Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season is finally here, and we have an intriguing matchup between two first-year head coaches. How rare is it for rookie head coaches to square off against each other in Week 1? It’s only happened five times in the last 38 years, the most recent being when Bill O’Brien of the Houston Texans defeated Jay Gruden of Washington in 2014.
Arthur Smith takes over a Falcons team with a talented offense, but defense has been the main issue in Atlanta as of late. As for Nick Sirianni in Philly, he and his quarterback Jalen Hurts will look to escort the Eagles into the future, and they would like to show off their new-look wide receiving corps in Week 1.
The Eagles lead the all-time series, 17-14-1, and have won two out of the past three matchups. Below, we will break down this matchup from a gambling perspective, and examine line movement, the Over/Under and player props to consider. First, here’s how you can watch Sunday’s matchup.
All NFL odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
How to watch
Latest Odds: Atlanta Falcons -3.5
This line opened at ATL -4 on May 12, saw a quick dip to ATL -3.5 a few hours later and then moved back up to ATL -4. It again dropped to ATL -3.5 on Aug. 29, and fell to ATL -3 this Tuesday.
The pick: Falcons -3. I did not mark this game as a “best bet” in my weekly column, but I think I have to roll with the favorite here. The reason is because I believe in coach Smith more than I believe in coach Sirianni. We saw what the former was capable of as the mastermind of an offense with the Tennessee Titans. He turned Ryan Tannehill’s career around and also helped Derrick Henry solidify himself as the best running back in the NFL. Smith has some pieces to work with in Matt Ryan, Kyle Pitts, Mike Davis and Calvin Ridley, so that’s where my lean is.
Latest Odds: Over 48.5
This total opened at 47.5 on May 12, dipped to 47 briefly the following day and then rose to 48 on May 26. This Thursday, it rose half a point to 48.5, and may not be done moving just yet.
The pick: Over 48.5. I’m on the Over! Neither of these defenses was great last year and the new head coaches are offensive-minded men who are looking to showcase that side of the ball.
Matt Ryan passing touchdowns: Over 1.5 (-200). This isn’t a sexy prop considering the juice, but I think it’s a play we have to make. Ryan passed for at least two touchdowns in half of the games he played last year, but I expect that number to increase in 2021 with coach Smith.
Miles Sanders receiving yards: Over 14.5 (-120). While we don’t know how Sanders’ role will be different in Sirianni’s offense, this bet feels like a no-brainer. Sanders is a legitimate dual-threat weapon, and it could take just one reception for him to hit the Over on yards.
Calvin Ridley total receptions: Over 5.5 (-145). Ridley averaged six receptions per game last season, and he’s going to be the new No. 1 receiver with Julio Jones gone. Ryan will make it a point to get him the ball.
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