Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. The Eagles bye week was very well timed. Now it's crunch-time. The next few games will dictate the season outcome, and perhaps more importantly, tell us just how good the Eagles are (and how far from contending).
Tomorrow, the Eagles take on the Cardinals, and the lines are as follows:
Spread: Eagles -3
O/U: 48.5 or 49, depending on the source (I'll use 49).
On paper, this looks like a tossup. The Cardinals have a fairly impressive W/L resume. They've beaten the Panthers and Lions, and their only losses are to Seattle, New Orleans, San Francisco, and St. Louis (by 3 points in week 1). That's a lot better than the Eagles' resume.
However, Football Outsiders actually has the Eagles ranked 1 spot AHEAD of Arizona by DVOA (10th and 11th).
The Eagles offense ranks 4th (DVOA), but the Cardinals defense ranks 2nd (just 0.1% behind Seattle). Safe to say this will be Foles' toughest test to date.
On the other side, the Eagles defense ranks 27th, facing a Cardinals offense that ranks 25th.
Like I said, this is a very close matchup. The Eagles rank 4 spots better in Special Teams.
As much as I want to take the Eagles, I've got to grab the points here. Unfortunately, the line has moved to 3; it opened at 4, which is a big deal since it makes the 3 point Eagles win a push, rather than a win (if you're taking the Cardinals).
The risk here is that the Eagles are coming off a bye week, meaning Chip has had plenty of time to prepare and the team has had a chance to recuperate, a not insignificant factor this late in the season. The Cardinals are also coming across the country for a 1 pm East Coast game, which is typically difficult to do.
However, I'm worried about how the Eagles will match-up. The Cardinals offense isn't good, but it does feature a pair of receivers (Fitz and Floyd) that pose problems for the Eagles defense. Moreover, the Cardinals don't have a run game, meaning they'll be forced into doing exactly what every team should do against the Eagles, throw the ball. It's been somewhat overlooked, but the Eagles defensive "improvement" has coincided with a run of bad opposing offenses.
That's a long way of saying I don't see any reason to favor one team over the other here, so I'm taking the 3 points.
The line is 49, and
given the fact that neither defense is very good, the Over looks enticing, but tread carefully here.
Trying to set a score projection, we can place the Cardinals between New York and Washington (better than NYG, worse than WAS). The Eagles allowed 16 points against WAS and just 15 points against the Giants in their last meeting. However, I think the Cardinals will do a bit better than that. Neither of those teams have Larry Fitzgerald. If we put the Cardinals down for 20 points, that means the Eagles would need to score 29 against the 2nd best defense in the league.
That sounds like a tall order. I think 24 points is about as high as I can go. While it certainly wouldn't surprise me to see the Eagles come out firing and hang 30+, we can't responsibly project that in our odds breakdown. The Eagles last two games (Packers and Raiders) have both totaled just 40 points and the Eagles OU record has slipped to 6-5 (hit the over 6 times, under 5 times). As is usually the case, the sports books have adjusted faster than the public.
That means take the under.
I like the the Under more than the Spread (Cardinals +3). Note that both of these picks go against my rooting interest. In those cases, I usually refrain from taking the action (with play money of course) because I'd rather not have any reason to root against a high-scoring Eagles victory. Have to break things down objectively though, so if you're gonna bet this game, be prepared for some conflicted feelings.