By Justin Mark, SGPN Football Handicapper
The bets went 3-2 last week, with Miles Sanders missing by just a few yards, but the Eagles fell to the Cowboys 40-34 without Jalen Hurts. Gardner Minshew played a decent game, throwing for 355 yards and two touchdowns, but they couldn’t overcome his two interceptions or slow down the Cowboys’ aerial attack. The Eagles return home as they look to clinch the number one seed and earn a first-round bye in a matchup against the New Orleans Saints.
This game is hard to handicap accurately because Hurts is still questionable. The Eagles showed a lot of fight without him last week and I have faith that Minshew-Mania can help keep the team steady in Hurts’ absence. It’s the other injuries that are a concern, as the Eagles are banged up on the offensive line and in the defensive backfield.
Key Defensive Matchup
The Saints aren’t particularly strong at any one point on offense. Normally I would allude to their rushing attack led by Alvin Kamara, but he hasn’t had many good games all season. In fact, the Saints are 19th in the league for rushing yards per game. Stopping the run has been one of the weaknesses for the Eagles. Therefore, they’ll need to focus on making sure Kamara continues to have bad games. Another key player to watch for is Taysom Hill. Hill is listed as a tight end but lines up at running back and quarterback and is capable of running, throwing, and catching the ball. I don’t think Andy Dalton is good enough to test the Eagles in the air, though they’ll need to make sure the Saints don’t try and take advantage of their defensive backfield injuries.
Key Offensive Matchup
It surprised me to see Gardner Minshew throw the ball 40 times last week. That won’t be as easy against the Saints, who have allowed the 2nd fewest passing yards per game. Granted, the Eagles are loaded with talent. A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith and the returning Dallas Goedert are formidable. I think the Eagles should attack this game with their key strength, a strong rushing attack. The Eagles rushing yards per game has dropped to fourth best in the league, however, a matchup against the Saints should help cure that. Miles Sanders was slightly ineffective last week against the Cowboys, averaging a little over 3 yards per carry. Look for them to get back on track and control the pace of the game with the run.
With Hurts’ availability in doubt, the Eagles will still be okay. They are 6-1 against the spread at home.
Looking at lines on WynnBet this week, the Moneyline is –290 (risk $29 to win $10), which is a little too steep for me. The Eagles stand as six-point favorites. They are the better team, whether Hurts plays or not, so I’m taking the Eagles -6. I hate to be a broken record, but it’s so hard to not bet on this Eagles team. The total for the game is 44. Eagles’ games have delivered overs pretty frequently this year, hitting eight of the last 10 games. However, the Saints’ tend to hit the under because of their strong defense. As good as this Saints’ defense has been at limiting opponents’ opportunities, I still like the over with the strong Eagles’ offense.
There are no available prop bets for the Eagles’ game yet, so we’ll take a look at a couple of bonus NFL bets. The Lions and the Bears have both had their games hit the over frequently all year. Their last game ended with 61 points. Therefore, I like the Bears-Lions game to go over 52. Another game I like is the 49ers-Raiders game. The Raiders are benching some of their starters in favor of younger players to get a good look at them. That includes starting Jarrett Stidham at quarterback. Meanwhile, the 49ers are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now. The 49ers favored at 10 may seem high, but I think they cover that easily.
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, which airs every Wednesday at 3:30 Eastern time on YouTube. He’s also a writer for the Sports Gambling Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @JMarkFootball and The Sports Gambling Podcast @GamblingPodcast.
Photo – Insert from Icon Sportswire