The Atlanta Falcons open the season against Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (Sept. 6 @ 8:20 p.m., NBC). Nine games in the 2018 regular season will feature a rematch from the 2017 postseason. The Falcons lost to the Eagles in last season's conference Divisional Round. Thursday night's season opener features a matchup of the past two NFC representatives in the Super Bowl. The Eagles have won their past two openers and six of their past seven. Matt Ryan's 448 passing yards and 3 TDs against New Orle

Three key matchups: Falcons at Eagles

Falcons MLB Deion Jones vs. Eagle RB Jay Ajayi: In last season’s playoff matchup, Ajayi rushed for 54 yards on 11 carries and Jones had three tackles. Earlier in the regular season, before he was traded, Ajayi helped lead the Dolphins to a victory over the Falcons with his hard-charging running style. Early in the season, backs like Ajayi have an advantage over defenders, who have not tackled in practice. Jones, who’s been battling a hamstring injury, must flow to the ball and stop Ajayi from gaining yards after contact.

Falcons WR Julio Jones vs. Eagles CB Jalen Mills: Jones did not play a down in the exhibition season and Mills will certainly have a lot of help, mostly from safety Malcolm Jenkins. It was Mills who diagnosed the Falcons’ play from the 2-yard line in the 15-10 loss in the divisional round of the playoffs. If Jones hadn’t slipped, Mills would have been beaten. 

Falcons Gs Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco vs. Eagles DTs Haloti Ngata and Fletcher Cox: The Falcons started Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer in the playoff game. They had trouble with Cox. The massive Ngata came over from the Lions in free agency and will replace Tim Jernigan in the lineup. The Falcons had trouble running the ball and had to toss it outside to Tevin Coleman to create space and make Jernigan and Cox chase the play. Fusco and Levitre should hold up much better, while Schweitzer will be the backup swing guard. Garland has a calf injury and will be inactive. 

   

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