Haskell's Hot Stove

NFL season returns as Eagles, Patriots highlight key Week 1 battles

By Mark Haskell | Sep 06, 2018

As a long-suffering Philadelphia Eagles' fan, I’ve got to be honest: These last seven months have probably been the best of my life.

Living in New England, fans of other teams are reminded constantly, daily, hourly even, how our teams do not match up to the greatness of the almighty Patriots.

But, on any given Sunday, as they say, any team can be beaten.

And I will never forget Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, when my Eagles, with a backup quarterback, stunned the world by beating the greatest quarterback and greatest coach ever in the highest-scoring Super Bowl in history.

I have relished in asking people why Malcolm Butler did not play in the Super Bowl (I’d still honestly like to know), and hearing them gripe and complain about how, pretty much every touchdown the Eagles scored, for one reason or another, should not have counted.

Usually, I’ll just shrug, and point to my PHI 41, NE 33 Barstool Sports t-shirt that I bought on my way to Philadelphia for the parade and remind them that the scoreboard is all that matters. Which, obviously, Patriot fans seem to forget about the lengths to which they went to remind the entire world about only a year prior. (Did you know the Patriots were down 28-3 to the Falcons in Super Bowl LI? Little known fact.)

The grapes the Patriot fans have been chewing are so sour, and so bitter. And so awesome.

But, I’m ready to turn the page. The 2018 season is now here and on Thursday night, Sept. 6 my Eagles will put a bow on their first Super Bowl championship by raising the banner and facing off against the visiting Atlanta Falcons.

And, since honesty has been a recurring theme in this column, I’ll do it again here. Honestly? Don’t feel great about our chances against the Falcons.

Not only is the Super Bowl hangover a real thing (the Chiefs beat the Patriots last season on Week 1 when they hung their fifth banner), the Eagles have looked pretty terrible in preseason and are still without Carson Wentz, who is still recovering from two torn knee ligaments last December.

The Falcons are Super Bowl contenders in what is now an absolutely loaded NFC. And have had eight months to think about how they could not get into the end zone in four tries in the final 1:19 to play from inside the 9-yard-line against the Eagles in the Divisional Round, despite having arguably the best wide receiver in the game in Julio Jones.

I think the pregame celebration is going to be crazy, I think the Falcons take a quick lead, and the air goes out of the building. And for the second straight year, the Super Bowl champions will start the regular season 0-1.

The Patriots also will begin their season at home, though not until Sunday, Sept. 9, where they will host the Houston Texans.

As is typically the case with the Pats, as Brady goes, they go, and the Pats likely will see little resistance this season and, barring an unforeseen Brady injury, should again be the favorites to come out of the AFC.

Though the Texans could be one of the Patriots’ most significant obstacles and second-year quarterback DeShawn Watson, who also missed much of last season due to injury, is a dual-threat with a big arm and fast feet and will be a legitimate early-season test to the New England defense.

Brady and the Patriot offense will score their points as they often do, but Watson threw 19 touchdowns in 6 1/2 games last year and narrowly lost a 36-33 shootout with New England. I think Watson has an impressive game and the Texans escape Foxborough with a win in another close, high-scoring affair.

So yes, you read that right. I’ve got the two teams that played in last year’s Super Bowl starting the season 0-1.

I could be right, I could be wrong. But football season is back, and that is enough for me.

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