The Eagles are eager to turn the page from the 2017 championship season, but don't put away those dog masks just yet.
As the clock speeds toward kickoff of Thursday night's opener (8:20, NBC), bookies keep seeing more and more action on the Falcons. The Eagles have gone from opening as 4- to 4.5-point favorites to not even favored, according to odds compiled by VegasInsider.com on Thursday afternoon.
Both William Hill-US and Westgate, Vegas's top two sportsbooks, had the Eagles-Falcons as a pick. This, at least in the realm of NFL sportsbetting, would be historic.
"We need the Eagles," said Nick Bogdanovich, the director of trading at WHUS, "which is rare for the Super Bowl champs."
Since 2004, when the NFL scheduled its Super Bowl champion to host the first game of the season, every team has been favored except the 2016 Broncos. But that team had lost future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning to retirement and started the year with Trevor Siemian. Denver was a three-point underdog to Carolina and won outright.
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The only other defending champion that was a slight favorite at home in its opener was the 2006 Steelers, who also were laying a point when they beat the Dolphins, 28-17, according to GoldSheet.com.
Super Bowl champs are 11-2 straight up in home openers since 2004 and 7-3-3 against the spread. Lately, however, they are just 3-3-2 ATS. These numbers don't include the 2013 Ravens, who opened up on the road because of a scheduling conflict.
William Hill-US, which runs the sportsbooks Ocean Resort and soon at the Tropicana in Atlantic City, said Wednesday that 78 percent of the money it was getting nationwide was coming in on the Falcons. Yet 51 percent of the tickets they were writing were wagers on the Eagles. Translation: The heavy bettors are taking Atlanta.
"The Eagles are a little nicked up, but not that nicked up," said Bogdanovich. "The sharps are on the Falcons and so is the public."
The Eagles adopted the underdog rallying cry last season when they were the first No. 1 seed not to be favored to win in the divisional round. They held on to beat these very same Falcons, 15-10, and the players — led by offensive lineman Lane Johnson — celebrated by wearing dog masks. The Eagles also were underdogs to Minnesota in the NFC championship game and to New England in the Super Bowl.
The Tropicana announced Thursday that it is partnering with William Hill-US to run its sportsbook, which is still under construction. A timeframe for its opening isn't clear.