Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles: 2020 Week 17 NFL Pick

Washington Football Team (6-9) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1)

Washington is just 6-9, but they’ve been better than their record and have clearly been the best team in the NFC East this season, even though they have yet to clinch the division, which they’ll do with a win in this Sunday Night Football matchup. Washington’s point differential is even, despite an above average schedule and a -5 turnover margin, which is a very impactful, but largely unpredictable metric. In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, they rank 8th at +1.54%, led by a defense that ranks 3rd in first down rate allowed over expected at -4.15%. 

Their offense has been an issue, ranking 28th in first down rate over expected at -2.61%, which is especially a concern because offensive performance tends to be much more predictive than defensive performance, but their offense has clearly been better with quarterback Alex Smith in the lineup. In Smith’s 5 starts, which coincided with this offensive line getting healthy, Washington went 4-1, as opposed to 2-8 in their other ten games. Part of that is just how bad their other two starting quarterbacks, Kyle Allen and Dwayne Haskins, have been, especially when their offensive line wasn’t healthy, but Smith has also played capably himself. 

Unfortunately, Smith has missed the past two weeks with a strain of his calf on the leg he needed many surgeries on a couple years ago. In addition, Washington has been without feature back Antonio Gibson and #1 wide receiver Terry McLaurin for periods of time in recent weeks. Washington’s offensive line is still healthy and playing well, as is their defense, but injuries to their key skill position players is definitely a concern.

Washington has rightfully been cautious with Smith, but he took most of the first team reps this week and is expected to start, albeit possibly not at 100%. In a must win game, Gibson and McLaurin are also expected to try to play, even without practicing this week. Even if they do play, these injuries obviously dampen my confidence in Washington, but I am somewhat confident in backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke if Washington has to go to him at some point, as he has been in the system for a couple seasons and looked like a noticeable upgrade on Haskins last week, nearly leading Washington to a comeback win over the Panthers. Even with their injury uncertainty, I have Washington ranked 12th in my roster rankings.

While Washington has injury uncertainty, Philadelphia has certainty that they’re going to be missing many key players. Already with a crowded injured reserve, Philadelphia has listed 8 plays out on their injury report this week. In total, they will be without starting running back Miles Sanders, starting wide receiver DeSean Jackson, two of their top-3 tight ends Dallas Goedert and Richard Rodgers, right guard Brandon Brooks (missed the whole season), their top-4 offensive tackles Lane Johnson, Jason Peters, Andre Dillard, and Jordan Mailata, their top defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, two of their top-3 defensive ends in Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat, starting cornerback Avonte Maddox, and starting safeties Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod. 

The Eagles haven’t played well in general this season, but without the players they are currently missing, I have them only ahead of the Jets and the Jaguars in my roster rankings. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has fallen back to earth now that teams have tape on him, but may still be a little overrated based on how he played in his first start against the Saints. As much as there is injury concern with Washington, I am still pretty confident they should be able to cover this 3.5-point spread against the skeleton crew Eagles.

My calculated line is Washington -7, even factoring in that Washington’s key offensive skill position players are at less than 100%. I don’t think the odds makers boosted this line enough to compensate for all that Philadelphia is missing, so let’s take advantage of that. Not only is this a high confidence pick, but this pick is also in the running for Pick of the Week, as I’m waiting to see what happens with a couple other games that have uncertainties.

Washington Football Team 20 Philadelphia Eagles 13

Pick against the spread: Washington -3.5

Confidence: High

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys: 2020 Week 16 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1) at Dallas Cowboys (5-9)

A couple weeks ago, I bet the Eagles confidently as 8-point home underdogs against the Saints in Jalen Hurts’ first career start. The Eagles are a solid defensive team and, while I wasn’t sold on Hurts as a starting option, he couldn’t have been worse than Carson Wentz had played this season and the Saints seemed likely to be caught off guard by him, with no pre-season tape on him and a much tougher game on deck for the Saints against the Chiefs. 

Hurts was far from perfect in that game, but played well enough to win, especially hurting the Saints on the ground and, while the Eagles lost last week in Arizona, the Eagles’ offense scored 26 points in a 32-26 loss. The public seems to now be sold on Hurts, as the oddsmakers have boosted this spread from Philadelphia -1 over the Cowboys on the early line last week to Philadelphia -3 this week and the public is betting them, despite their loss in Arizona last week and the Cowboys’ win over the 49ers. 

I am not sold on Hurts, so I think we’re getting some line value with the Cowboys. I think two games into his rookie season is too early to be sold on him, especially since I wasn’t sold on him coming out of college. He caught the Saints off guard in his debut and last week he faced one of the worst defenses in the league in Arizona and underperformed expectations with only a 32.91% first down rate. The Cowboys are also a little underrated because people look at their season long performance and not how they’ve played in recent weeks. 

Turnovers were a big problem for the Cowboys earlier in the season, as they had a league worst -13 turnover margin through the first 7 games of the season, but have been +7 in the past 7 games. Turnover margins are highly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so I wouldn’t expect them to continue winning the turnover battle like they have in recent weeks, but I definitely wouldn’t expect them to go back to losing the turnover battle as badly as they were earlier in the season. 

In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, the Cowboys rank 17th at +0.31%. Their offense obviously hasn’t been as effective at moving the chains since losing Dak Prescott four and a half games into the season, but they’ve been better in recent weeks since getting Andy Dalton back and more comfortable in this offense. My roster rankings have these two teams about even, especially with stud defensive tackle Fletcher Cox seemingly likely to be limited after not practicing all week, so we’re getting good line value with the Cowboys as 3-point home underdogs, with at least some fans in the stadium. The Cowboys are a smart bet at +3 and are worth a bet at +140 as they should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game.

Dallas Cowboys 22 Philadelphia Eagles 20 Upset Pick +140

Pick against the spread: Dallas +3

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals: 2020 Week 15 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (4-8-1) at Arizona Cardinals (7-6)

This game is a tough call. On one hand, the Eagles are coming off of a huge upset win over the Saints, which typically leads to a hangover effect, as teams cover at just a 41.1% rate after a win as home underdogs of 5 points or more. The Cardinals probably won’t be caught off guard by an unfamiliar quarterback the same way the Saints were last week, with a full NFL game of tape on him and the Cardinals not looking forward to a huge game against the Chiefs like the Saints were last week. 

On the other hand, the Eagles might be a legitimately viable team with Hurts under center. They’ve had a solid defense all season, ranking 9th in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.29%, but Carson Wentz’s quarterback play made it very difficult for the Eagles to be competitive, even with a talented defense. Hurts is raw and doesn’t have an ideal situation around him on offense, particularly on the offensive line, but it wouldn’t be hard for him to continue to be an upgrade over Wentz and that could easily lead to the Eagles continuing to be better than people think.

The Cardinals aren’t much more than a middling team, so there isn’t nearly as big of a talent gap between these two teams as this 6.5-point line would suggest if the Eagles are legitimately significantly better with Hurts under center. Without any real homefield advantage in Arizona, this line suggests the Cardinals are about 5.5-6 points better than the Eagles. My calculated line is Arizona -3.5, so we’d be getting enough line value to bet the Eagles in normal circumstances, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were flat off such a big win last week, so I am probably going to stay away from betting this one. One thing that could get me to change my mind is Arizona’s Justin Pugh being ruled out with injury, which could easily happen after he didn’t practice all week and was slapped with a questionable tag, but, for now, this is a low confidence pick.

Update: Still no word on Pugh, but I am leaving this as a low confidence pick regardless, as the Eagles will be without their top cornerback Darius Slay.

Arizona Cardinals 27 Philadelphia Eagles 23

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +6.5

Confidence: Low

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles: 2020 Week 14 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (10-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-8-1)

It may seem crazy, but there are reasons to like the Eagles this week and I strongly considered betting on them as home underdogs of a touchdown against the Saints. The Eagles’ offensive struggles have been well documented this season, but what’s been lost in that is that their defense has played pretty well, ranking 9th in first down rate allowed over expected and, while their offensive issues go beyond their quarterback play, it’s hard to imagine their offense being worse with Jalen Hurts under center than Carson Wentz, given how much Wentz has regressed and struggled this year. Perhaps the rookie Hurts can give this offense somewhat of a spark, especially in his debut against a team that hardly has any professional tape on him in this offense.

The Saints have been a juggernaut this season, going on their annual run (91-57-7 ATS in weeks 3-17 since 2010) and winning 9 straight since their 1-2 start, including 3 straight with backup quarterback Taysom Hill in the lineup. Their wins with Hill in the lineup have been much more defensive led though and this could easily be a relatively low scoring defensive battle, in which case having a full touchdown of cushion with the home team would be very attractive. 

This is also an obvious look ahead spot for the Saints, with a big home game against the Chiefs on deck. Road favorites are just 52-83 ATS before being home underdogs since 2008 and, even if the Saints aren’t home underdogs next week (+3 currently on the early line), the logic still holds that the Saints might not be fully focused for a 3-8-1 team with a defending champs on deck and, as a result, that they could easily be caught off guard by a quarterback who they’ve hardly seen play at the NFL level. We’re not getting quite enough line value with the Eagles to bet money against this Saints juggernaut, but they should be the right side.

Update: This line has moved to up 8, so I’m going to place a small wager on the Eagles. My calculated line is New Orleans -6.5, so we’re getting decent line value with the Eagles, but, more importantly, the Saints are in a tough spot, facing an unfamiliar quarterback, with a much tougher matchup on deck. This should be a close defensive matchup and, barring return touchdowns or something else strange, I would expect a one score game. 

New Orleans Saints 19 Philadelphia Eagles 14

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +8

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers: 2020 Week 13 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-7-1) at Green Bay Packers (8-3)

This is one of the tougher calls of the week. The Packers are in a much better spot than the Eagles, going to Detroit for an easy game next week, while the Eagles have to host the Saints. Underdogs of 6 or more are 23-68 ATS since 2010 before being underdogs of 6 or more again when their opponent will next be favorites and all three of those conditions should be true here. However, this line moved from 7 on the early line last week to 8 this week and we’re not getting line value with the Packers.

The Eagles have had a tough season, but one silver lining is their defense has played pretty well, ranking 10th in first down rate allowed over expected at -1.23%. Offensive performance is much more inconsistent week-to-week than defensive performance, but the Eagles’ biggest offensive issue has been turnovers (3rd most in the league with 21), which tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis as well. 

The Eagles’ offense ranks 23rd in first down rate over expected at -1.09%, which isn’t far enough behind the Packers’ 7th ranked offense to justify the Packers being favored by 8 points, given that the Eagles have the superior defense, that the Packers don’t have the benefit of any fans in their home stadium, and that the Packers will be without key center Corey Linsley due to injury. I can’t be confident in the Eagles in a bad spot, but this line is probably too high (my calculated line is Green Bay -6), so the Eagles seem like the better side for pick ‘em purposes, even if only slightly.

Green Bay Packers 27 Philadelphia Eagles 20

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +8

Confidence: None

Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles: 2020 Week 12 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (7-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1)

The Seahawks have not played as well as their record would suggest this season, going 5-2 in one score games, with a +31 point differential and a 17th ranked +0.26% first down rate differential, but I expect them to play better than that going forward. There are a few reasons for that, including simply that they’re typically much better in the second half of the season than the first half in the Russell Wilson era, going 43-21-2 ATS in games 9-16 since Wilson’s first season in 2012, as opposed to just 34-34-4 ATS in games 1-8.

On top of that, the Seahawks are an offensive led team and offensive led teams tend to fare better going forward because offensive performance is much more consistent and predictive week-to-week than defensive performance. The Seahawks rank 6th in first down rate over expected at +2.30%, but are dragged down by a defense that ranks just 25th in first down rate allowed over expected at +2.05%. If they can get even middling play from their defense going forward, they should keep winning games, including some by larger margins than most of their wins thus far this season.

Aside from the inherent randomness of defensive play, the Seahawks are also getting more talented on defense, in large part due to players returning from injury. A few weeks ago, the Seahawks got talented safety Jamal Adams back from a 4-game absence and, this week, they’ll be top cornerback Shaq Griffin back, also from a 4-game absence. On top of that, they have upgraded their defensive line in recent weeks with mid-season veteran additions Carlos Dunlap and Damon Harrison. Their offense also gets a boost with feature back Chris Carson returning from his own 4-game absence. With all of these players in the lineup, I have the Seahawks ranked 4th in my roster rankings and they definitely could perform at that level going forward if they can stay relatively healthy.

I was always planning on betting the Seahawks confidently once they got reasonably healthy, but they’re also in a good spot in this game for a couple reasons. For one, they’re a west coast team in a night game against an east coast team. Due to circadian rhythms, west coast teams cover at about a 60% rate against east coast teams at night, as east coast teams tend to get tired towards the end of the game and see their performance fall off in the second half. On top of that, while the Eagles have another tough game on deck in Green Bay, the Seahawks get another relatively easy game at home against the Giants. I wish this line was still at Seattle -3, where it was on the early line last week, but it’s understandable the line would move for the Seahawks being healthier (not to mention the Eagles losing top offensive lineman Lane Johnson for the season) and my calculated line is Seattle -6, so the Seahawks are still worth a bet at -5.

Seattle Seahawks 31 Philadelphia Eagles 23

Pick against the spread: Seattle -5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns: 2020 Week 11 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-5-1) at Cleveland Browns (6-3)

This season has possibly been defined by all of the injury absences teams have had thus far and the Eagles have been among the most affected. However, last week coming out of their bye week, they were significantly healthier, with left tackle Jason Peters (4 games missed), wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (8 games) and Jalen Raegor (5 games), right tackle Lane Johnson (3 games), running back Miles Sanders (3 games), tight end Dallas Goedert (4 games), defensive tackles Malik Jackson (1 game) and Javon Hargrave (1 game), and linebacker TJ Edwards (3 games) all suiting up. 

The Eagles still lost in New York to the Giants, but the Giants are an underrated team with a capable offense that has been made to look bad by a brutal schedule, and the Eagles will be even healthier this week, with left guard Isaac Seumalo (7 games missed) also returning, giving the Eagles back three of their four missing starters from this offensive line. In their current state, I have the Eagles ranked 15th in my roster rankings. The general public may look at the Eagles’ loss to the Giants last week and think the Eagles being healthy again doesn’t matter and that they are still a below average team, which gives us some value with the Eagles.

This week, the Eagles go to Cleveland where they are field goal underdogs against a Browns team that is 6-3, but hasn’t looked good in the process. The Browns six wins have come by a combined 45 points, while their three losses have come by a combined 73 points, giving them a -28 point differential. The Browns are even worse in schedule adjusted first down rate differential, ranking 27th at -1.92%. 

It helps that the Browns have a capable offense (16th in first down rate over expected, despite missing key players like Wyatt Teller and Nick Chubb for an extended period of time) and that their problems are primarily on defense (27th in first down rate allowed over expected), because defensive play is much less consistent on a week-to-week basis. However, it’s hard to imagine the Browns being much better defensively this week than they’ve been because they’ll be missing easily their top defensive player Myles Garrett, which offsets the boost this offense got from Teller and Chubb returning last week. With the Eagles being as healthy as they’ve been all season, I have this line calculated at even, so we’re getting good value, getting the full field goal with the Eagles. The Eagles should be a smart play.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Cleveland Browns 23 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3

Confidence: High

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants: 2020 Week 10 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1) at New York Giants (2-7)

The Eagles had their bye last week and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Eagles will come out of their bye as healthy as they’ve been all season. Defensive tackles Malik Jackson (1 game missed) and Javon Hargrave (1 game), linebacker TJ Edwards (3 games), left tackle Jason Peters (4 games), wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (8 games) and Jalen Raegor (5 games), right tackle Lane Johnson (3 games), running back Miles Sanders (3 games), tight end Dallas Goedert (4 games), and possibly left guard Isaac Seumalo (6 games) are all suiting up this week. 

The Eagles haven’t been terrible all things considered this season and, now as healthy as they’ve been, they rank 16th in my roster rankings and have a good chance to be at least competitive going forward if they can stay healthy. On top of that, even injuries aside, the bye week will be beneficial for this team just for rest purposes. Teams typically do pretty well as significant road favorites out of a bye, going 76-41-1 ATS since 1989 as road favorites of 3+ after a bye week, and the Eagles fit the trend as 4-point favorites in New York against the Giants this week.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting any line value with the Eagles at -4 because the Giants are an underrated team, particularly on offense, where they rank 14th in first down rate over expected at +0.72%. That may seem surprising, but it makes sense when you take a deeper look, as the Giants actually only rank 27th in first down rate at 2.50% below average, but have faced a brutal schedule that suggests they should have been 3.22% below average, so the Giants are actually beating expectations. Of their 9 games, 7 have come against top-10 defenses, the WFT twice (1st), the Buccaneers (2nd), the Steelers (3rd), the Rams (4th), the Bears (7th), and the 49ers (10th). 

The Giants might not be quite as good as the 14th best offense in the league and they aren’t on paper in my roster rankings, but it’s very possible they’re a capable offense that has been made to look bad by a brutal defensive schedule. They’ve also been better in recent weeks since getting wide receiver Sterling Shepard back from injury. In my roster rankings, I have them just 2.5 points behind the Eagles overall, which gives us a calculated line of Philadelphia -2 (half point for the Giants being at home with no fans) rather than -4. I’m still taking the Eagles for pick ‘em purposes out of their bye week, but this is a no confidence pick.

Philadelphia Eagles 25 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4

Confidence: None

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles: 2020 Week 8 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (2-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1)

I can’t remember a team ever falling in my rankings as fast as the Cowboys. Going into the season, I had pretty high expectations for the Cowboys, who finished last season 6th in point differential at +113 and 5th in first down rate differential at +3.24%, but missed the playoffs at 8-8 because of an 0-5 record in games decided by one score or less. With a similar roster entering the season as last year, the Cowboys looked like one of the better teams in the league, but now the Cowboys rank dead last in my roster rankings. 

Injuries have been a big part of the problem, especially on offense, where the Cowboys are missing their dominant offensive tackle duo of Tyron Smith and La’El Collins and are down to 3rd string quarterback Ben DiNucci, a 7th round rookie making his first career start this season, but the Cowboys also have a lot of players who aren’t injured that just aren’t playing up to expectations, especially on defense, where close to no one is having a good season in the first year of overmatched defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s scheme. Some of those veteran players have already been benched, traded, or released, while others remain in the starting lineup, but have struggled mightily. 

Outside of their receiving corps and their edge rush duo of DeMarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith, this team really doesn’t have much going for them and they will be starting one of the least qualified starting quarterbacks the NFL has seen over the past few years. The per play stats show the Cowboys to have been better than their record and final scores have suggested, but much of that is due to an offense that was much better before injuries and primarily only struggled with fumbles, which tend to be fluky. Now without Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, and others, this offense has plenty of problems beyond their fumbling tendencies, while their defense continues to struggle even as they’ve gotten a few players back that were not available earlier this season, including linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee.

All that being said, I think we’re actually getting some value with the Cowboys this week. The Cowboys are 0-7 ATS on the season and when that happens the odds makers typically boost the spreads more than they should, knowing no one will want to bet on a consistent loser, which leads to those teams covering 62.3% of the time the rest of the way, including 75.0% of the time in their 8th game of the season. Case in point, the Cowboys are whopping 11-point underdogs against an Eagles team that isn’t even middling, ranking 21st in schedule adjusted first down rate differential and 23rd in my roster rankings, even with a couple players due back from injury this week. I have no desire to bet on the Cowboys, but my calculated line is Philadelphia -8 and Dallas should be the right pick if you have to make a pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Dallas Cowboys 16

Pick against the spread: Dallas +11

Confidence: Low

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: 2020 Week 7 NFL Pick

New York Giants (1-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-4-1)

This is yet another uninteresting Thursday Night Football game the NFL has scheduled, although it’s understandable how the NFL thought this might be an interesting game, as it’s a divisional game between a team that has been good in recent years and a team that some thought was up-and-coming. However, the Eagles were not as talented coming into this season as they’ve been in recent years and they’ve been decimated by injury, while the Giants have also had injury problems and have not seen their young players develop as expected, particularly second year quarterback Daniel Jones and rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas. As a result, both teams have just one win, although in the horrendous NFC East, that means they’re right in the thick of the race, making this a meaningful game, if not a particularly interesting one.

I don’t feel strongly on this game, but I do think this line is a little high at 4.5, as the Eagles are so banged up and shouldn’t be favored by this many points over anyone except the Jets. They’ll get right tackle Lane Johnson and wide receiver DeSean Jackson back this week, but they lose tight end Zach Ertz, running back Miles Sanders, and defensive tackle Malik Jackson and are still missing several other offensive linemen and pass catchers. My calculated line is Philadelphia -3 and I think the most likely result is the Eagles winning by a field goal, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were able to win by more than that either. 

Philadelphia Eagles 23 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +4.5

Confidence: Low