Nailed it last week, though I wasn't very confident in my Over pick. Starting to see a trend here; when the Eagles get competent QB play, they hit the over. Whether they'll get decent play from the QB each week is a tough prediction to make though.
This week, we've got some issues breaking down the line. Prior to the Rodgers injury, the Packers were favored by 10 points. Now they're favored by just 1.
From a pure handicapping perspective, this would have been a lot easier with Rodgers healthy. Of course, we all want the Eagles to win, and playing against Seneca Wallace instead is a huge break.
As you can imagine, getting 1 point isn't a huge advantage, so we're basically trying to figure out which team is more likely to win. If it's 50/50, then you take the point. Anything else, and you take the team more likely to win. First, lets consult Football Outsiders.
- The Packers rank 10th overall by DVOA, the Eagles rank 16th.
- The Packers offense is the team's biggest strength, coming in 2nd by DVOA (23.5%). The Eagles are relatively close behind, ranking 6th overall on offense (14.8%).
- The Packers rank 26th by DVOA on defense (7.1%), while the Eagles rank 30th (13.4%)
- The teams have nearly identical special teams rankings, coming in 25th (GB) and 26th (PHI), with a DVOA difference of just 0.9%.
Without the injury to Rodgers, it's a clear advantage for GB. However, I think 10 points was a bit excessive, and frankly might have rather taken the Eagles in that situation getting 10 points instead of taking them now against Wallace with just 1 point. But it is what it is, so lets work with what we've got. First question:
Will Nick Foles provide decent or better QB play? If so, then the Eagles will score plenty. The Packers defense, as illustrated above, isn't good. I should also note that, in the FO DVOA rankings, Green Bay is just one spot above Oakland. So while we shouldn't expect 7 TDs again, it's completely reasonable to expect a good performance, and something on the order of 30 points. In the games in which the Eagles QB has played reasonably well, the Eagles have scored 33, 30, 36, 31, and 49 points. Going against a bad defense, I'm comfortable with setting a 28-35 point expectation from the Eagles. Unfortunately, if bad Foles shows up, they may not hit 10 points. I'm assuming we'll see decent-not-spectacular Foles.
How should we view Seneca Wallace? Seneca Wallace is NOT a complete unknown. The guy has been in the league since 2005 and has played in parts of 64 games, starting 21 of them. In that time, he has a Rating of 80.6, a completion percentage of 59.1%, an interception rate of 2.4%, and a sack rate of 7%.
Overall, that amounts to a slightly below average QB.
Replacing Rodgers, who is, at this point, putting up the greatest statistical career ever for a QB with a slightly below average QB is a massive difference. But how much?
Well if we expect a performance in line with his career averages, we're essentially looking at this years' Alex Smith, with a slightly higher propensity for interceptions. Against Smith, the Eagles allowed 26 points. However, 7 points came from Eric Berry's pick-six. Now the rest of the Packers offense is better than the Chiefs, but not by that much. The difference really is mostly Rodgers. The Packers receivers look to present a bigger challenge than the Chiefs did, so we should adjust upwards there, since the Eagles weakness has been through the air. How much is Nelson/Cobb instead of Bowe/Avery worth? A few points? Lets be extra conservative and call it 7. So we're looking at a rough range of 24-30 points. (I'm writing off Lacy-Charles as a wash, not because that's fair, but because it makes our estimate even more conservative and gives us a greater margin of confidence).
Since I had the Eagles at a range of 28-35 points, that means take the Eagles +1. Just know that the high-variance nature of Foles' play means it's a relatively binary outcome. If Foles can deliver the ball with some accuracy, I like the Eagles. I think it's more likely than not that we see an at-least-decent Foles. Therefore, take the point.
The line is 47. Taking the mid-point of the ranges I set above gives us around 58 points. That's a big difference. Usually, when the difference is that big, it means either we did something wrong or one of our assumptions is way off. If it's neither, than we need a good explanation of why "the market" is off. What's my story?
- Overreaction to Wallace's poor showing in relief (11 of 19 with an interception). Wallace will likely be better than the general public expects. Remember we have a pretty good sample on him (783 career attempts).
- Still underestimating Nick Foles. If I wasn't from Philadelphia and I wasn't paying as close attention as I have been, I'd likely dismiss Foles as well. He just doesn't have the pedigree. Of course, the people paying close attention know the truth; Foles has been a pretty damn good QB so far. He had a terrible performance against Dallas, and I think people are likely still giving that significant weight. In fact, I think his record-tying performance last week might actually work AGAINST him. It was so cartoonish that it's easy to dismiss as a fluke. "Nick Foles playing the best game ever by a QB? C'mon. He just got lucky." Conversely, if he had played really well, but only thrown 4 TDs, I think the story would be harder to write off. It doesn't make any logical sense, but remember we're dealing with people, logic doesn't always apply.
Also, Eagles games this year have failed to hit 47 points just 3 times. Once was against the Chiefs (great defense) and the other two were the Barkley game and the bad-Foles game. Every other game has hit at least 51 points.
Also, the Eagles are 5-0 against the O/U on the road this season. I don't actually put much weight into this fact, but it's a nice confidence boost.
I like the Over 47 most.
I like the Eagles +1
It all hinges on Nick Foles. That sounds obvious, and it is, but the key nuance is that Nick Foles doesn't need to be great, or even very good. If he just does what a decent QB should do (hit open men and not make stupid mistakes/TOs), that should be enough. I think the odds favor him reaching that level of play.
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