New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: 2019 Week 14 NFL Pick

New York Giants (2-10) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)

The Eagles’ season hit an embarrassing low last week with their loss to the Dolphins. The Eagles have a top-10 roster on paper, but have been a middle of the pack team in first down rate differential all season and enter this week 17th at -0.04%. The Eagles under-achieved last season too, barely making the playoffs, despite one of the more talented rosters in the league, so this is back-to-back disappointing years for the Eagles.

At some point, it’s fair to question how much of this falls on head coach Doug Pederson. Pederson was anointed the next great coach after he defeated the Patriots to win the Super Bowl in his 2nd year on the job, but so far that’s his only impressive season in 4 years in the job and much of his success that season came as a result of offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who left following the Super Bowl and now is doing a similarly impressive job as the head coach in Indianapolis. Without Reich, the Eagles have not been the same and Pederson no longer looks like the offensive mastermind that hung 40 points on Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl. If not for Frank Reich, Pederson might not even still have his job right now.

With that in mind, I expect the Eagles to continue under-achieving. The Eagles get another easy matchup this week, but they’ve proven they will play down to the level of their competition and the Giants have been better than their 2-10 record suggests, entering this game 24th in first down rate differential at -2.60%. Turnovers have killed them, as they lead the league with 28 giveaways and are tied with the Dolphins for the worst turnover margin in the league at -14, but turnover margin tends to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so they won’t necessarily lose the turnover battle again this season.

One reason to expect fewer giveaways from the Giants is that they are going back to veteran quarterback Eli Manning, with rookie Daniel Jones dealing with an ankle injury. Manning is only a borderline starting caliber quarterback, but Jones was responsible for 21 of the Giants 28 giveaways by himself and was averaging 2.10 giveaways per start. As underwhelming as Manning has been over the past 4 seasons, he only averages 1.14 giveaways per start over that stretch. If the Giants can play turnover neutral football, they should be able to keep this game relatively close, so my calculated line is Philadelphia -7. We’re not getting quite enough line value with the Giants at +9.5 for them to be worth betting, but they should be the right side.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +9.5

Confidence: Low

Philadelphia Eagles at Miami Dolphins: 2019 Week 13 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) at Miami Dolphins (2-9)

The Eagles have had back-to-back bad offensive performances in home losses to the Patriots and Seahawks, scoring a total of 19 points combined in the two games. There are a couple reasons not to expect that to continue into this week, however. For one, the Eagles offense is much healthier now. The Eagles get back right guard Brandon Brooks, who has been out since the first quarter of the Seahawks game, and right tackle Lane Johnson, who has been out since the first quarter of the Patriots game. Those are two of the best players in the league at their respective positions. They’ll also get back top wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who missed the entirety of both games, and fellow starting wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who missed the Seahawks game. 

Even with those two bad offensive performances taken into account, the Eagles rank 19th in the NFL in first down rate 34.78%, so, when healthy, they’re not a bad offensive team by any means and their defense, which ranks 8th in first down rate allowed at 33.83%, is able to keep them in most games even when they don’t have a good offensive performance, as just one of their 6 losses has come by more than 8 points.

The second reason I don’t expect the Eagles’ offensive struggles to continue into this week is that their competition is getting much easier. After facing a pair of teams with 3 losses between them, the Eagles now get a Dolphins team that has just two wins all year. The Dolphins aren’t going 0-16 like many assumed they’d be a lock to do when they struggled at the start of the season, but even with their two wins they still rank dead last in first down rate differential (-9.08%), point differential (-183), DVOA (-47.9%), and in my roster rankings. The Eagles have faced the 8th toughest schedule in the NFL in terms of DVOA thus far this season, so this is a welcome change. 

This line is pretty high at Philadelphia -10, but I’m not concerned about laying this many points. The Dolphins have already lost 7 games by double digits this season and a whopping 22 dating back to the start of the 2017 season. The Dolphins are at home this week, but with the Dolphins in the middle of a lost season in which they never actually had any intention of competing, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the majority of the crowd supporting the visitor. The Eagles are also in a great spot, with an easy home game against the Giants on deck, a game in which they are currently 8 point favorites on the early line. Big favorites tend to take care of business without any upcoming distractions on deck, as favorites of 6+ are 106-69 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again. This isn’t a huge play, but I like the Eagles enough to bet on them.

Philadelphia Eagles 31 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -10

Confidence: Medium

Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (8-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)

The Seahawks have three more wins than the Eagles, but these two teams aren’t far apart talent wise. Many of the Seahawks’ 8 wins could have gone the other way, with a 7-1 record in games decided by 7 points or fewer and a 5-0 record in games decided by 4 points or fewer. They have just a +21 point differential, 11th in the NFL, and rank just 13th in first down rate differential at +1.71%, only slightly better than the Eagles, who rank 17th at +0.52%. 

My roster rankings also have these two teams close, with the Eagles just one spot behind the Seahawks. The Eagles will miss injured right tackle Lane Johnson, but he’ll be replaced by first round pick Andre Dillard, who started for Jason Peters earlier this year and held up well, and they are expected to get wide receiver Alshon Jeffery back from injury, while the Seahawks are expected to be without dominant defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. 

The Eagles are also in a much better spot than the Seahawks. While the Seahawks could have a little bit of split focus this week with a big Monday Night Football matchup against the Vikings on deck, the Eagles have an easy game in Miami that won’t be a distraction at all. Teams are 64-43 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 7 or more and the Eagles are currently favored by 9 points against the Dolphins on the early line. Unfortunately, we’re not getting much line value with the Eagles as 1-point home favorites, as my calculated line is Philadelphia -2.5. The Eagles should still be the right side, especially since the home team winning by a field goal is the most likely outcome of any game, but there’s isn’t enough here for me to bet on them.

Update: Alshon Jeffery surprisingly was ruled out after warm ups, but the line has shifted to Seattle -2 overnight. This is still a low confidence pick because only about 8% of games are decided by 1-2 points, but I like the money line value at +115, as this game as no worse than a toss-up for the Eagles, even without Jeffery

Philadelphia Eagles 23 Seattle Seahawks 21 Upset Pick +115

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +2

Confidence: Low

New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles: 2019 Week 11 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (8-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)

The Patriots suffered their first loss of the season in their last game against the Ravens, as a defense that had allowed just 4 offensive touchdowns through the first 8 games of the season allowed 4 offensive touchdowns in a 38-20 loss in Baltimore. It’s easy to look at that game and who the Patriots faced in the first half of the season and say their defense isn’t for real, but their defense got off to a dominant start even when you adjust the numbers for strength of schedule and they seemed to simply not be prepared to face the Ravens’ unique style of offense in their defeat. Even with that game included, the Patriots still have the lowest first down rate allowed in the league at 26.50% and rank 1st in first down rate differential at +8.95%.

The Patriots typically bounce back pretty well off of a loss anyway. Not only are they 58-20 straight up in the Bill Belichick era in games after a loss, but they’re also 51-27 ATS, including 42-13 ATS when not favored by 7 points or more. The Patriots are only favored by 4 points here and, while I wish we were getting more line value with them after a bad loss, they’ve been almost automatic in this spot historically. On top of that, they are coming off of a bye and road favorites of 3.5 or more are 40-12 ATS since 2002 after a bye, also an almost automatic spot. This line is about right, as the Eagles are still a tough opponent, but this is too good of a spot to not bet the Patriots this week, especially when you add in the added motivational aspect of this being a revenge game for New England after their Super Bowl loss two seasons ago.

New England Patriots 24 Philadelphia Eagles 17

Pick against the spread: New England -4

Confidence: Medium

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles: 2019 Week 9 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)

The Bears seemed to have a statement win week 4 over the division rival Vikings, but they’ve lost three straight games since then and now have matched their loss total from all of last season. It’s not exactly a surprise the Bears have regressed this season, after facing one of the easiest schedules in the league last season and losing a pair of valuable defensive backs (Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan) and their defensive coordinator Vic Fangio (now head coach of the Broncos) this off-season. 

Also missing stud defensive lineman Akiem Hicks for the year with injury, the Bears have fallen from their dominant 2018 unit, ranking 8th in first down rate allowed. Their offense, meanwhile, has gotten worse play from both their quarterback Mitch Trubisky and their offensive line and none of their skill position players aside from Allen Robinson have done much this season. Overall, they rank just 23rd in first down rate differential and 22nd in my roster rankings, suggesting their record is not a fluke. 

The Eagles have also disappointed this season, sitting at 4-4, but they’re getting healthier. Cornerbacks Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, and Avonte Maddox will all be active for the first time this season, while defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and wide receiver DeSean Jackson look likely to join them. They’re still without left tackle Jason Peters and outside linebacker Nigel Bradham, but the former has been replaced by first round pick Andre Dillard, while the latter was off to a poor start to the season before his injury. The Eagles, who are coming off of their best game of the season in Buffalo last week, have a significant talent edge in this game and should be favored by more than 4 points at home. I have this line calculated at Philadelphia -7.5, so we’re getting enough line value to bet the Eagles confidently.

Philadelphia Eagles 26 Chicago Bears 19

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Buffalo Bills: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at Buffalo Bills (5-1)

This was maybe the toughest game of the week to decide, as it’s tough to know what to make of either team. The Bills are 5-1, but they have faced the second easiest schedule in the NFL, with their wins coming against the Jets, Giants, Bengals, Titans, and Dolphins. Some of their games have been close, most concerningly their home win over the Dolphins last week in which they trailed in the fourth quarter, but they have a solid +30 point differential overall (9th in the NFL). Most impressively, they’ve had that point differential without the benefit of consistently winning the turnover battle, as they are -1 on the season. The 8 teams ahead of them in point differential have an average turnover margin of +4.6, but turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. 

The Bills join the 49ers as one of two teams in the league to have multiple wins in which they lost the turnover battle (Jets and Titans) and in their only loss of the season (at home against New England) they could have easily won if not for a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown in an eventual 6-point game. In terms of first down rate differential, the Bills rank 5th at +6.13%, which is very impressive even against a relatively easy schedule. However, in my roster rankings, the Bills come in just 17th.

The Eagles, meanwhile, look like the much better team on paper, but they haven’t played like it (20th in first down rate differential at -1.71%) and the injuries are starting to pile up. They are missing starting wide receiver DeSean Jackson, starting left tackle Jason Peters, starting cornerback Avonte Maddox, starting outside linebacker Nigel Bradham, and their 3 of their top-4 defensive tackles, including week 1 starter Malik Jackson. Perhaps more importantly, they seem to have serious problems in the locker room, which would explain why they’ve underachieved thus far.

Of course, all their problems now being out in the open could be what motivates them to play better and prove everyone wrong, which just adds another layer of uncertainty to this game. They could also be exhausted in their 3rd straight road game, a 45% cover spot all-time. The line I ultimately came up with is Buffalo -3, so I’m taking the Bills as 2-point favorites, but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Buffalo Bills 20 Philadelphia Eagles 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -2

Confidence: None

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys: 2019 Week 7 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) at Dallas Cowboys (3-3)

The conventional wisdom is that the sky is falling in Dallas, with the Cowboys being on a 3-game losing streak. However, the Cowboys actually have a positive first down rate differential across those three games, at +1.98%. Their -4 turnover margin over those 3 games is the primary reason behind their losing streak, but turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Despite just a 3-3 record, the Cowboys rank 4th in first down rate differential at +6.48%, winning the first down rate battle in every game this season except last week’s loss to the Jets.

Their only three wins thus far have come against easy opponents, but they won all 3 games convincingly, by at least 10 points, winning the first down rate battle by +10.96% across the three games, while all three of their losses could have been wins if a couple things had gone differently. They are also still one of the most talented teams in the league on paper, so I still like their chances going forward. The Eagles also look like one of the most talented teams in the league on paper, but they haven’t played as well, coming into this game ranking just 16th in first down rate differential at 0.21%, very much in line with their 3-3 record. 

The Cowboys also seem to have the better injury situation, though both teams are pretty banged up. The difference is that it looks like most of the Cowboys’ injured players will try to play through their injuries, while the Eagles have ruled out several starters already. Left tackle Jason Peters and top linebacker Nigel Bradham will join top cornerback Ronald Darby, starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, starting cornerback Avonte Maddox, and starting wide receiver DeSean Jackson on the sidelines this week for a Philadelphia team whose injuries are starting to pile up. 

The Cowboys, meanwhile, have ruled out starting cornerback Anthony Brown, but top cornerback Byron Jones, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, and offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La’El Collins are reportedly likely to play through their injuries, though all could easily be at less than 100% and at risk of in game setbacks. Despite being the better team in the better injury situation, the Cowboys are favored by just 2.5 points here at home, so we are getting good line value with them. I have this line calculated at -5.5. I wouldn’t go crazy with this bet because of all of the injury uncertainty, but this line really seems off.

Dallas Cowboys 28 Philadelphia Eagles 23

Pick against the spread: Dallas -2.5

Confidence: Medium