Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (11-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

This game is a very tough call because the Eagles have a significant number of players whose status is uncertain for this game. Starting guard Landon Dickerson and talented right tackle Lane Johnson are both highly questionable after not practicing all week, while their two best running backs Jordan Howard and Boston Scott, talented tight end Dallas Goedert, starting guard Nate Herbig, stud center Jason Kelce, top interior defender Fletcher Cox, starting linebackers Alex Singleton and Genard Avery, starting cornerback Avonte Maddox, and starting safety Rodney McLeod are all in COVID protocols, but could still clear them before gametime.

The Eagles are better than their 9-7 record, ranking 11th in point differential (+84) and 8th in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency (about 3.5 points above average), but they’ve also benefited significantly from being relatively healthy compared to most teams and they would be at a significant disadvantage if they were to be without all of most of the aforementioned players this week. That would justify the Cowboys being favored by 4.5 points in Philadelphia, even though the Cowboys will be down a pair of important players as well, with left tackle Tyron Smith and linebacker Micah Parsons both in COVID protocols and not expected to clear before gametime.

However, if a significant amount of those aforementioned players do play, we could be getting significant line value with the Eagles as long as the line doesn’t shift significantly to compensate. In fact, if the Eagles were to get all of the aforementioned players back this week, my calculated line would favor them by 1.5 points. All of those players playing may be an unlikely scenario, but I could definitely see a scenario where a significant amount of those players play and the line doesn’t take that into account enough. For now I am going to be on the Eagles for a no confidence pick, but I could definitely update this before gametime depending on what happens with the Eagles’ questionable players and where the line ends up.

Update: Aside from Jason Kelce, it doesn’t sound like the Eagles will be getting any of their questionable players back for this game and, beyond it, it doesn’t sound like the Eagles plan to take this game that seriously, with quarterback Jalen Hurts expected to play minimally to rest an ankle injury ahead of the playoffs and other starters also possibly being rested as well. The Eagles are locked into either the 6th or 7th seed, so the result of this game doesn’t really matter for them. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are mostly locked into the #4 seed, but have the opportunity to move up to 3 or 2 in certain improbable scenarios and they seem more likely to take this game seriously, even without Tyron Smith, Micah Parsons, and top cornerback Trevon Diggs, who was ruled out with COVID yesterday after this write up. Likely because of Diggs’ absence, this line has dropped to 3.5, but, for all the interceptions Diggs has, he also leads the league in yards allowed, so his absence isn’t as big of a deal as it seems, while the fact that the Eagles are unlikely to take this game seriously with many key players in COVID protocols and nothing substantial to play for is much more impactful than Diggs’ absence. I am switching my pick to the Cowboys, though this will remain a no confidence pick in a game with uncertain level of motivation for both teams.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Philadelphia Eagles 20

Pick against the spread: Dallas -3.5

Confidence: None

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