The Philadelphia Eagles are entering a tough five-game stretch in which their opponents are bound to be favored each week.
Sure enough, the Eagles are starting this gauntlet as three-point underdogs to the Cleveland Browns. That’s not actually so bad, though, since the road team in a game between two relatively even-matched squads is usually given three points.
There’s a case to be made the Browns aren’t quite as good as their 6-3 record suggests. They only rank 21st in point differential (-28), which is barely ahead of where the Eagles land (-29). Cleveland is also 21st overall when it comes to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.
The Browns’ resume isn’t overly impressive when you look at their schedule thus far:
Week 2 — vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 35 to 30
Week 3 — vs. Washington Football Team, 34 to 20
Week 4 — at Dallas Cowboys, 49 to 38
Week 5 — vs. Indianapolis Colts, 32 to 23
Week 7 — at Cincinnati Bengals, 37 to 34
Week 10 — vs. Houston Texans, 10 to 7
The win over the Colts is boast-worthy. Other than that, they’ve racked up wins over bad teams. They mostly haven’t been able to hang with good ones.
Fortunately for the Browns, the Eagles are very much not a good team! Philly ranks 22nd in point differential and 29th in DVOA after recently dropping to 3-5-1.
With that said, I do see some reasons for Eagles optimism. The Browns have run the ball at the third highest percentage this season and Jim Schwartz’s run defense ranks 13th in DVOA. As long as the Browns don’t give all their carries to non-running backs (quarterbacks and wide receivers), the Eagles might be able to keep Cleveland’s offense in check. Baker Mayfield isn’t a sure bet to beat Philly through the air; he’s been inconsistent with a 90.0 passer rating that ranks 23rd among NFL quarterbacks.
It’s hard to have much faith in the Eagles’ offense right now but Carson Wentz is at least coming off a game where he didn’t turn the ball over. Maybe he looks a little better against the team that passed on taking him No. 2 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. Maybe Doug Pederson feeds Miles Sanders more heavily than he has to this point.
When I recently did my annual “predict the outcome of the Eagles’ remaining games after the bye” post, I had the Birds losing to the New York Giants and beating the Browns. Of course, I didn’t expect them to be quite as listless as they were against the G-Men. And so I don’t have enough confidence in the Eagles to feel good about them. But I do think the Browns are capable of struggling as well despite their desperation to stay alive in a competitive AFC playoff picture.
What say you?
Which bet do you like more?
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