By Justin Mark, SGPN Football Handicapper
Here we are. The moment all Eagles fans have been waiting for since it became obvious that they were one of the best teams in the league. The playoffs! Last week, 12 teams battled it out to see who would advance while the Eagles and the Chiefs had a bye. It was a rough week for all bettors, including myself. The good news is we hammered the 49ers at -9.5. I also successfully called one of the underdogs that won in my best bets with the Giants.
Speaking of the Giants, the Eagles will now face them for the third time with a trip to the NFC Championship on the line. You have already heard the old saying that it’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season. Don’t buy into it. Since the 1970 merger, there have been 21 instances where a team has swept a divisional foe in the regular season only to meet them in the playoffs. Out of those 21 games, the team that won the first two games, won the third game 14 times. That’s 67%, proving that the three-sweep is eminently doable.
Key Defensive Matchup
It’s no secret that the Giants’ offense is highlighted by former Penn State standout Saquon Barkley. We talked about that last time. Barkley had a great year and returned to his old form with an offensive line that has set up a great blocking scheme for him. Coach Brian Daboll had a terrific first year with the Giants and played to their strengths.
Surprisingly on Sunday, it was not Barkley who shined, but rather Daniel Jones. Jones finished with 301 passing yards, two touchdowns, and 78 rushing yards. His ability to extend drives with his feet is something the Eagles are going to have to really watch. They may choose to play him with a defensive spy. One who can play solely against the run, whether it’s Jones or Barkley, would be ideal. Stopping or limiting both players in the running game is key.
Key Offensive Matchup
In Week 18, Jalen Hurts came back from injury. He didn’t have a great game, going 20 for 35, 229 passing yards, zero touchdowns, and an interception. He also only added 13 yards on the ground. However, that was in a game in which the Eagles changed the pace of their offense just to assure they got a win and limited injuries. With an additional week of rest, I have full confidence Hurts will return to form, showing us why he is in the discussion for league MVP.
The Giants’ defense against the run is one of the worst in the league. The Eagles should use this to their advantage by using Hurts, Miles Sanders, Kenny Gainwell, and Boston Scott in the run game. All four have a strong ability to run the ball and should be able to control the pace of the game.
The Eagles covered the first betting line easily this year, winning 48-22. In Week 18, the Giants covered the spread, which went as high as 17. Expect both teams to leave it all on the field, with an eye on the NFC Championship Game where they will face either the 49ers or the Cowboys. Though, let’s be honest, we’re all rooting for the 49ers to defeat the NFC East Division rivals.
Looking at lines on WynnBet this week, the Moneyline is -360 (risk 36 to win 10), which is way too juiced for me. The spread is set with the Eagles being 7.5-point favorites. That extra half a point holds some value in my opinion. I honestly think we’ll have a very close game that will be decided by three. I’m taking Giants +7.5, even though I think the Eagles will win. This means even if they win by a touchdown, we’re covered.I just don’t see this game becoming a blowout in this situation. The total is 48. Eagles’ games have hit overs pretty frequently this year, including eight of the last 12 games. With the way the Giants played last week, I also expect them to put up points so, I’m taking the over.
There are several props I like in this game. Let’s start with something I haven’t done all year and bet on an anytime touchdown. If you’ve never bet one, you’re basically placing a wager that a particular player will have a touchdown in the game. In eight appearances against the Giants, Scott has 10 touchdowns. I like Boston Scott anytime touchdown at +370 (risk $10 to win $37). The first time the Giants and Eagles played this year, Barkley had 28 rushing yards. He only had 58 last week against the Vikings. Because they will likely focus on stopping him, I’m going to take Barkley under 70.5 rushing yards (-115 aka risk $11.50 to win $10). Finally, with defensive coverage always focused on the talented A.J. Brown, there’s another talented wide receiver who had a great year this year. I like DeVonta Smith over 5.5 receptions (+115 aka risk $10 to win $11.50). Fly Eagles Fly!
Justin Mark is co-host of SGPN Fantasy Football’s show “Old-Fashioned Football”, and co-host of a show on the NFL Gambling Podcast, as well as co-host of the XFL Gambling Podcast. He’s also a writer for the Sports Gambling Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @JMarkFootball and The Sports Gambling Podcast @GamblingPodcast.