Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots: Super Bowl LII Bowl Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (15-3) vs. New England Patriots (15-3) in Super Bowl LII

Opposing quarterbacks never actually share the field in an NFL game, but the matchup between quarterbacks is usually the most discussed one in an NFL game and the Super Bowl is no different. This year, we have a very unlikely quarterback matchup, for a number of reasons. On one side, the Eagles will start Nick Foles, who no one would have expected to be starting in this game before the season, making just his 6th start of the season after taking over for Carson Wentz when Wentz tore his ACL back in week 14.

On the other side, is Tom Brady, who is in his 8th Super Bowl. Despite his history, Brady playing in this game again at age 40 is highly unlikely when you consider the history of the game, as Brady continued to defy the odds and father time as the likely league MVP in 2017. He led the league in passing yards and the Patriots once again finished with the best record in the AFC and won a pair of home playoff games. With a solid passing day, Tom Brady could become the first quarterback in NFL history with 10,000 career post-season passing yards. Nick Foles doesn’t have 10,000 career regular season passing yards. This will be Nick Foles’ 4th career post-season start. It will be Brady’s 37th. To say this is a mismatch would be an understatement.

Despite all that, Nick Foles is ironically the one who ranks 3rd all-time in single season quarterback rating, posting a 119.2 mark in 10 starts in Chip Kelly’s system back in 2013 (Brady’s best season, 2007, only ranks 4th at 117.2). The problem for Foles is he’s never done anything like that in any other season. Outside of 2013, he’s completed just 58.9% of his passes for an average of 6.42 YPA, 34 touchdowns, and 27 interceptions, which are very much backup numbers.

After an underwhelming season as the Eagles’ starting quarterback in 2014, he was sent to the Rams for Sam Bradford. In 2015, with the Rams, he struggled mightily before being benched for Case Keenum and eventually released the following off-season, after the Rams moved up to #1 overall to draft Jared Goff. As a free agent in each of the following two off-seasons, Foles had to settle for backup work in Kansas City and then back in Philadelphia this season, but, when Wentz went down, he was thrown into the fire as the starter late in the season for a team in control of its own destiny to the #1 seed in the NFC.

Foles hasn’t lost a meaningful game since becoming the starter, as the Eagles also were the #1 seed and won two home playoff games, but Foles has been a mixed bag in 5 starts. Against the Raiders and in limited action in a meaningless week 17 game against the Cowboys, he looked like the quarterback who was released by the Rams. Against the Giants and the Falcons, he looked like a competent starter. And then last week, out of nowhere, Foles had his best game since the 2013 season, completing 26 of 33 for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns against one of the best defenses in the league in a shocking 38-7 victory over the favored Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship.

If Foles does that again, the Eagles will win this game by double digits, but the likelihood of that doesn’t seem high, especially against a New England team that is well coached and has two weeks to study him. Outside of the quarterback position, the Eagles have a better roster with obvious advantages on both the offensive and defensive lines, but the Patriots have the obvious experience, coaching, and quarterback advantage and a strong roster as well. I like how this line has dropped to 4.5 after the Eagles’ win over the Vikings last week and the Patriots’ near loss to the Jaguars. Last week, this line probably would have been about 7.5, and I think dropping this line below 6 is an overreaction to a single week of play. The Patriots are my pick and are worth a small bet against the spread.

New England Patriots 24 Philadelphia Eagles 17

Pick against the spread: New England -4.5

Confidence: Medium

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 NFC Championship Pick

Minnesota Vikings (14-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (14-3)

I am kicking myself for not betting on the Eagles as 3-point home underdogs last week. I knew the Eagles had a great chance to cover and even win straight up if the Falcons played like they had all season, but was hesitant to bet on the Eagles because of the possibility that the Falcons would start to click and play like they did last season, when they made the Super Bowl with essentially the same core of the team. The Falcons never really found their Super Bowl form all season and thus were eliminated in Philadelphia by the final score of 15-10.

The Eagles will try to follow the same formula this week, hiding Nick Foles with their defense and running game. Even without Carson Wentz, the Eagles still have a lot of talent on this roster. Because of their supporting cast, I picked the Eagles to get a first round bye before the season started and I wasn’t even completely sold on Wentz at the time. Given that, I wouldn’t be shocked if they were able to advance to the Super Bowl with Nick Foles, especially since they are at home, where their top level defense has allowed just 13.00 points per game this season. The Eagles get a tougher opponent this week, as the Vikings are a step up in class from the Falcons, so I’m not that excited to take the Eagles as 3-point underdogs, but I do think we are getting some line value with Philadelphia.

Outside of the quarterback position, I have these two teams about even and, while the Vikings have the edge under center, I don’t think Keenum has enough of an advantage over Foles to justify the Vikings being favored by a field goal on the road. Keenum has been impressive this season, but he hasn’t had to play in a lot of tough situations and could struggle on the road against a tough Philadelphia defense. He’s also coming off of a relatively weak performance in the wild card round and was really saved by that miraculous play at the end. I’m not that confident in the Eagles unless you can still get +3.5, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Minnesota Vikings 17 Philadelphia Eagles 16

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3

Confidence: Low

Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 NFC Divisional Round Pick

Atlanta Falcons (11-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

I’ve gone back and forth on this one all week and I have good arguments for both sides. On one hand, while the Eagles are obviously not the same team without Carson Wentz, they still have a strong supporting cast, including a top level defense, and they are at home, where they’ve had a ton of success this season, especially defensively (13.4 points per game allowed at home). Because of their supporting cast, I picked the Eagles to get a first round bye before the season started and I wasn’t even completely sold on Wentz at the time.

They have a ton of talent on this roster and are above average at every position except quarterback. Casual bettors and fans get fixated on the quarterback position and don’t think Foles has a shot to win a playoff game, betting the Falcons heavily as 3-point road favorites, but even worse quarterbacks like Tim Tebow and TJ Yates have won home playoff games in recent years and they did so with less of a supporting cast than Foles has.

The Eagles also get a fairly easy matchup in this playoff game, as the Falcons finished the regular season 11th in point differential at +38 and 11th in first down rate differential at +1.28%, both of which are 7th among the 8 remaining playoff teams, only ahead of the Titans. The Falcons actually have just 3 road wins by more than a field goal this season, beating the Bears, Lions, and Jets by 6 points, 4 points, and 5 points respectively and in all 3 games the opposing team had the ball with an opportunity to win on their final drive, including drives that went down to the goal line against the Bears and Lions. About 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less, so the Eagles have a decent chance to cover or push even if they can’t win outright.

On the other hand, the Falcons are significantly more talented than they’ve played this season. They’ve underperformed and they are not nearly as well coached as they were last season with Kyle Shanahan as their offensive coordinator, but they still have the same core as last season’s Super Bowl team and they may have turned a corner following their 26-13 win in Los Angeles over the Rams last week, even if the Falcons did get some help from fluky special teams fumbles.

The Eagles had a relatively easy regular season schedule and didn’t play a single game against any of the remaining other 7 playoff teams, so, if the Falcons can play like they can, it shouldn’t be too hard for them to win by at least a field goal in this one, but that’s far from a sure thing. I’m actually taking the Eagles, mostly to be contrarian and fade the public, but this is a no confidence pick. In fact, I think this one has a very good chance to be a push.

Atlanta Falcons 23 Philadelphia Eagles 20

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3

Confidence: None

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (8-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)

The Eagles have the #1 seed in the NFC locked up and are a prime candidate to rest starters in week 17. The oddsmakers seem to think they will, listing them as 3-point home underdogs here at home against the Cowboys, but I am not so sure. Nick Foles has only made 2 starts in relief of Carson Wentz so far and looked pretty shaky in the last one, so it makes sense that they would want him to get more live reps with the first team offense before the playoffs, especially since they have next week off anyway. Foles has already said he is preparing to start this week. They may rest some stars on defense, but they still need to have 46 players active on gameday, so they can’t rest everyone.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, are pretty banged up and will be without left tackle Tyron Smith, defensive tackle David Irving, and possibly wide receiver Dez Bryant in a game that’s also meaningless for them, after they were eliminated from playoff contention in last week’s home loss to the Seahawks. All that being said, I would not recommend betting on the Eagles because they could pull their starters after a couple series and turn the team over to 3rd string quarterback Nate Sudfeld, a 2016 6th round pick who has never thrown a pass in a game. If I knew they wouldn’t, this would be an easy bet, but I can’t be confident with the uncertainty.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Philadelphia Eagles 23

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3

Confidence: Low

Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 Week 16 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (6-8) at Philadelphia Eagles (12-2)

The Eagles lost quarterback Carson Wentz for the season a couple weeks back, but I still think they are a contender, although the Wentz injury obviously is a huge blow to their chances. Prior to the season, I had the Eagles getting a first round bye in the NFC and I wasn’t even completely sold on Wentz at the time. This team is a lot more than just Wentz. They have some other injuries, missing left tackle Jason Peters, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, and running back Darren Sproles for the season, but no one is completely healthy at this point in the season. The Eagles still have a strong supporting cast, including a talented defense and one of the best offensive lines in football.

Foles is obviously a downgrade from Wentz, but he’s one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league and has some success as a starting quarterback. He struggled with the Rams in 2015, but that could easily be the result of terrible coaching by Jeff Fisher’s staff. Both Case Keenum and Jared Goff lead NFC contenders right now after getting away from Fisher’s coaching, so why couldn’t Foles at least capture some of his pre-Rams form, back when he was a low end starter at worst with Chip Kelly’s Eagles? He played pretty well in his first start last week in New York.

Unfortunately, we aren’t getting any line value with the Eagles this week as 9.5-point home favorites over the Raiders. In fact, I think we’re actually getting a little bit of value with the Raiders, who are better than their 6-8 record. Despite missing Derek Carr for a stretch earlier in the season, they still rank 13th in first down rate differential at 0.83%. The issue for them has been turnover margin, as they have a -9 turnover margin that is 4th worst in the league.

Fortunately, turnover margin tends to be unpredictable on a week-to-week and year-to-year basis. Case in point, the Raiders had the league’s best turnover margin last season at +16, when they finished 12-4. In fact, the Raiders actually had a worse first down rate differential last season than they have this season, finishing last season 19th at -0.49%. The Raiders were not as good as their record suggested last season, but they are not as bad as their record suggests this year.

That being said, I would not recommend betting on the Raiders for two reasons. For one, they could be flat after being eliminated from the playoff race in heartbreaking fashion last week in a 3-point loss to the Cowboys. Two, they’re pretty banged up. While wide receiver Amari Cooper is expected to return from a 3-game absence with concussion and ankle problems, he hasn’t really played that well this season when on the field and the Raiders could be without outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, defensive end Mario Edwards, defensive tackle Treyvon Hester, and center Rodney Hudson this week. Hester and Edwards have already been ruled out and they could be hesitant to play the other two at less than 100% in a meaningless game. Even with the injuries, I have this line calculated at Philadelphia -7, but that’s not enough value for this to be worth a bet.

Sunday Update: When I originally did this writeup, I did not realize this was going to be a night game. West coast teams have a huge advantage over east coast teams at night because of body clocks, covering at close to a 2/3rds rate historically. We’ve already seen the Eagles lay an egg earlier this season in Seattle at night and that was with Carson Wentz. This game should be close, so I think Oakland is worth a bet at 9.5.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 Oakland Raiders 20

Pick against the spread: Oakland +9.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (11-2) at New York Giants (2-11)

The Eagles may have won the battle and lost the war in last week’s big road upset victory in Los Angeles over the Rams, as they have lost quarterback Carson Wentz for the season with a torn ACL. It’s a huge blow to this team’s Super Bowl chances, but I don’t think it’s a completely crippling blow. Prior to the season, I had the Eagles getting a first round bye in the NFC and I wasn’t even completely sold on Wentz at the time. This team is a lot more than just Wentz, even as Wentz was in the middle of an MVP caliber season.

Wentz isn’t the only player the Eagles have lost since the start of the year, as guys like left tackle Jason Peters, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, and running back Darren Sproles are out for the season, but no one is completely healthy at this point in the season. The Eagles still have a strong supporting cast, including a talented defense and one of the best offensive lines in football. Foles is obviously a downgrade from Wentz, but he’s one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league and has some success as a starting quarterback. He struggled with the Rams in 2015, but that could easily be the result of terrible coaching by Jeff Fisher’s staff. Both Case Keenum and Jared Goff lead NFC contenders right now after getting away from Fisher’s coaching, so why couldn’t Foles at least capture some of his pre-Rams form, back when he was a low end starter at worst with Chip Kelly’s Eagles.

Given all that, I was expecting to make a bet on the Eagles this week in New York against the Giants, but, for some reason, this line barely moved from last week to this week, despite the Wentz injury. Favored by 8.5 points on the early line last week, the Eagles are still favored by 7.5 this week, line movement that is almost completely meaningless. The Giants did lose talented safety Landon Collins possibly for the season last week, but that doesn’t nearly cancel out the loss of Wentz. The Giants didn’t even look that bad last week, keeping it tied with the Cowboys until the 4th quarter, when the Cowboys ripped off a few big plays to pull ahead. If they are motivated for this divisional matchup, they could definitely keep it close. With that in mind, I’m taking the Giants at +7.5, albeit for a no confidence pick. This is just too much line value to pass on.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +7.5

Confidence: None

Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (10-2) at Los Angeles Rams (9-3)

Last week, the Eagles were 5.5 point favorites in Seattle. It seemed like too many points to me, especially given Seattle’s track record in night games against teams from the Eastern Time Zone. I kept that pick as a low confidence pick though, because I was hesitant to bet against the Eagles, who had been covering the spread all season (9-2 ATS before last week). In hindsight that was definitely a mistake, as the Eagles were a little overvalued last week, while the Seahawks were definitely undervalued, as they continue to play well despite injuries.

The good news is the Eagles’ loss last week is giving us significant line value with them as they are now 1.5 point underdogs in Los Angeles against the Rams, after being 2.5 point favorites on the early line last week. Despite the Eagles’ loss in Seattle, I still have this line calculated at Philadelphia -3. The Eagles lost that game by 14, but that game was closer than the final score, as the Eagles finished with 25 first downs to 20 for the Seahawks. If they had played that game 100 times, I feel like it would have gone 50/50. This week, the Eagles don’t have to play at night, which is tough for teams from the Eastern Time Zone to do, and they get a slightly easier opponent.

The Rams are obviously a good team, but I don’t totally buy them as a top level team like the Seahawks yet and I definitely don’t buy them as a top level team like the Eagles, who rank #1 in both my roster rankings and in first down rate differential. The Rams rank 8th in first down rate differential and 9th in my roster rankings without top receiver Robert Woods. The Rams also lost at home to the Seahawks earlier this year (and the Redskins) and could easily lose at home here to the Eagles.

Speaking of the Rams’ home loss to the Seahawks, the Rams have that rematch next week, a game that could easily decide the division. The Eagles, meanwhile, go to New York to face the 2-10 Giants. I’m not saying the Rams are going to look past the Eagles, but the Eagles are a safer bet to be completely focused for this game. Underdogs are 67-41 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. On top of that, teams are 42-24 ATS since 2012 before being 7+ point road favorites, which the Eagles will be in New York next week. The Eagles should win this by at least a field goal. They are my Pick of the Week.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Los Angeles Rams 20 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +1.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week