Nailed it last week, so lets hope I can keep that up. I'm probably not the only fan whose "Eagles-due-for-a-loss-spidey-sense" is tingling, but as always, I'll try to be objective.
Here are the current lines:
Spread: Eagles -2.5 or -3, depending on the source. It opened at -2.
O/U: 53-53.5-54, depending on the source.
For the breakdown, I'm going to use Bovada's lines, which are Eagles -3 and an O/U of 54.
Let's start with the team comparison, using Football Outsiders rankings.
- The Eagles now have the #3 overall offense by DVOA. The Lions have the #15 defense.
- The Lions have the 13th overall offense by DVOA. The Eagles have the #25 defense.
- The Eagles have the STs advantage, coming in 19th, compared with Detroit at 26.
- Both teams have the same record, though the Lions have a point differential of +39, compared to the Eagles differential of +19. Of course, the Lions didn't have to play the Broncos (the Eagles are +52 against non-Denver teams).
- The Eagles are on a hot streak, with wins in their past 4 games (and a record of 6-2 over their last 8).
By DVOA and by resume, the Eagles have been the better team. However, the Lions have shown they can beat good teams, with two wins over Chicago (10th by DVOA), which ranks as the "best" win either team has had this season. However, Arizona is just behind Chicago at 11th.
The line has shifted towards the Eagles, which doesn't surprise me, since the team is coming off a good win and people are jumping back on the bandwagon. That's cause for concern, since I typically try to avoid going with the betting public. It's prone to recency and overreaction, and could be favoring the Eagles more than it should as a result.
Matchup-wise, it's pretty clear that the expectation is for a high-scoring game. The Lions have the rushing attack to keep the Eagles honest, and have Calvin Johnson, for whom there is no answer. Detroit's offense ranks similarly to Dallas' (worse than Dallas), so we could use the Cowboys as a benchmark, but I think Detroit matches up better against the Eagles personnel. So how many points should we project?
Well the Eagles just gave up 21 to Arizona, which is a terrible offense. Some of that was the late lead, but there were also a lot of opportunities that the Cardinals didn't take advantage of. Matt Stafford is significantly better than Carson Palmer. I think 28 points is a reasonable estimation. The weather could be a factor, but I'll address that later.
On the Eagles side, there's really no reason to think the team won't score a lot of points. The Lions' defense is mediocre and definitely a lot worse than Arizona's. Since the Matt Barkley game, the Eagles have averaged 31 points scored per game, against defenses of various strength. That average is skewed by the Raiders blowout, but it's clear the Eagles offense can put up 30+ points, they've done it 5 times this season. Against a mediocre defense and facing a QB who's not afraid to throw interceptions, I think 30 points is a reasonable projection. Statistically, the Lions do have a very good rush defense, but even if that's a true reflection of skill, the Eagles have more than enough in the passing game to move the ball with regularity.
Where does that leave us? Eagles 30 - Lions 28. Hmm....that's exactly what it opened at (Eagles -2). Of course, it's now Eagles -3, meaning you "should" take the Lions. Let's table that for a minute.
The line is 54 (at Bovada).
I just projected that the final score should be around 58. So take the over? Not so fast. Unfortunately, it's the point of the season at which the weather becomes a significant factor. Given that I'm writing this more than 3 days before the game, factoring it in is pretty difficult. There's a chance for a rain/sleet/snow storm during the game, and it'll definitely be cold. The sleet is what I'm worried about. If that hits hard, there's no way I want to be sitting on an Over 54.
Therefore, I've got to hedge this one a bit.
IF on Sunday morning the weather looks bad (sleet, not snow, I don't care if there's snow), we're gonna tease the O/U UP to 60 and take the under. If the storm holds of until after the game, we're gonna tease it the other way, moving the line to 48 and taking the OVER.
The reason I'm teasing the O/U is because my projection for the spread is so close to the set line. Normally that means stay away (only bet if you're projection is significantly different from the line, giving you a margin for error). However, it wouldn't be any fun to refrain. So...
The "smart" play is to test the line to Eagles -9 and take the LIONS, since that allows us to grab the bonus point (the difference between the projection and the line).
But...I wouldn't hate teasing the line the other way and taking the Eagles +3. That's more fun, as long as you realize it's not the smart play.