The Atlanta Falcons may have a leg, er, a Tongon who faces the Philadelphia Eagles at the season opener in September.
Eagles LB Nigel Bradham, a key member of their defense, is suspended for the first game of the year per ESPN Field Yates.
The Eagles are already without DT Timmy Jernigan, who will miss much of the season due to injury, and LB Paul Worrilow, who relied on reserve capacity. Right now, with LB Mychal Kendricks now with Cleveland, the team will rely on former Broncos LB Corey Nelson to occupy the place until Bradham returns.
Not to mention that Philly QB returns Carson Wentz from an ACL tear. He will see his first meaningful snapshots since December last year, which may not sound so bad for the Eagles at first. But he will still come out the window, leaving behind people who are unable to make contact, and will undoubtedly be a bit shaky. The Eagles will also see Veteran Lines bringing Jason Peters back from MCL and ACL tears. He will also need time to get back to full contact even though he is still an elite talent in his dusk. Her best pass-down, DE Brandon Graham, also comes from ankle surgery.
The teams that emerge from the Super Bowl victories are traditionally not quite as keen as the year they won, even though the Seahawks and Patriots differ. It's fair that Philly is not quite as keen even in a home game as they come from a shorter offseason and such an emotional close. Even the Philly offense is not quite as productive. While added to WR WR Mike Wallace, they lose RB LeGarette Blount, and two of their best offensive heads in former OC Frank Reich and former QBs coach John DeFilippo. That's a lot of brainpower drained.
All this, combined with the fact that the Falcons no doubt want to avenge their recent loss (a damn close), could give Atlanta a small lead in the season opener. But, remember, the Eagles still have a bad line of defense with Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata, who are now in town, and have a good depth at the receiver. They still have one of the league's best offensive and safety stands, and two clever coaches in HC Doug Pederson and DC Jim Schwartz, who, oddly enough, have not gotten a job in the recent coaching circuit, though they have one of the best defenses in the league the league. So, despite more cracks than usual, this is still one of the best teams in the NFL.
It's going to be a great start to the season, but Atlanta could only soak up the day everything is said and done (as long as the training camp and preseason for injuries and tunes are going well). At the moment they have a slight thigh on the paper and theoretically get a big win at the beginning of 201