Falcons present tough test for Super Bowl champion Eagles
The last time the Eagles opened a season as NFL champions, it was 1960 and, well, who remembers what folks did then in Philadelphia?
What they'll certainly do Thursday night at the Linc when the Falcons come to town is roar with approval at the site of the Lombardi Trophy and the championship banner. Fans will sing many, many choruses of "Fly Eagles Fly."
And then the guys on the field will get down to business, defending the title they took away from New England last February.
That defense will be difficult, particularly in the NFC, a stronger conference than the AFC.
"Quite honestly, it's going to be a great night from that standpoint," coach Doug Pederson says of the season opener. "The fans that are in attendance are going to be crazy and they're going to be excited. It's going to be great for the banner to be dropped in Lincoln Financial (Field). It's going to be a great atmosphere.
"I think with this football team, though, they understand this is a different season, it's a new team, new year. We're sitting here 0-0 with a great opportunity against a great opponent — a playoff/Super Bowl-caliber team coming in here. Quite honestly, that's their focus."
It had better be, because the Falcons barely lost in Philly in the divisional round last winter, and they've upgraded on both sides of the ball. Atlanta, No. 8 in the AP Pro32, comes in as a 2½-point underdog to top-ranked Philadelphia.
Pro Picks goes out on a limb early.
UPSET SPECIAL: FALCONS, 22-20
We didn't stick around for too long last year, so consider that when we choose the SAINTS to win this weekend.
No. 15 San Francisco (plus 6) at No. 3 Minnesota
Jimmy Garoppolo is undefeated as a starting quarterback. Streak ends Sunday.
BEST BET: VIKINGS, 27-16
No. 5 Pittsburgh (minus 5 1-2) at No. 31 Cleveland
The Browns are defeated in 17 straight. That streak continues, even if Le'Veon Bell is a no-show.
No. 29 Tampa Bay (plus 9 1-2) at No. 6 New Orleans
Almost went with this as BEST BET. Saints have Super Bowl-level talent.
No. 4 Los Angeles Rams (minus 5) at No. 21 Oakland, Monday night
The return of Jon Gruden to the Black Hole. Raiders could struggle after Chucky traded his best player.
No. 28 Chicago (plus 7 1-2) at No. 9 Green Bay
Khalil Mack surfaces in Chicago. More significant: Aaron Rodgers is back at QB for Packers.
No. 13 Kansas City (plus 3) at No. 10 Los Angeles Chargers
Lots of people like the Chargers in the AFC West. So do we.
No. 12 Houston (plus 6 1-2) at No. 2 New England
If healthy, the Texans could be ready for special season. But they rarely play well in Foxborough.
No. 26 Buffalo (plus 7) at No. 14 Baltimore
Sean McDermott didn't want inexperienced Josh Allen at QB against this defense. Smart man.
No. 24 (tie) Cincinnati (plus 3) at No. 30 Indianapolis
Andrew Luck returns at last. He doesn't have much surrounding him.
No. 7 Jacksonville (minus 3) at No. 20 New York Giants
How satisfying will this win be for Tom Coughlin?
No. 17 Tennessee (minus 1) at No. 27 Miami
Not feeling good vibes about the Titans right now.
No. 16 Dallas (plus 2 1-2) at No. 11 Carolina
Not feeling good vibes about the Cowboys right now.
No. 22 Washington (pick-em) at No. 24 (tie) Arizona
Two of the NFL's most mysterious teams this year. Go with the hosts.
No. 18 Seattle (plus 3) at No. 23 Denver
Two more of the NFL's most mysterious teams. Go with the ... you get the drill.
No. 32 New York Jets (plus 6 1-2) at No. 19 Detroit, Monday night
Sam Darnold's debut gives this game some intrigue. So does Matt Patricia's as Lions coach.
Super Bowl: Against spread (1-0). Straight up (0-1)
Season Totals: Against spread (124-125-10). Straight up: (167-98)
Best Bet: 10-9 against spread, 11-8 straight up
Upset special: 10-8 against spread, 9-9 straight up
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL