Nick Foles repeats Super Bowl trick play as Philadelphia Eagles start NFL season with win

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Nick Foles caught a touchdown pass but otherwise had a fairly poor game.

Jay Ajayi scored two touchdowns as Super Bowl champions the Philadelphia Eagles began their title defence by defeating the Atlanta Falcons 18-12 in the NFL season opener on Thursday.

London-born Ajayi also rushed for a two-point conversion and quarterback Nick Foles caught a pass just like he did in the Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots as the Eagles re-enacted a trick play from the Super Bowl.

The Eagles unveiled their championship banner before the start of the contest which was delayed 45 minutes because of heavy rain.

Once the rain stopped the banner, which read “2017 World Champions”, was hoisted high at Lincoln Financial Field.

Jeffrey Lurie was among those who took part of the pre-game festivities as the Eagles owner brought the Lombardi trophy onto the field.

The past two NFC champions both looked rusty to start their season opener before the offences finally got on track in the fourth quarter.

The mostly lacklustre affair ended with a defensive stand by Philadelphia as the Falcons had a chance to win the game on the last play. But receiver Julio Jones was pushed out of bounds after making a leaping catch near the end zone sideline with no time left on the clock.

“This was a hard-fought win,” said Foles of the rematch of last season’s NFC divisional playoff round encounter. “We build on this, we keep building.”

The 29-year-old Texan completed 19-of-34 passes for a total of 117 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

Foles, who nearly retired two years ago and started last season as the backup quarterback to Carson Wentz, was starting Thursday ahead of Wentz who remains sidelined after going down injured midway through last season.

Philadelphia captured their first Super Bowl title by defeating the Patriots 41-33 in an epic contest in February. Foles earned the MVP award in leading Philadelphia to their first NFL championship since 1960.

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Los Angeles Rams face high expectations while Seattle Seahawks in transition in NFC West preview

Jay Asser 7/09/2018
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With the Los Angeles Rams primed to challenge for the Super Bowl, the rest of the NFC West seems to be playing for second.

The San Francisco 49ers will be intriguing in the second year of their head coach-quarterback pairing, while the Seattle Seahawks will feature an almost completely new and unrecognisable defence.

How the Arizona Cardinals fare is still anyone’s guess.

Learn more about the teams with our NFC West team guides.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Head coach: Steve Wilks

Star player: David Johnson

Last season: 8-8

Key ins: Sam Bradford (Minnesota), Tre Boston (LA Chargers), Andre Smith (Cincinnati), Justin Pugh (NY Giants), Josh Rosen (rookie), Christian Kirk (rookie), Mason Cole (rookie)

Key outs: Adrian Peterson (Washington), Tramon Williams (Green Bay), Justin Bethel (Atlanta), John Brown (Baltimore), Tyrann Mathieu (Houston), Jared Veldheer (Denver)

Strengths: Defence has multiple players with game-changing ability.

Weaknesses: Wide receiver is shallow after Larry Fitzgerald as they’re relying on young or unproven players.

Verdict: Rosen could be on the field sooner than they want and the result may be another .500 season.

DJ

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Head coach: Sean McVay

Star player: Aaron Donald

Last season: 11-5, lost in Wild Card round

Key ins: Brandin Cooks (New England), Marcus Peters (Kansas City), Aqib Talib (Denver), Ndamukong Suh (Miami), Sam Shields (Green Bay)

Key outs: Tavon Austin (Dallas), Connor Barwin (NY Giants), Trumaine Johnson (NY Jets), Alec Ogletree (NY Giants), Robert Quinn (Miami), Sammy Watkins (Kansas City), Kayvon Webster (Houston)

Strengths: Blue-chip talent is through the roof, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Weaknesses: Linebacking unit was torn down to spend money elsewhere.

Verdict: Facing massive expectations but built to win a title.

McVay

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Head coach: Kyle Shanahan

Star player: Richard Sherman

Last season: 6-10

Key ins: Richard Sherman (Seattle), Alfred Morris (Dallas), Mike McGlinchey (rookie), Date Pettis (rookie)

Key outs: Trent Brown (New England), Carlos Hyde (Cleveland), Eli Harold (Detroit), Brandon Fusco (Atlanta), Jerick McKinnon (injury), Elvis Dumervil (retired), Eric Reid (free agent)

Strengths: Offence is expected to take another step with Jimmy Garoppolo in his second year with Shanahan.

Weaknesses: Lack of pass rushing, which they didn’t really improve on, could hold them back.

Verdict: Have an exciting future, but clearly sit behind the conference’s elite sides.

Jimmy

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Head coach: Pete Carroll

Star player: Russell Wilson

Last season: 10-6

Key ins: Brandon Marshall (NY Giants), Erik Walden (Tennessee), D.J. Fluker (NY Giants), Rashaad Penny (rookie), Raheem Green (rookie), Shaquem Griffin (rookie)

Key outs: Michael Bennett (Philadelphia), Richard Sherman (San Francisco), Paul Richardson (Washington), Sheldon Richardson (Minnesota), Kam Chancellor (retired), Jimmy Graham (Green Bay), Cliff Avril (free agent)

Strengths: Have a quarterback who can lift up everyone around him.

Weaknesses: Defence has suffered massive turnover.

Verdict: They appear headed for a rebuilding year, but should fight until the end as usual.

Wilson

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Stars aligning for Los Angeles Chargers while Oakland Raiders a mystery under Jon Gruden in AFC West preview

Jay Asser 7/09/2018
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The AFC West may be the division that has experienced the most change in teams’ most important areas.

While the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos have new starting quarterbacks, a familiar face has returned to the Oakland Raiders to take the heading-coaching reins.

The Los Angeles Chargers were already the most talented roster in the field, but their continuity should give them another advantage in the battle for the division crown.

Learn more about the teams with our AFC West team guides.

DENVER BRONCOS

Head coach: Vance Joseph

Star player: Von Miller

Last season: 5-11

Key ins: Case Keenum (Minnesota), Marquette King (Oakland), Adam Jones (Cincinnati), Jared Veldheer (Arizona), Tramaine Brock (Minnesota), Clinton McDonald (Tampa Bay), Su’a Cravens (Washington), Bradley Chubb (rookie), Courtland Sutton (rookie), Royce Freeman (rookie)

Key outs: C.J. Anderson (Carolina), Aqib Talib (LA Rams), Allen Barbre (free agent)

Strengths: Edge rushing will be scary with Miller, Chubb, Shane Ray and others.

Weaknesses: Passing attack is improved but still has question marks.

Verdict: If their offence can get in the same ballpark as their defence, they may surprise.

Miller

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Head coach: Andy Reid

Star player: Eric Berry

Last season: 10-6, lost in Wild Card round

Key ins: Sammy Watkins (LA Rams), Kendall Fuller (Washington), Orlando Scandrick (Washington), Anthony Hitchens (Dallas), Breeland Speaks (rookie), Derrick Nnadi (rookie)

Key outs: Alex Smith (Washington), Tamba Hali (free agent), Bennie Logan (Tennessee), Albert Wilson (Miami), Marcus Peters (LA Rams), Derrick Johnson (Oakland), Zach Fulton (Houston)

Strengths: Have a high-powered offence with multiple weapons.

Weaknesses: Could struggle to defend against the pass, even with Berry’s playmaking.

Verdict: Should be involved in plenty of shootouts.

Mahomes

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Head coach: Anthony Lynn

Star player: Keenan Allen

Last season: 9-7

Key ins: Mike Pouncey (Miami), Virgil Green (Denver), Derwin James (rookie), Uchenna Nwosu (rookie), Justin Jones (rookie)

Key outs: Matt Slauson (Indianapolis), Jason Verrett (injury), Hunter Henry (injury), Tre Boston (Arizona)

Strengths: From top to bottom, have one of the most talented rosters in the league.

Weaknesses: Preseason injuries have already brought their depth into play and dampened their outlook.

Verdict: Everything is in place for them to be contenders, as long as they stay mostly healthy and Philip Rivers doesn’t completely fall off.

Allen (1)

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Head coach: Jon Gruden

Star player: Rodney Hudson

Last season: 6-10

Key ins: Jordy Nelson (Green Bay), Doug Martin (Tampa Bay), Rashaan Melvin (Indianapolis), A.J. McCarron (Buffalo), Derrick Johnson (Kansas City), Marcus Gilchrist (Houston), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (NY Giants) Kolton Miller (rookie), P.J. Hall (rookie)

Key outs: Khalil Mack (Chicago), Michael Crabtree (Baltimore), Marquette King (Denver), Cordarrelle Patterson (New England), Sean Smith (free agent)

Strengths: Interior offensive line is as good as it gets.

Weaknesses: Tied for second-fewest takeaways last year (14).

Verdict: Gruden was gone for a long time and it could show.

Gruden

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