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Who should the Eagles host in the 2018 NFL season opener?

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To the victor belongs the spoils

NFL: Super LII Champions-Philadelphia Eagles Celebration Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the many perks of winning the Super Bowl is hosting the season opener the next year. It’s the one Thursday night game that everyone actually looks forward to.

For the 2018 season, the Eagles will host the Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, Panthers, Falcons, Texans, Colts, and Vikings. In a best case scenario, every one of those teams is an intriguing option. But the NFL doesn’t want a best case scenario matchup to begin the season, they want the one with the highest floor.

So right away we can eliminate the Colts and Frank Reich’s return to Philly, as Indianapolis may not have Andrew Luck back for the start of the season. If that were to be scheduled a prime time game, and given the rest of the schedule the Eagles face it shouldn’t be, the NFL would want that later in the year when there’s a better chance that Luck and Carson Wentz will be starting. And even if the league were guaranteed that both Wentz and Luck would be 100% for Week 1, the NFL does not schedule the reigning champions to face a 4-12 team. The same goes for the 4-12 Texans and recovering DeShaun Watson. The NFL wants a matchup of marquee teams, not just marquee names. Which then rules out the Giants and Redskins, two teams with losing records in 2017.

That leaves us with four opponents with various levels of attractiveness.

Cowboys

There’s significant appeal to Eagles fans having the Cowboys start the season off by visiting Philadelphia as they raise a banner. For wider appeal, Ezekiel Elliott will be available since he’ll appeal any potential suspension handed out in the offseason, and by finishing 9-7 the Cowboys barely clear the unofficial bar of not being a bad team.

But the NFL historically saves these games for later. The Eagles and Cowboys have faced each other in Week 1 just four times: in 1970, 1972, 1976, and 2000. As our Patrick Wall said a few years ago:

Dallas Week is supposed to be an October tradition, not unlike Halloween - people get dressed up, drink too much, make irresponsible decisions in public and make fun of people in cowboy hats. This is not a game for mid-September.

Or early September. Additionally, the Cowboys have opened in prime time, on either Thursday/Wednesday or Sunday in six of the last eight seasons. America has had enough.

Falcons

The defending Super Bowl champions against the previous season’s Super Bowl losers, which is also a playoff rematch is enticing. It’s arguably the most marquee match up on the home schedule, the only non-Cowboys team with back to back winning records. And this will be the third Eagles-Falcons game in as many years, with the Eagles winning both prior games, so there’s some good storylines here: the Eagles can further solidify their grip on the Falcons, or Atlanta can get a measure of revenge. MVP winner Matt Ryan will face either MVP candidate Carson Wentz or Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, and there’s plenty of name players on both sides of the ball on both teams. There’s a lot to like for the NFL.

Panthers

Carolina has many of the attractions that Atlanta does: recent Super Bowl team, recent MVP QB, they were a playoff team last year, and they’re a rematch from a prime time game last year. That game, Week 6’s Thursday Night Football, was a pretty good one for the neutrals: Carson Wentz threw 3 touchdowns and despite Cam Newton being picked off twice the Panthers rallied in the fourth quarter to make it a one score game. But Newton injured his knee in the playoff loss to the Saints and right now there’s no guarantee he will be ready for Week 1. There’s a lot of time between now and when the schedule makers start to finalize, but the NFL will likely hold off if they want another Eagles-Panthers prime time game.

Vikings

The NFL wants big games to start the season, but they don’t usually do big game rematches. The 2016 season opener was a rematch of the 2015 Super Bowl as the Broncos hosted the Panthers, and 2010 saw a rematch of the 2009 NFC Conference Championship Game between the Saints and Vikings, but other than those you’d have to go back to 2004 to find another final four rematch. As appealing as the Vikings might be, it would be outside the norm for the NFL to have Eagles to open against them.

I think the Falcons are the best option for the NFL. Pitting two of the last three Super Bowl participants against each other is a marquee matchup, and the Falcons, like the Eagles, should have a lot of stability this offseason. Expectations for both teams will be very high. And with Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, the defending champs playing the hosts is probably highly enticing to the NFL.

Poll

Who do you want the Eagles to open the season against?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Colts
    (186 votes)
  • 27%
    Cowboys
    (1096 votes)
  • 17%
    Falcons
    (702 votes)
  • 3%
    Giants
    (151 votes)
  • 3%
    Panthers
    (158 votes)
  • 2%
    Redskins
    (101 votes)
  • 3%
    Texans
    (146 votes)
  • 37%
    Vikings
    (1496 votes)
4036 votes total Vote Now