No anecdotal preface this week. Just game matchups, statistics, betting breakdowns, historical trends, and analysis. Let’s jump right into it.
Eagles (-3.5) at Jaguars, Over/Under 43.5
*Game will be played at London’s Wembley Stadium
Game Matchup: The Eagles and Jaguars each entered this season with great expectations, but both teams have underwhelmed through the season’s first seven weeks. While it’s still early, it’s not that early, and there should be a sense of desperation on both sidelines when the two teams take the field this Sunday. Jacksonville will look to snap a three-game losing streak in which they have been outscored by an embarrassing 90-28 margin. 90-28? I mean, how does that even happen?
Blake Bortles being Blake Bortles
Pt. V pic.twitter.com/jkhPvGvNkC
— Montserrat Bernal 🐍 (@montsebernalg) October 21, 2018
Ah, yes. That’s right.
Bortles, of course, was benched last week in favor of Cody Kessler, but Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone will turn back to Bortles this week. After all, Bortles is 3-1 in his career at Wembley Stadium. That has to count for something. I think.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have lost three of their last four games, including last week’s inexcusable and entirely avoidable fourth-quarter collapse at home against Carolina. After throttling the Panthers’ offense for three quarters, Jim Schwartz went ultra-conservative as Cam Netwon obliterated the Eagles’ defense over the game’s final 15 minutes to the tune of 201 passing yards and two touchdowns on his way to leading his team to 21 unanswered points. The Eagles’ fourth quarter offense wasn’t much better, but it still had a chance to save the day in the game’s final moment. Except…
3rd and 2. Smallwood at the top. Jesus. pic.twitter.com/wdpzVZ3A0W
— BWanksCB (@BWCrossingBroad) October 21, 2018
Why throw to the wide-open running back in the flat when you can just throw it into double coverage in the end zone? Indeed. In summation, to say each of these teams square off on Sunday almost entirely devoid of momentum would be an understatement.
As for the game matchups, Wentz enters having completed a career-best 70.8% of his passes with 10 touchdown tosses against only one interception, and while the Jaguars’ defense is allowing an NFL-best 179.7 yards passing per game this season, there should be plenty of opportunities to make plays against an injury-ravaged secondary. Jacksonville will be without three of its top cornerbacks in A.J. Bouye, D.J. Hayden, and Tyler Patmon. Undrafted rookies Quenton Meeks, Tre Herndon, and Dee Delaney, a trio that has all of four combined NFL regular snaps between them, will take their place. That’s…less than ideal.
If Jacksonville hopes to slow down the Eagles’ passing attack, they will need big games from Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue. Jacksonville’s vaunted pass rush has only produced 15 sacks this season, but is still dangerous and will be quite a test for banged up offensive tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson.
In terms of the run game, I’m not sure that it even matters. The Eagles average 4.0 yards per carry (24th in the NFL) and 102.9 rush yards per game (21st in the NFL), but more importantly, they don’t even really try to run the football. It’s obvious that Doug Pederson isn’t terribly excited about his running back rotation of Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, and Josh Adams after the Eagles ran the football only once during their fourth quarter collapse last week.
While Philadelphia’s offense has disappointed, Jacksonville’s has been a borderline disaster, already failing to score double-digit points three times this season. Jacksonville is scoring only 16.6 points per game, and only 4 of their last 35 possessions have resulted in points. Much of the criticism has centered around Bortles, who has nearly thrown as many interceptions (8) as he has touchdowns (9) this season, prompting takes similar to this one:
Blake Bortles has gotta go. pic.twitter.com/GOBV5G1n81
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) October 23, 2018
Even Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins took a not-so-subtle jab at Bortles this week when he voiced his support for Colin Kaepernick:
Malcolm Jenkins, addressing the differing positions among some black NFL players over systemic oppression and what he called the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick, said, “I can turn on the tape this week of our opponent [Jaguars] and see that Colin Kaepernick deserves a job.”
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) October 24, 2018
The Jags hope that the recent acquisition of running back Carlos Hide, who has 382 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 114 carries, will help spark the NFL’s 23rd ranked ground attack that has sputtered in the absence of Leonard Fournette. That will be a tough ask against the NFL’s No. 2 rushing defense which has limited opponents to just 85.7 rushing yards per game.
Gambling Trends: The consensus spread has trended in the Eagles’ favor throughout the week. After opening at most books as a 2 or 2.5-point favorite, the spread has now jumped over the field goal threshold to -3.5 at many books. Despite this apparent value on Jacksonville, 73% of point-spread bets and 67% of point-spread money backs the Eagles as of early Friday afternoon.
Things to Know: The Eagles have been slow starters this season, but Jacksonville has been outscored 23-0 in the first quarter over the past three weeks. The Jags have been terrible against NFC opponents. They are 23-39 ATS against NFC teams since 2003. Bortles, specifically, is 4-12 ATS against NFC teams, including 2-4 ATS since the start of last season when Jacksonville became competitive. Any way you slice it, the Jaguars’ performance against out of conference teams has been poor.
Favorites in London are 12-8 ATS and 24-11-2 ATS in neutral-site games since 2003, including 8-3 ATS since the start of the 2016 season. Bortles, meanwhile, is 3-1 ATS at Wembley Stadium, but is only 6-11 ATS against teams coming off a loss and 3-7 ATS as an underdog against teams coming off a loss.
The Eagles are tied for a league-worst 2-5 ATS (1-5 ATS in their last six games) this season (28.6% ATS cover rate), which is important to know because Bortles is only 1-5 ATS against teams that cover the spread at a 25-30% rate.
The Eagles are also 6-1 straight-up in their last seven games coming off a loss, which is good. Not so good is the Eagles’ 1-7 ATS record under Doug Pederson when favored between three and four points. Additionally, the “over” is 15-4 ATS under Pederson in games played away from Lincoln Financial Field.
Prediction: I don’t trust the Eagles, particularly after last week’s fourth quarter debacle against the Panthers, but I keep coming back two things:
1) Blake Bortles
2) Carson Wentz
Bortles has been atrocious against the spread versus NFC opponents, hasn’t fared well against teams coming off a loss, and is playing poorly. Wentz, meanwhile, is going up against a defense missing three starters in its secondary, and the Eagles have excelled lately when coming off a loss. Throw in the success of favorites ATS in neutral site games, and that’s enough to get me firmly behind Philadelphia.
Eagles 27, Jaguars 19
Redskins at Giants (Pick), Over/Under 44
Game matchup: Even in a wretched division, the Giants’ season is likely over after a disastrous 1-6 start, and New York general manager Dave Gettleman knows it. Gettleman all but waved the white flag this week when he traded away cornerback Eli Apple and defensive tackle Damon Harrison as the team begins to look ahead beyond this season. I think it was this sequence, right here, that removed any lingering hopes of a 2018 Giants’ resurgence:
Not one, but TWO failed quarterback sneaks. With the clock ticking. Down two scores. With Saquon Barkley helplessly watching. Good stuff.
The Redskins, meanwhile, have won two-straight games and currently sit alone atop the NFC East after beating the Cowboys last week, thanks in part to this electric play by Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott:
Carson Wentz: I had the worst fumble of any NFC East QB today.
Dak Prescott: Hold my ball—oop—just hold it—ugh. pic.twitter.com/RM7uAajmK1
— 12upSports (@12upSports) October 21, 2018
Hold the ball, invite the rush, succumb to it, lose football. What a division!
The Giants are 27th in the NFL in scoring at 19.6 points per game. Manning, who threw for 399 yards against the Falcons in Week 7, hasn’t been completely terrible this season, completing 69% of his passes for 2,061 yards and seven touchdowns, but he has frequently relied on check downs and short throws. If the Giants’ offense gets off even remotely off schedule, Manning simply hasn’t been able to make plays to overcome it. He’ll face a stiff test this week against a Washington defense that is top ten in several major statistical categories, including points allowed per game (7th), yards per game (5th), opponent yards per play (7th), and opponent yards per pass (8th). Barkley, who has 481 rushing yards on 98 carries, also faces a difficult test against a defense that is limiting opponents to 87.3 rushing yards per game.
The Redskins, despite leading the NFC East by 1.5 games over the Cowboys and Eagles, haven’t exactly been firing on all cylinders offensively this season. Washington’s 21 points per game is 25th in the NFL and its 337.5 yards per game is 24th. Even during the Redskins’ modest two-game winning streak, Alex Smith has only managed a combined 341 yards passing. The Redskins’ offense is also in the bottom-third in both rush yards per play (22nd) and pass yards per play (20th). The resurgent Adrian Peterson has rushed for 438 yards and three touchdowns on 101 carries this season, but even despite his surprising production, Washington is only averaging 4.0 yards per carry, which 22nd in the NFL. Still, that hasn’t deterred coach Jay Gruden from relying on the run. Only three teams have handed it off more than Washington’s 29.5 rushing attempts per game this season.
Gambling Trends: This game has had a bizarre line all week. The consensus spread opened at a pick and currently remains there, but some books feature the Giants as a one-point favorite, while others offer the Redskins as a one-point favorite. It’s worth nothing that an overwhelming 83% of point-spread bets back the Redskins, which makes this the most lopsided game of the week in terms of bet distribution. Meanwhile, 73% of the money is backing Washington. This sets up a strong contrarian play, if you have the stomach to back a 1-6 team that traded away two of its key defensive contributors earlier in the week.
Things to Know: The Redskins have lost 10 of their last 11 games at MetLife Stadium and are 3-7 ATS over their last 10 games against the Giants. Teams with a winning percentage between .600 and .660 that are favored by two points or less are 36-43-1 ATS since 2003. More specifically, teams with a winning-percentage between .600 and .660 (Washington) that are favored by three points or less against a team that has a winning percentage of under .200 (New York) are 4-14-2 ATS since 2003.
There are some additional trends that don’t favor the Redskins in this spot. Washington is 1-4 ATS over its last five games on the road and 1-4 ATS over its last five games at MetLife Stadium. The Redskins have also performed poorly ATS under Jay Gruden. They are 9-15 ATS as a favorite, 2-4 ATS as a road favorite, and 2-6 ATS when favored in division games.
Eli Manning has performed well at home against the Redskins, going 8-4-1 ATS.
Prediction: Let me get this straight. The first-place Redskins are coming off of two quality wins and are playing a bad 1-6 Giants team that traded away two prominent defensive players this past week and is in the midst of a four-game losing streak…and the game is basically a pick? Something doesn’t smell right with this line. I also can’t get past the Redskins’ poor performance under Gruden as a favorite. Throw in the poor performance of good teams as a small favorite against teams winning less than 20% of its games and the fact that 83% OF THE PUBLIC IS ON WASHINGTON, and, well, here I am getting my bet in on the Giants:
JUMPING INTO THE WEEKEND LIKE! Because this good dog is a WHOLE mood 🐶🍂❤️
📷: dognamedstella / Instagram pic.twitter.com/0DLh3tWydw
— FOX 29 (@FOX29philly) October 26, 2018
Giants 23, Redskins 20
Seahawks (+3) at Lions
I think that Detroit is sneaky decent, but there are some significant trends going against them that are worth consideration in this one. Russell Wilson excels as an underdog, going 15-6-2 ATS in 23 career starts. Wilson is also 10-6-2 ATS during his career as a road underdog. Moreover, Detroit is 6-15-2 ATS since 2011 when coming off a win of 10 points or more. This game feels like a coin flip proposition, but I like those historical trends, and I really like getting three points against the erratic Lions.
Seahawks 31, Lions 26
Ravens (-2) at Panthers
The Ravens are coming off a gut-wrenching loss to the Saints at home a week ago in which Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker missed his first career extra point in 223 attempts:
Justin Tucker misses an extra point for the first time in his career – he was previously 222 for 222 – as Saints hold off Ravens in final minute. https://t.co/2BuiPB8gpC pic.twitter.com/jYVrIregqS
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) October 21, 2018
Naturally, I had the Ravens here, so at least I got to be a part of history, you know? Awesome.
The ill-timed miss, of course, would’ve sent the game to overtime. Perhaps even more shocking than Tucker’s miss was that the Panthers erased a 17-point deficit on the road against the Eagles. Carolina should be feeling pretty good about themselves as they return home looking for their second-straight win, but as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.”
Cam Newton struggled against a mediocre Philadelphia pass defense a week ago, and I like the Ravens to bounce back after a down game against a banged up Newton and what is a marginal Carolina attack. Only 42% of the point-spread bets back the Ravens, but so does 63% of the point-spread money, so there’s sharp action on the Ravens. I believe in Joe Flacco…on the road…against a quality opponent.
Bold strategy, let’s see if it pays off.
Ravens 26, Panthers 20
Saints at Vikings (-1)
These two red-hot teams will meet on Sunday night in Minnesota for the highly-anticipated rematch of last year’s NFC Divisional Playoff Game in which the Vikings stunned the Saints in an unbelievable walk-off loss. Winners of five-straight games, New Orleans will seek revenge against a Vikings team that started slow, but has come on in recent weeks. I got burned going against Drew Brees on the road last week, but off a draining win on the road in Baltimore, it’s tough for teams to replicate that intensity and execute at a high-level against quality opponents in back-to-back weeks. Danger makes me feel alive. I’ll take the Vikings with the home-field advantage.
Vikings 33, Saints 27