Falcons can fly higher than the Eagles in NFL season opener

Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles with the Super Bowl trophy. Picture: Patrick Smith/Getty
Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles with the Super Bowl trophy. Picture: Patrick Smith/Getty
Have your say

The last season ended with one of the better Super Bowls in recent times, The Philadelphia Eagles beating the 
New England Patriots 41-33 in Minneapolis.

With the game on the line, the Patriots conceded an uncharacteristic turnover to hand the game, the season and the Lombardi Trophy to the City of Brotherly Love.

That was the end of the season on the field but the start of what has now become a massive programme of offseason events allowing the NFL to become a truly year-round sport.

The combine workouts for college draft prospects, the draft itself and the free agency period where teams can sign out-of-contract stars from other franchises followed.

The 17-week regular season starts again tonight at 1:20am BST when the defending chanpions host the Atlanta Falcons.

So the first question of the new season is whether the Eagles will still be celebrating after opening night?

They last faced the Falcons in the play-offs in January in a play-off game which ended 15-10 to Philadelphia – a tight and low scoring affair in contrast to both teams’ seasons.

Last season, the Falcons struggled to execute plays in the Red Zone but wide receiver Julio Jones said this week that they have added “some new wrinkles” to their playbook as they aim to increase their effectiveness in good scoring situation. With a balanced running attack, Matt Ryan at quarterback and one of the league’s best receivers in Jones, if they do manage to increase their efficiency, they could be the team to beat.

For the Eagles Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will start under centre as the QB of the future Carson Wentz continues to recover from knee surgery.

If the Eagles can repeat last season’s high-adrenaline, high scoring offense, they will go deep into the play-offs again.

On Tuesday, they confirmed that London-born Jay Ajayi is their starting running back, and, after a whole off season of practice, expect him to take on a more significant role and explode as a major factor for the team this year.

The Eagles are without receiver Alshon Jeffrey and endured a preseason when the first-string offense did not score, so it’s quite likely the Falcons can spoil tonight’s party and gain some early revenge.

Off the gridiron, a major storyline is unfodling in 
the courts of New York City.

Former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick is suing the NFL, accusing club owners of colluding to keep him out of the league.

Well-known social justice campaigner Kaepernick initiated the practice of players “taking a knee” before games to protest police violence against young black men. He and his colleagues were accused by many of disrespecting the American National Anthem – notably by President Donald Trump.

The league even proposed fines for protesting players but it stalled at the negotiating table with the NFL Players Association.

Cracks even appear to be forming in the modern era dynasty that is the Patriots.

The relationship between veteran superstar QB Tom Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick has been questioned after the coach last year tried to keep Jimmy Garoppolo, the player he had tagged as Brady’s replacement.

Team owner Robert Kraft pushed through a trade for Garoppolo to San Francisco. This seemed to be Kraft protecting his 41-year-old franchise star (and business partner) against being forced out before he wants to go.

All of this, and more, has taken place before week one and there are 22 to go before it all ends with Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta on 3 February.