and 82% of the money is on the Eagles to win the game outright.
Does the public have it right, or do our algorithms think otherwise?
Passing Game Preview
Odds are that Matt Ryan will have to fare well in this game for Atlanta to emerge with an upset. In Week 1 last year, Ryan completed 21 of 43 passes for a scoreless 251 yards. In terms of Net Expected Points (NEP), he lost 0.15 points per drop back for the Falcons, compared to the 2018 league average of a positive 0.11. Now, Nick Foles wasn't any better, losing 0.26 per drop back, but Philly has Carson Wentz on the other side of things this time around. Wentz lit up Washington last wee for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns (0.52 Passing NEP per drop back).
Ryan and the Falcons played from behind in Week 1, but he did accrue positive Passing NEP (0.05 per drop back) against the Minnesota Vikings. Ryan's Passing NEP per drop back spiked to 0.36 at home from 0.16 on the road in 2018. Wentz performed just above league average on the road last year (0.12).
We project Wentz for 8.29 Passing NEP and Ryan for 8.66.
Atlanta's best receiving performance in Week 1 came from Calvin Ridley (9.02 Reception NEP) while Julio Jones was "bottled up" for 6 catches, 31 yards, and a touchdown on 11 targets by Minnesota (4.55 Reception NEP). Last season, Jones went off for 169 yards and 10 catches (19 targets) against the Eagles. We project Jones for 6.5 catches, 89.4 yards, and 0.48 receiving scores tonight.
The Eagles will have two new weapons to contend with who weren't on the roster last year in the opener: DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. Jackson opened up the season with 154 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 targets last week and is now indoors. Jackson is projected for a 24% chance to hit on a 40-yard catch. (Julio Jones is at 29%.)
Jeffery caught 5 of 6 targets for 49 yard and a score last week, good for a hyper elite 1.47 Reception NEP per catch.
Rushing Game Preview
In Week 1, Miles Sanders (48.0% of snaps) led the committee for Philadelphia, while Darren Sproles (30.7%) and Jordan Howard (22.7%) filled in behind. Sanders showed poor efficiency: just an 18.2% Rushing Success Rate on 11 carries for 25 yards.
Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith split the snaps 50/50 last week in the loss. None of Freeman's eight carries increased expected scoring for the Falcons. In total, Atlanta ranks sixth-worst in Rushing NEP per play through one week of action, and Philadelphia ranks third-best defensively.
The closest historical comparison game isn't last year's Week 1 tilt.
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