Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints: 2018 NFC Divisional Round Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (10-7) at New Orleans Saints (13-3)

When these two teams met in week 11, the Saints destroyed the Eagles in a game with the 2nd highest victory of margin on the season, beating them 48-7. A lot has changed for these Eagles since then though. For one, starting quarterback Carson Wentz was shut down with a back injury, after struggling through it for much of the season, which has allowed Nick Foles to take over under center. Not only is Foles playing at a high level, but this team really does seem to play at a higher level with their backs against the wall and a backup quarterback under center, winning 6 of 7 games since the Saints dropped them to 4-6 a couple months ago.

Their defense is also playing better, with talented every down linebacker Jordan Hicks back from injury and young cornerbacks Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox stepping up in an injury ravaged secondary. Hicks was originally injured in the loss to the Saints, as was Maddox and stud center Jason Kelce. Having those three in the lineup and Foles playing well under center should make this a much different game this time around.

That being said, the Saints are so good that they could still easily cover this spread. I’m taking the 8 points with the Eagles, who haven’t lost any of their other games by more than a touchdown, but the Saints are the most talented team in the league, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were able to win by multiple scores again here at home. I have this line calculated at New Orleans -7.5, so we’re barely getting any line value with the Eagles at +8. I’m taking them for pick ‘em purposes, but I would be surprised if the Saints didn’t advance. The Eagles have won straight up in all 5 games in which they’ve been underdogs with Nick Foles as the starter over the past two seasons, but I expect that miracle run to end this week.

New Orleans Saints 31 Philadelphia Eagles 24

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +8

Confidence: None

Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears: 2018 NFC Wild Card Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at Chicago Bears (12-4)

The Bears went 12-4 this season and were arguably even better than their record suggests. Those 4 losses came by a combined 14 points, with two of them coming in overtime, and they won the first down rate battle in 3 of those 4 games. In fact, the last time they didn’t win the first down rate battle was way back in the season opener in Green Bay, a 1-point loss. On the season, they finished first in the league in first down rate differential at +6.64%.

The schedule gets a lot harder for them in the playoffs though, as they finished with the 2nd easiest schedule in terms of opponents DVOA and played just 3 eventual playoff teams all season (2-1), which is tied for fewest among playoff qualifiers. Their opponents this week, the Philadelphia Eagles, finished the season 8th in first down rate differential at 2.99%, which ranks only behind the Rams among the Bears’ 2018 opponents.

I know the Eagles lost starting quarterback Carson Wentz to injury and have other key players on injured reserve, but this team has actually been playing better since Wentz went down, winning 3 straight games after their week 14 loss. Wentz wasn’t playing at 100% even when on the field and backup Nick Foles is an experienced starter who has been in this position before. They’ve especially been better defensively, with stud linebacker Jordan Hicks back from injury and their young injury plagued secondary playing much better in recent weeks.

The Eagles also seem to play harder with their backs up against the wall with a backup quarterback in the lineup, pulling the upset victory in all 4 games in which they’ve been an underdog with Foles under center over the past 2 seasons. The Eagles might not win straight up this week, but I like the Eagles’ chances of keeping this one close as 6.5-point underdogs. Their 9-7 record is worst among playoff qualifiers, but they’ve played a lot of close games, with just 2 of those losses coming by more than 6 points (relevant considering this line is 6.5). One of those losses by more than 6 points was a 7-point loss to the Cowboys and the other came in New Orleans, against arguably the best team in the league.

The Bears are also in a tough spot with a first time starting quarterback under center. Quarterbacks tend not to cover in their first career post-season start, especially at home, where they are 6-18 ATS since 2002 unless they’re playing another first time starter, which is not the case this week with Nick Foles making his 5th career playoff start. The Eagles are worth a bet at either +6 and +6.5 and are worth a bigger play if this line happens to move up to a full touchdown before gametime (unlikely). I’ll also consider bumping this up if Bears safety Eddie Jackson ends up not returning from a 2-game absence, after being limited in practice all week. He’s currently considered a game-time decision.

Chicago Bears 23 Philadelphia Eagles 20

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +6.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins: 2018 Week 17 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) at Washington Redskins (7-8)

This was the toughest game of the week for me, as I have this line calculated at the exact same line (Philadelphia -7) as the oddsmakers. The Eagles still need help to get into the post-season, but they seem to be energized having their backs up against the wall and playing with a backup quarterback, knocking off of a pair of playoff teams in the Rams and Texans over the past two weeks. They’ve also gotten a boost on defense with the return of linebacker Jordan Hicks from injury and their secondary has kind of sorted itself out despite injuries, with young cornerbacks Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, and Cre’von LeBlanc all exceeding expectations.

The Redskins will be fully motivated for this game though, with an opportunity to get revenge on the team that basically eliminated them from the post-season a few weeks back. Starting quarterback Josh Johnson has his issues for sure, signed off the street a few weeks ago, but he’s an upgrade over fellow street free agent Mark Sanchez. They also have a solid defense and running game and have played much harder since getting embarrassed at home by the Giants a few weeks ago. I’m taking the Eagles and hoping that Josh Johnson screws up late again like he did last week, but a push might be the most likely outcome.

Philadelphia Eagles 20 Washington Redskins 13

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -7

Confidence: None

Houston Texans at Philadelphia Eagles: 2018 Week 16 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (10-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

After winning the Super Bowl last year, the Eagles’ 2018 season was derailed by injuries and close losses (6 losses by 7 points or fewer), but they are still very much in the playoff race in the NFC after backup quarterback Nick Foles led them to a big upset victory over the Rams in Los Angeles last week. Foles isn’t an upgrade on Carson Wentz, but Wentz was not at 100% all season and the team really does seem to play harder with a backup quarterback in the lineup, embracing the underdog role.

The Eagles are not underdogs this week, favored by 2 points at home against the Texans, but I would expect them to continue playing hard against a tough opponent with their season on the line. They’re also finally getting some players back from injury, most notably stud every down linebacker Jordan Hicks, who is not listed on the injury report this week, after missing 4 games with a calf injury. We’re not getting enough line value with the Eagles to take them with any confidence, but I think the most likely outcome in this game is a Philadelphia win by a field goal, which would cover this spread.

Philadelphia Eagles 23 Houston Texans 20

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -2

Confidence: None

Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams: 2018 Week 15 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) at Los Angeles Rams (11-2)

The Eagles have been the most disappointing team in the league this season, going 6-7 a year after winning the Super Bowl. After losing to the Cowboys for the second time in 5 weeks last week, the Eagles are effectively 3 games out of the division lead with 3 games to go. The wild card is still an option, but they’d need to win out and get help. The long-term outlook for this franchise looks good, as most of their losses have been close (6 of 7 by 7 points or fewer) and many of their problems have been injury related, but in the short-term they could easily get blown out this week.

The Eagles have mostly played close games this season, but the injuries have piled up for them at the worst time, ahead of one of the toughest games of their season, a game they need to win to stay alive in the playoff race. Already without their top-3 cornerbacks, starting safety Rodney McLeod, starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, every down linebacker Jordan Hicks, and rotational defensive end Derek Barnett on defense, the Eagles will be led on offense by Nick Foles this week, with Carson Wentz sidelined with a back injury. Wentz has disappointed this season playing through injury and this offense as a whole ranks just 15th in first down rate, but Foles could still be a noticeable downgrade.

On the other side, not only are the Rams are a strong opponent, but they are in a great spot, with no upcoming distractions. Up next on their schedule is a trip to Arizona, where they are 11.5-point road favorites on the early line, and teams are 50-33 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 7 or more. On top of that, favorites of 7+ are 84-51 ATS over that same time period before being favorites of 7+ again, as superior teams tend to take care of business against inferior teams when they don’t have any upcoming distractions on their schedule. They’ll also benefit from being a west coast team in a night game against an east coast team, a spot in which teams cover at a 65% rate historically, due to differing internal time cycles.

We aren’t getting any line value with the Rams as 13-point favorites and Nick Foles is a high variance quarterback that could play well in a do or die spot for the Eagles, so I wouldn’t recommend betting this game, but I like the Rams’ chances of winning by at least two touchdowns. They have just 5 wins by more than 10 points this season, but they’ve also played a very tough schedule, playing a projected playoff team in 7 of 13 games and getting double digit wins in 5 of the other 7 games against opponents with a losing record like the Eagles. I expect them to get another one, but 13 points is too high to bet confidently.

Los Angeles Rams 31 Philadelphia Eagles 16

Pick against the spread: LA Rams -13

Confidence: Low

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (6-6) at Dallas Cowboys (7-5)

The Cowboys got a huge win last week, pulling the upset as 7.5-point favorites against the Saints, a win that helps them as they try to win the NFC East. However, they have another huge game this week against the Eagles, who are their biggest competition for the division title. If the Cowboys win this game, they’ll have a two game lead and the tiebreaker over the Eagles with 3 games to play, but if the Eagles win they’ll pull into a tie and have control of the tiebreaker, due to their superior divisional record.

The Cowboys’ win last week was impressive, but it doesn’t necessarily bode well for their chances of covering this week, as teams are 38-51 ATS since 2002 after winning as 6+ point home underdogs. The Cowboys played last week like it was their Super Bowl and might find it hard to play like that for two weeks in a row. The Cowboys also have already beaten the Eagles this season, pulling the 27-20 upset back in week 10, but that doesn’t necessarily bode well for their chances of covering this week either. Divisional home favorites are just 41-68 ATS since 2002 against teams they’ve previously beaten that season as divisional road underdogs. In rematches like this, the loser of the previous game wins about 45% of the time over that same time period, despite being underdogs.

The Eagles could have easily won that week 10 game anyway, as they won the first down rate battle by 2.09%, but failed on two 4th downs and threw an interception, while the Cowboys’ picked up a 4th down and played turnover free football. That’s one of two games the Eagles have lost this season despite winning the first down rate battle, with the other coming in a 2-point loss to the Vikings in which they allowed a long defensive touchdown. The Eagles obviously haven’t been as good as they were last season, but they still rank 9th in first down rate differential at +3.19%.

On the season, they are -8 in point differential, but that’s despite a 41-point loss in New Orleans and a -8 turnover margin. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and, if the Eagles can play turnover neutral football the rest of the way, that should be noticeable on the scoreboard. Despite that, the Eagles are underdogs of more than a field goal here in Dallas, suggesting the Cowboys are the better of these two teams right now. I have this line calculated at closer to even and I like the Eagles’ chances of pulling the straight up upset in a revenge spot against a team that might be a little overconfident after a huge win. At +3.5, this is my Pick of the Week.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Dallas Cowboys 23 Upset Pick +155

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (6-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)

The Eagles have had a disappointing season at 5-6, but they’ve been better than their record. Five of their 6 losses have come by a touchdown or fewer, despite the fact that they’ve had one of the worst turnover margins in the league at -8. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so the Eagles should have a better turnover margin going forward, which will be noticeable on the scoreboard, even with key players like Jordan Hicks, Ronald Darby, and Rodney McLeod out for the year with injury. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 11th at +2.11% and have won the first down rate battle in two of their losses. They could easily be about 7-4 right now, in which case I expect they’d be favored by more than a touchdown in this game.

The Eagles have just one win by more than a touchdown all season, but this is one of their easiest games, as the Redskins have a lot of issues, despite a 6-5 record. Their record is largely the product of a +9 turnover margin and a 3-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less and they rank just 23rd in first down rate differential at -2.94%. They’re even worse than that suggests, as they are missing starting quarterback Alex Smith and stud right guard Brandon Scherff for the season with injury, leaving them to start backup Colt McCoy with a weak offensive supporting cast. Given the talent gap between these two teams, the Eagles should be favored by closer to 10 points this week, so we’re getting some line value with them at -6.

Unfortunately, the Eagles are in a terrible spot, with back-to-back tough divisional games, this game against the Redskins and then next week’s game in Dallas. The Redskins, on the other hand, only host the Giants next week. Underdogs are 90-55 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. On top of that, divisional home favorites are just 18-34 ATS since 2008 before being divisional road underdogs. The Eagles are still the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but I can’t be confident in them this week.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Washington Redskins 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -6

Confidence: None