My Picks Record to Date:
Line: 0 - 1
Over/Under: 1 - 0
Poll Record (whichever choices got the most votes):
Line: 1 - 0
Over/Under: 1 - 0
This week's lines:
Eagles +3 (-105)
Colts -3 (-115)
Over 54 (-115)
Under 54 (-105)
Notes: The line opened at Colts -2.5. Market is probably reacting to the Eagles injuries and first-half performance against the Jags. Probably some recency effect here but, given the injury complications, not enough to give a strong signal one way or the other.
Reviewing last week:
The game didn't play out exactly as we though it would, but it's hard to be too disappointed with the results. Yes, the Eagles delivered one of the most ridiculous back-door covers I've ever seen, but at least the good guys won. Above all else, the game did a good job of underlining the main point I made last week: The first couple of weeks are very difficult to analyze. There is a lot of uncertainty, and until you see a team play a few times against a variety of competition, it's impossible to get a really good read on its true strength.
Moving forward, note that the Eagles almost hit the over as well, despite scoring 0 points in the first half. This team can score VERY quickly, so expect to see a lit of high lines this season. That might provide some opportunities, but it will also lead to some late-game nail-biting for those of you who do wager.
As shown above, the Eagles face their first test as an underdog this season. The Colts are favored by 3 points, meaning Vegas sees the teams as relative equals (2-3 points are given for home field). We already know what the Eagles did last week. Meanwhile, the Colts lost by a touchdown (31-24) to the Broncos in Denver. Note, the game wasn't as close as the final score suggests. Denver led 24-0 at one point.
Lets look at some data. One week isn't a very good sample, so we're still reaching back to last season for indications of each team's strengths/weaknesses.
From last season:
Eagles Overall DVOA: 15.2% (8th overall).
Colts Overall DVOA: 3.2% (13th overall).
Eagles Offense: 22.9% (3rd)
Colts Defense: 0.9% (16th)
Eagles Defense: 4.9% (23rd)
Colts Offense: 4.3% (13th)
Special teams were not significantly different.
The numbers above give the Eagles the advantage. However, these are obviously a bit out of date. After last week, my concerns about the offense remain. Yes, the team scored 34 points, but is anyone out there confident? The good news is that the Colts defense isn't great. In fact, the one player that would really worry me, Robert Mathis, won't play (suspension + Injury). How big of a loss is that? Well last season the Colts had 42 sacks. Mathis had 19.5 of them (46%). Also, the Colts had a sack rate of 7.04% last season, good for 9th overall. In their first game, against a very immobile QB (Manning), the team recored just one sack and registered a rate of 2.7%. For reference, the Jaguars had a sack rate of 10% against the Eagles this past week. In other words, with the Eagles injury problems on the O-Line, the team is pretty fortunate to be going against the Colts. Overall, the matchup looks pretty good for the offense.
On the flip side, the Eagles defense and the Colts offense look like a fairly even matchup. I'm a very big fan of Andrew Luck, and if the Eagles have DB breakdowns like they did last week, he'll take advantage of them. However, the cast around him isn't great. The Colts' RB corps shouldn't scare anyone (Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson). At WR, Reggie Wayne is still playing at a relatively high level, at least when he's on the field (he missed 9 games last season). We're all familiar with Hakeem Nicks. The one player that really does scare me is T.Y. Hilton. In his second year in the league (last season), Hilton had 1000+ receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. He also ran a 4.34 40 when he entered the league, and at 24 years old probably hasn't lost a step. As I said last season, with the Eagles issues at Safety, speed scares me a lot more than size. If Fletcher Cox and Mychael Kendricks play as well as they did last week, though, the Eagles should be able to focus heavily on stopping the passing game.
Lastly, since 2004 there have been 21 home teams that were favored by 3 points in a Monday Night game. 8 of them covered. That's not statistically significant, but if we expand the data set, the trend persists.
Post-merger, just 22 of 57 teams that were favored by 3 points at home in a Monday Night game covered the spread. Meanwhile, over the past 10 years, road teams favored on Monday Night by 3 points have covered the spread 14 out of 19 times.
To reiterate: that doesn't lead us to any conclusions, and if we play with the data enough we can make it say whatever we want. However, it suggests that MAYBE home field advantage doesn't mean as much in Monday Night games as it does in Sunday games, at least not when teams are evenly matched.
Coming into this breakdown, I expected to end up picking the Colts. However, after looking at the data, injuries, recent results, etc., I'm going the other way. This is a tough game for the Eagles, and I'm not very confident in a win (it's a tossup), but since it looks like a close matchup and a lot of uncertainty remains, take the points. With the 3 point line, we also have some protection against a late FG to win for the Colts.
I'm taking the Eagles +3. The fact that it's against the crowd makes me feel even better about it.
The over/under is set at 54 points. That's really high. The only other line above 50 this week is Denver-KC (51). To cover, each team would need to score 27 points. Last season, the Eagles scored 27 or more points 9 times. The Colts also hit the mark 9 times.
However, last week the Colts "held" Denver to 31 points in Denver. The Eagles offense is not as good as the Broncos' offense. The Eagles put up 34 points, but did so against a Jaguars defense that will probably finish in the bottom third of the league (maybe worse).
Data-wise, over the past 10 years Monday Night Dome games have hit the over just 22 times in 64 games. Small sample of course, but suggestive. We don't know if the roof will be open or closed, but right now the forecast calls for a chance of rain.
What this really comes down to is: Do you have faith in either team to score 30+ points? If not, take the under. After last week's performance, I'm not banking on the Eagles. If the Eagles defense really has improved from last season, it should also be tough for the Colts to hit that mark. In all, I think this game shakes out in the 27-24 range one way or the other.
Hence, take the under.
So, we're still in rather uncertain territory, but I'm taking the Eagles +3 and the Under.