Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2021 NFC Wild Card Round Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)

The Eagles were blown out last week at home against the Cowboys, but they barely tried in a game which meant very little to them, resting several key players ahead of the post-season. Even with that big loss factored in though, the Eagles still rank significantly better in schedule adjusted efficiency than you would expect based on their record, as they rank 10th, 15th, 15th, and 8th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency.

They have mostly beaten up on bad teams, going 9-1 against sub .500 opponents, with seven wins by double digits, but no wins against teams with a record better than .500 in seven tries, including a 0-6 record against playoff qualifiers. However, a closer look at those losses paints somewhat of a brighter picture for their chances of covering against the spread this week though, as one of the losses was last week when they didn’t try, while two of the losses came early in the season when their offensive line was not healthy, and, in their other three losses, just one came by more than one score, very relevant with this line at 8.5.

One of those one score losses was against these Buccaneers, a 6-point loss in Philadelphia. That game actually works against the argument for the Eagles covering this game though, as the Buccaneers won the first down rate (4.00%) and yards per play battle (0.93) by significant margins in a game in Philadelphia. One matchup between two teams doesn’t necessarily predict every matchup between those two teams, even with similar personnel, and my calculated line based on season long play is Tampa Bay -7, which gives us some line value with the Eagles, but with the Eagles’ poor track record against good teams this season and the fact that blowouts also tend to be more common in the first round of the blowout (about 4% more games are decided by double digits than the regular season), it’s hard to be confident in Philadelphia at all. 

On top of that, both teams have significant players who are legitimately questionable, linebacker Lavonte David and running back Leonard Fournette for the Buccaneers and edge defender Josh Sweat and right guard Josh Herbig for the Eagles and, depending on which of those players are active, the Buccaneers could easily become the right side. Either way, I don’t see myself betting on either side and, for now, this is a no confidence pick on the Eagles.

Update: Fournette is out for the Buccaneers, but more importantly, David is in, while Herbig and Sweat are out for the Eagles. Despite that, this line has dropped all the way to seven for some reason. I am flipping my pick to the Buccaneers, albeit still for a no confidence pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 Philadelphia Eagles 23

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -7

Confidence: None

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

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) at Washington Football Team (6-9)

Many wrote the Eagles off when they started 3-6, but they were a lot better than their record suggested, having faced one of the toughest schedules in the league, while dealing with key injuries on the offensive line and still managing a positive point differential. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Eagles have climbed right back into the playoff picture at 8-7 as their schedule has gotten easier and the team has gotten healthier in recent weeks. 

Despite their recent strong stretch, the Eagles still remain a better team than their record suggests, as their wins have come by an average of 18.0 points per game, while their losses have come by an average of 9.1 points per game, giving them a point differential of +80, 10th best in the NFL. One of their recent wins was against Washington a couple weeks ago and they will face them again this week. The Eagles only won by 10 in the first matchup in Philadelphia and now will play in Washington, but the Eagles dominated in the first down rate (+7.40%) and yards per play battle (3.03), winning the game despite losing the turnover battle by two, which is not nearly as predictive of a metric as first down rate and yards per play. 

Washington was missing their top two quarterbacks (Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen, their top offensive lineman (Brandon Scherff), and their top two defensive backs (Kamren Curl and Kendall Fuller) in the first matchup and they will all be available in this game, but they still have a shaky situation at quarterback and they still are not healthy around the quarterback, missing their two best running backs (Antonio Gibson and JD McKissic), a trio of starting offensive lineman (Ereck Flowers, Chase Rouiller, Samuel Cosmi), their top edge defender Chase Young, and a pair of starters in the secondary in William Jackson and Landon Collins. Rouiller, McKissic, and Young were out in the first matchup as well, but Washington still isn’t that much healthier than they were in the first matchup.

Washington was blown out last week in Dallas, losing by 42 points, which normally puts a team in a good spot, as teams cover at a 56.1% rate after a loss by 35 points or more, but that tends to be because a team is undervalued after one bad week. In this scenario, the line only shifted from favoring the Eagles by a field goal on the early line last week to favoring them by 4.5 this week, despite Washington’s blowout loss and the losses they have had at running back and on the offensive line since last week (Flowers, Cosmi, Gibson). The line was too low at a field goal on the early line and is still too low at 4.5. Washington ranks 22nd in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency and are far from 100%, while the much healthier Eagles rank 7th and have blown out almost every below average team they have faced

The Eagles are 8-1 against losing teams with seven multiscore wins, with their only loss coming in a game in which they still won the first down rate battle and yards per play battle in New York against the Giants with a banged up Jalen Hurts throwing three of the nine interceptions he has thrown this season. My calculated line has the Eagles favored by eight points, so we’re getting great value with the Eagles. I want to make sure there are no unexpected COVID positives for the Eagles before locking this game in, but I will almost definitely be placing a bet on the Eagles at -4.5 this week.

Update: Nothing unexpected has happened here, other than this line moving to 4. At that number, I like the Eagles even more and I am confident making this a bigger play. Like most of their other games against sub-.500 opponents, the Eagles should win with relative ease against a relatively short-handed Washington team.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Washington Football Team 16

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4

Confidence: High

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

New York Giants (4-10) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

Many wrote the Eagles off when they started 3-6, but they were a lot better than their record suggested, having faced one of the toughest schedules in the league and still managing a positive point differential. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Eagles have climbed right back into the playoff picture at 7-7 as their schedule has gotten easier in recent weeks. Despite their recent strong stretch, the Eagles still remain a better team than their record suggests, as their seven wins have come by an average of 17.1 points per game, while their losses have come by an average of 9.1 points per game, giving them a point differential of +56, 11th best in the NFL.

The Eagles’ one loss since their 3-6 start was to these Giants, but that game was in New York and the Eagles won both the first down rate and yards per play battle in that game by significant margins, losing the game by 6 only because they lost the turnover battle by 4, in a game in which a banged up Jalen Hurts threw three interceptions. Turnover margins are not consistent week-to-week, but first down rate and yards per play tend to be much more consistent and predictive. 

In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate, the Eagles rank 11th, 14th, and 19th on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and 8th in overall mixed efficiency. They’re also arguably even better than that suggests as they are remarkably healthy right now for how late in the season it is, especially when you consider that they had key offensive linemen miss time earlier in the season and had a stretch where their quarterback was injured. 

The Giants, on the other hand, are going in the opposite direction injury wise and are missing key players that played just a few weeks ago in the first matchup between these two teams. The biggest absence is quarterback Daniel Jones, who was first replaced with mediocre veteran backup Mike Glennon and now is being replaced by the unproven Jake Fromm, who will be making his first career start in this game, just a few weeks after joining the Giants and is likely still getting up to speed on the playbook. 

The Giants likely would have lost the first matchup at home by double digits if not for the turnover margin and, now with Fromm under center, in a game in Philadelphia, this is likely to be a double digit win, which would be the Eagles’ 7th of the season and the Giants 7th such loss. My calculated line has the Eagles favored by 13 and, assuming nothing major changes in terms of players being in the COVID protocol, I plan on betting the Eagles as 10-point favorites before gametime. I’m also hoping we can get a -9.5 at some point to avoid a push if the Eagles win by 10. I’m leaving this as low confidence for now, but will likely be updating this before gametime.

Update: This line is rising Sunday morning, so I want to lock in -10 before it’s too late.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 New York Giants 13

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -10

Confidence: Medium

Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

Washington Football Team (6-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

Earlier this week, the Eagles were 4-point home favorites in this game and I was strongly considering placing a bet on them. Both teams are 6-7, but the Eagles have a much better point differential at +46 (12th in the NFL), as opposed to -58 for Washington (24th in the NFL), as Washington has benefited from a 5-3 record in one-score games, while the Eagles are 1-4, with five of their six wins coming by double digits. Since the start of the week, Washington has had a COVID outbreak big enough to reschedule this game, including the potential absence of their top two quarterbacks, among other key players, but this line has only jumped to 6.5 for this rescheduled game on Tuesday night, which is barely enough of an adjustment for the non-quarterbacks who are missing this game for Washington.

That line suggests that Washington is expected to be healthier than currently expected, but that is still a big if at this point and, even if expected starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke is able to play, my calculated line is still Philadelphia -7, so we’re getting line value with them regardless. If both Heinicke and backup Kyle Allen are out, as well as top offensive lineman Brandon Scherff and two of their best defensive players, safety Kamren Curl and cornerback Kendall Fuller, my calculated line would favor the Eagles by 10, which would give us significant line value.

The Eagles haven’t been totally immune to losing players to COVID protocols and will be without starting guard Landon Dickerson, but their offensive line is still healthier than they have been for a lot of the season, while their defense is as healthy as they’ve been in weeks. The Eagles rank 10th, 15th, 17th, and 9th respectively in offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency and are arguably better than that in their current state, while Washington is currently expected to start a third string quarterback and be without several key players. This is likely to be the Eagles’ six double digit win (and Washington’s fifth double digit loss), so I want to lock this in at +6.5 before the line increases to a touchdown or higher.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 Washington Football Team 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -6.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) at New York Jets (3-9)

The Eagles lost last week in an upset against the Giants in New York, but that was primarily because they lost the turnover battle by 4, which is not a predictive stat. In terms of first down rate and yards per play, which are much more predictive, the Eagles outperformed the Giants. Even with that loss taken into account, dropping the Eagles to 5-7, the Eagles still have a +31 point differential that ranks 12th in the NFL, despite the fact that the Eagles have overall faced one of the toughest schedules in the league, with six of their seven losses coming against teams with winning records. 

Against teams with losing records, the Eagles are 4-1, with their only loss coming last week and, even with that loss taken into account, the Eagles have outscored their opponents by an average of 14.4 points per game in those five games. All in all, the Eagles rank 10th, 11th, 12th, and 9th in offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency. Given that, they should be able to beat the Jets with ease, as they are one of the worst teams in the league, ranking 30th in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency.

However, I am hesitant to bet the Eagles as 7-point road favorites because we don’t know how healthy Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is, as he seems legitimately questionable and may not be 100% even if he does play. If Hurts plays at less than 100%, I would be concerned that it would be a repeat of his struggles against the Giants last week and, if he does not play, the Eagles don’t have as good of an upside on offense, which limits their blowout potential, key to betting them as 7-point favorites.

The best case scenario from a betting perspective would be Hurts being ruled out, rather than playing at less than 100%, and then getting the opportunity to bet on the Gardner Minshew led Eagles with hopefully a better number. Minshew is a capable starter who could cover a 4-6 point spread against a terrible Jets team with some relative ease, but that is the only scenario that doesn’t seem too risky to bet right now. For now, I am taking the Eagles for pick ‘em purposes only, but I will probably have an update before gametime.

Update: Hurts is out for the Eagles, so Gardner Minshew will start and, as a result, this line has dropped to 4.5. This is exactly what I was hoping for, as the Eagles have a significant talent edge in this game, but I don’t want to bet on an injured quarterback. Going from Hurts to Minshew is about 2.5 points in difference, but my calculated line still has the Eagles favored by 8.5 points in this game, as the Jets are one of the worst teams in the league and the Eagles have mostly blown out terrible teams this season. Even with Minshew, a low-end starting quarterback, they should win with ease over the Jets, so they are worth a bet.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 New York Jets 16

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants: 2021 Week 12 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) at New York Giants (3-7)

I have thought the Eagles are a very underrated team in recent weeks and, despite back-to-back blowout victories and three blowout victories in their past four games, I think they remain a little underrated. The Eagles are just 5-6, but their +37 point differential is tied for 9th in the NFL, despite the fact that they have faced a relatively tough schedule, with all six of their losses coming against teams with a .500 or better record. 

In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Eagles rank 8th, 15th, 10th on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and 9th in mixed efficiency. They are also arguably better on offense than their rank suggests, given how much better they have played since getting their two talented starting offensive tackles back from multi-game absences earlier in the season. Even at 5-6, the Eagles are in good position to make a run and grab a wild card spot in the NFC, as they are only a half game out of a playoff spot currently and their schedule gets a lot easier from here on out.

Unfortunately, even though they are underrated, we aren’t getting good line value with the Eagles, as their opponents, the New York Giants, are underrated as well. The Giants are just 3-7 and everyone saw them be largely non-competitive against the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football last week, but the Buccaneers are arguably the best team in the league, so there isn’t much shame in that loss, and the Giants could easily have a couple more wins, as three of their losses came by three points or fewer, with none of their wins coming by that small of a margin. 

The combination of the Giants’ big loss in Tampa Bay and the Eagles’ big win over the Saints pushed this line off of favoring the Eagles by a field goal on the early line last week to now favoring them by 3.5 points, so another loss by the Giants by 3 points or fewer would cover this spread. The Eagles have beaten all four teams they have faced that have a losing record by an average of 19.5 points per game and my calculated line still has the Eagles favored by 5 points, but four and five aren’t really key numbers, so that isn’t much line value at all. I am taking the Eagles for pick ‘em purposes, but there isn’t nearly enough value here to take them with any sort of confidence.

Philadelphia Eagles 26 New York Giants 21

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -3.5

Confidence: None

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (5-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)

I have thought the Eagles are underrated for several weeks and, despite their blowout win in Denver as 2.5-point underdogs last week, they remain underrated. They are just 4-6, but they have a +26 point differential that ranks 12th in the NFL, despite facing one of the toughest schedules in the league. All but one of the Eagles’ six losses have come to teams with a winning record, with the exception being a one-score loss to a 49ers team that has played significantly better than their record suggests. 

In schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency, the Eagles rank 6th, 16th, and 22nd respectively and are even better than that suggests on offense, as they have played at a much higher level in recent weeks since getting their two offensive tackles Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson back from extended early season absences. The Eagles’ four easiest games of the season (Lions, Falcons, Broncos, and Panthers) have all been victories, including three in blowout fashion, and the Saints fit much more with those teams than the teams that have beaten the Eagles, at least in the form the Saints are currently in.

The Saints are 5-4, but they are extremely short-handed on offense. Already without their top wide receiver Michael Thomas for the whole season, the Saints lost quarterback Jameis Winston for the season two weeks ago and now are without dominant feature back Alvin Kamara and their two stud offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramcyzk, who have all gone down in the past week or so. The Saints are healthier on defense than they were earlier in the season and have one of the best units in the league on that side of the ball, but their offense will hold them back significantly until they get at least some of their key players back.

This line shifted from an even line on the early line last week to favoring the Eagles by 2.5 points at home this week, but that’s a pretty insignificant shift, given that about 9% of games are decided by 2 points or fewer. With all of the Saints’ injury problems and the Eagles’ blowout win last week, this line should have shifted more and it was already too low to begin with. As a result, we are getting great line value with the Eagles, who I have calculated as touchdown favorites. The Eagles are my top pick this week and they should cover fairly easily in a game in which they essentially just need to win to cover.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 New Orleans Saints 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -2.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) at Denver Broncos (5-4)

The Eagles are just 3-6, but they also have a +9 point differential, despite facing one of the tougher schedules in the NFL. All but one of their six losses have come to teams with a winning record, with the exception being a 49ers team that has played significantly better than their record suggests. The three easiest games the Eagles have faced this season were all victories for the Eagles, including a pair of blowout wins over the Lions and Falcons. The Broncos aren’t quite as bad as those two teams, who are among the worst teams in the league, but they fit much more in line with the teams the Eagles have beaten than the teams the Eagles have lost to.

The Broncos won last week in Dallas in shocking fashion, but I think that has more to do with the Cowboys not showing up than anything the Broncos did. This is still a team that has won just two of their last six games since starting 3-0 against a very easy schedule, with the other being a one score win over a mediocre Washington team in a game in which Denver blocked a pair of field goals, and they still have a significant amount of key players no longer with the team since their hot start. 

In total, the Broncos are without stud left tackle Garret Bolles, above average starting right guard Graham Glasgow, talented edge defender duo Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, every down middle linebackers Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson, and impressive slot cornerback Bryce Callahan, all of whom started for the Broncos week one. Without those players, the Broncos still rank well below average in my roster rankings, about five points below average, even despite their upset win last week.

If anything the Broncos’ win last week just puts them in a bad spot this week, as it could be tough for the Broncos to maintain that same effort two weeks in a row, especially with a team with a losing record coming to town. Teams cover at just a 41.2% rate all-time after a win as double digit underdogs, as teams tend to be a combination of flat and/or overvalued by the public and odds makers in that situation. In this case, it seems like both, as we are getting a ton of value with the Eagles at +2.5. My calculated line has the Eagles favored by 4 points, even before taking into account that the Broncos could be flat. This is my favorite play of the week.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Denver Broncos 17 Upset Pick +115

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +2.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Los Angeles Chargers at Philadelphia Eagles: 2021 Week 9 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (4-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)

The Eagles are just 3-5, but they have the best point differential of any 3-win team at +12. That’s largely because they blew out the Falcons and Lions, two of the worst teams in the league, but despite those two easy games, they have still faced one of the toughest schedules in the league. Their defense in particular has faced a tough schedule, as they have faced the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Buccaneers, who rank 1st, 2nd, and 4th in offensive efficiency. Overall, their defense has held up pretty well considering their tough schedule and currently ranks 4th in defensive efficiency when adjusted for schedule. 

The Eagles’ offense got off to a slow start because of some offensive line injuries, but they have also improved on that side of the ball, now ranking 10th in offensive efficiency when adjusted for schedule. The Eagles’ efficiency ratings might be skewed by two blowout wins, but when you compare it to the Chargers, who rank 12th in offensive efficiency and 9th in defensive efficiency, it’s hard to justify the Chargers being favored by a couple points on the road, especially since the Eagles also have a significant special team advantage over the Chargers, who once again have one of the worst special teams in the NFL. The Eagles also hold a point differential edge (+12 vs. -5). 

The Chargers may have a better record, but just one of their wins came by more than one score and dating back to last season, they have just three wins by multiple scores, with one coming against the 1-win Jaguars and one coming against the Chiefs backups in a meaningless week 17 game. This is a slightly improved team over a year ago, but they’re not as good as they looked during their 4-1 start, especially now that they are missing two of their top-3 cornerbacks. My roster rankings have the Eagles as the better team overall and, given that they are at home as well, we are getting a great value with them as 2-point underdogs. This is my Pick of the Week.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Los Angeles Chargers 20 Upset Pick +115

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +2

Confidence: Pick of the Week