The Case for the Underdog One Seed

It’s been over a month since Eagles’ QB and then MVP front runner Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL. The injury took him out for the season, and drastically changed the landscape of the NFL. At the time, the Eagles were 11-2, and favorites to win the NFC. Since Wentz went down, the Eagles have struggled to go 2-1 against the Giants, Raiders, and Cowboys. With Nick Foles under center, expectations for the Eagles plummeted. Heading into the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs, the Eagles are the first one seed to ever be underdogs playing against the sixth seed. Vegas favors the Atlanta Falcons by three points, and it seems like no one believes in the Eagles.

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Despite the unprecedented nature of the number one seed being underdogs against the sixth seed, the Eagles still have some things working in their favor. The Eagles went 7-1 at home this season, tied for the best home record in the NFL this season. Eagles fans are legendarily crazy, there’s no doubt that they will be wild for this game. The Eagles outscored their opponents at home by a whopping 150 points this season. The Eagles are definitely comfortable at home, and some may be writing off their home field advantage.

The weather on Saturday also seems to favor the Eagles. Around kickoff, it is projected that the temperature will be around 32 degrees. For a team that is a dome team and doesn’t play outside in the cold often, that could impact the Falcons.

But aside from the weather and home field advantage, the Eagles have one more huge advantage over the Falcons: their defense. The Eagles defense has been good all season, they’re fourth best in terms of points allowed, fourth in yards allowed, sixth in offensive plays against, and fourth in takeaways. This defense should not be underestimated. The defensive line is especially good, led by the mighty Fletcher Cox.

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The Falcons have a lot of offensive weapons, but they finished 15th in the NFL in points per game. Julio Jones is one of the best receivers in the league, but he only has one touchdown catch on the road all year. Matt Ryan is the reigning MVP, but he hasn’t lived up to that award this season.

Saturday is going to be a tough game for the Eagles to win. Nick Foles and the rest of the offense is going to have to move the ball some, and Foles hasn’t exactly inspired confidence with his play so far. That said, the Eagles still have a fierce defense, and the home field advantage could make a big difference. The Eagles are the first one seed to ever be underdogs against the sixth seed, but don’t write them off yet.

Three Games to Watch In Week 13

Minnesota Vikings @ Atlanta Falcons – 12 CT

This is a battle between two teams that will probably make the playoffs. The Vikings have a commanding three game lead in the NFC North, and the Falcons are fighting with the Saints and Panthers to come out on top of the NFC South. The NFC South appears to be the best division in the NFL, with the Falcons, Saints, and Panthers all positioned to make the playoffs. This isn’t a must win game for the Falcons, but they have a brutal schedule coming up: Vikings,  Saints, at Buccaneers, at Saints, and Panthers. That’s rough. The Falcons need to win at least two of those games to have a shot at the playoffs, three wins and they are probably a lock. So, how do they matchup with the Vikings? Well, Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes has held Julio Jones to under 100 total yards in the last two games these teams have played each other in. The Falcons also have top cornerback Desmond Trufant out. If Rhodes can keep Jones under control, and Case Keenum and Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs can exploit Atlanta’s banged up secondary, it should be a victory for the Vikings. Atlanta is favored by two in what should be a really close game. I’ll take the Vikings to win this one.

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Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints – 3:25 CT

Speaking of the NFC South, here’s a game between the two top teams in the division. The Saints lost to the Rams last week, meaning their eight game winning streak came to an end. Can they rebound at home against a tough Panthers team? Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who is probably going to wind up winning Defensive Rookie of the Year, might play in this game but he is dealing with an ankle injury. For the Panthers, Greg Olsen is expected to miss the game with an injury. Olsen just recently came off of IR, but he reaggravated the injury in his first game back. The Saints are favored by 5 points, and while I think they eek out a victory, I think they fail to cover.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Seattle Seahawks – 7:25 CT

The Eagles are rolling right now, and Carson Wentz is looking like the MVP, but lets take a closer look at their schedule. Here is a list of the wins the Eagles have so far: the Redskins (twice), Giants, Chargers, Cardinals, Panthers, 49ers, Broncos, Cowboys, Bears. Besides the win over the Panthers, are any of them really that impressive? All of those teams (besides the Panthers) are at .500 or lower. The Eagles are one of the best teams in the NFL, no doubt about it, but it will be interesting to see how well they play against other really good teams. Even though the Seahawks are hampered by injuries, Seattle is a tough place to play. The Eagles will be tested on both sides of the ball this game. Vegas has the Eagles favored by 3.5 in this one, a line that started out at 6 in favor of the Eagles. I think this is a relatively close game, but the Eagles still cover on the road.

Four Games to Watch In Week 11

A little bit of a format shift this week. I’m really excited about the Rams-Vikings game so I wrote a lot about that one, while the discussion for the other games are pretty short.

Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings – 12 CT

Two 7-2 teams going at it, this should be a good one. The Vikings are once again rolling with Case Keenum at QB, and who can blame them? Keenum is coming off of a game where he threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. Even the most loyal Teddy Bridgewater fans have to admit that switching from Keenum to Bridgewater would be a huge risk at this point in the season. Keenum’s success is owed in large part to receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen who have been great. The chemistry Keenum has with those guys, particularly Thielen, is surprisingly great.

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Making a switch at QB could really tank the playoff chances for the Vikings. Bridgewater has not played in a meaningful football game since January 10, 2016. Do we expect him to not be rusty coming back off of that horrific injury? Would he have the same connection with the receivers that Keenum has? And I hate to say it, but are we absolutely sure that Bridgewater is better than Keenum? Because I’m not. Bridgewater was fine when he played, and he did have moments where he looked really good, but overall I did not find him overly impressive during his first two years in the league. With Keenum playing well, there is no reason to make the switch. Stick with Keenum and keep this thing rolling.

Meanwhile, the Rams continue to put up a lot of points, crushing the Texans 33-7 last week. The Rams have the most points scored in NFL through the first 10 weeks, they are both running and passing at an elite level. Todd Gurley is one of the best running backs in the league, getting him going early could be huge for the Rams. The Vikings got burned by the Redskins last week on a few plays, making it appear like the Rams have a good chance to put up some points. However, Everson Griffen is going to play in this one, and if he can get pressure on Goff, the Rams offense will be hard pressed to put up a lot of points. The Vikings are favored by 2.5, and I’ll take them in a close one.

Washington Redskins @ New Orleans Saints – 12 CT

The Saints might be the best team in the NFL. Seven straight victories is nothing to sneeze at. The Redskins have had a brutal schedule so far, and it doesn’t get any easier this week. I believe the 4-5 Redskins are a good team, but in a really good NFC they are going to need to start winning games soon. The Saints are favored by 7.5. I think the Saints win, but fail to cover.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys – 7:30 CT (Sunday Night Football)

The Cowboys struggled with Ezekiel Elliott out last week, and Dak Prescott got sacked eight times! The Cowboys are shuffling around their offensive line, but even if Prescott can stay upright, I don’t believe they can put up the points necessary to beat the Eagles. The Eagles are favored by 4.5, and I think they easily cover.

Atlanta Falcons @ Seattle Seahawks – 7:30 CT (Monday Night Football)

Losing Richard Sherman for the year is a big blow to the Seahawks, and rumor has it that hard hitting safety Kam Chancellor might miss the regular season. The Falcons easily handled the Cowboys last week, and another win this week would be huge for their playoff hopes. The Seahawks are favored by 3, but with the injuries they have, I’ll take the Falcons.

Four Games to Watch In Week 10

Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins – 12 CT

Good news for Vikings fans: Teddy Bridgewater is back on the active roster after a horrific knee injury over a year ago. Good news for Case Keenum fans: Keenum will be starting at least one more game. It’s a tough situation, who knows how Bridgewater will look coming back from injury? Keenum hasn’t played great, but he’s played well enough for the Vikings to be leading the NFC North. Beyond the QB controversy, it should be fun to watch Everson Griffen and the rest of the Vikings front seven get after the banged up Redskins line. The Redskins beat the Seahawks last week, and are a tough team. Though they’ve been banged up, it appears like they should be getting some of their starting players back from injury. The Vikings are favored in Vegas by 1.5. I’ll take the Vikes to cover, even in Washington.

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Los Angeles Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars – 12 CT

This isn’t a matchup I expected to be talking about in week 10, but here we are. After starting the season 0-4, the Chargers have clawed their way to a 3-5 record. Not great, but I’m not ready to write them off yet. The Jaguars are one of the surprise stories of the year so far, with a 5-3 record. The Jags have a serious shot at winning the AFC South, which would snap a nine season playoff drought. The Jaguars are an old school style team; defense and running the ball are their keys to success. Leonard Fournette is having a fantastic rookie season, but he was suspended last week for violating team rules. Hopefully he will get it figured out because he is a very exciting player to watch. The Jaguars are favored by 3.5, expect them to win by a touchdown.

New Orleans Saints @ Buffalo Bills – 12 CT

Another surprisingly good matchup. Think that the Jaguars have it bad that nine season playoff-less streak? The poor Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999! The Bills were 5-2 entering last week, and they managed to lose to the Jets on Thursday night. Thursday night games are tough for any team and weird things happen, but that must have been a heart breaker for Bills fans. On the other hand, the Saints have won six straight, and are doing it in some surprising ways: with a balanced offensive attack and solid defense. Drew Brees isn’t having one of his insane seasons statistically, but RBs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have stepped up in a major way and have been great. The Saints are favored by 3, and with the way they have been playing, how can you pick against them?

Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons – 4:25 CT

Last week, I said it looked like the Ezekiel Elliott suspension saga had finally ended and that he was suspended for good. I was wrong. A judge allowed Zeke to play, and he helped propel the Cowboys over the Chiefs. Now, Zeke is suspended. For what seems to be the hundredth time this season. I’m so sick and tired of this, it’s pretty ridiculous. It looks like Zeke is finally suspended for the full six and that he’ll miss this, but who knows at this point? The Falcons are struggling in a major way and are at 4-4. There’s something about them that makes me what to believe in them as a playoff team though. But if that’s the case, a win this week would be huge. Atlanta is favored by 3 at home, and I think this is the toughest line yet. How will the Cowboys play without Ezekiel Elliott? Can the Falcons turn their season around? I’m going with all of the favorites this week, I’ll take the Falcons to cover.

Two Games to Watch In Week 9

Yuck, what an ugly slate of NFL games we have for week 9. Usually, I write about four games to watch, but this selection of games is so awful I’m only writing about two of them. If you have errands you’ve been putting off, this Sunday would be a good one to finally get those done. Next week is looking better, but for now, here are two games to watch in week 9.

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers – 12 CT

It’s been a tough few weeks to be a Falcons fan. After starting the season with three straight wins, the Falcons lost three in a row. Last week, they narrowly beat the Jets (who were leading the game entering the final quarter), and now the roof of the brand new Mercedes-Benz Arena has to be closed for the rest of the season due to leaks. Ouch. Meanwhile, things aren’t very rosy for the Panthers either. After a 4-1 start, the Panthers have dropped two of their last three. In addition to that, they just traded away Kelvin Benjamin (their best receiver) for draft picks, a move that shocked everyone. The Panthers offense hasn’t exactly been electric, and that was with Benjamin. Without him? Well, it’ll be interesting to see how the Panthers plan to adjust. Atlanta is favored in Carolina by a single point, which seems a bit strange to me. I’ll take the Panthers just because they are at home, but I worry about their ability to put points on the board after dumping Benjamin.

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Kansas City Chiefs @ Dallas Cowboys – 3:25 CT

Last week it looked like Ezekiel Elliott was set to play the rest of the season with the Cowboys. Now, the endless saga of appeals has come to an end and Zeke will be serving a six game suspension. The Cowboys are currently sitting at 4-3, second in the NFC East. Can Dak Prescott step up and take control of a Zeke-less offense and lead the Cowboys to the playoffs? If I had to wager, I’d say probably not. Without Elliott, this game has lost some luster. On the other hand, the Chiefs haven’t been looking as stellar as they were during their five game winning streak. Andy Reid has a tendency to get too cute with the offensive play calling at times (the Tyreek Hill pass in the red zone was terrible), but overall the Chiefs still look good. The game is a pick ’em in Vegas, and I’ll happily take the Chiefs.

Four Games to Watch In Week 7

New Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers – 12 CT

The Aaron Rodgers injury looks like it will change the course of the NFC North, but I’m giving Brett Hundley one chance to surprise me. When Hundley filled in for Rodgers after he got hurt in the first quarter against the Vikings, his performance left a lot to be desired. That said, he was facing one of the best defenses in the league, and he did not have snaps with the first team. This week, Hundley should be prepared to play, and it helps he’s facing a less impressive defense (though the Saints defense scored three times last Sunday). For the Saints, they’ve won three straight in impressive fashion. Drew Brees and the rest of the offense have all the tools necessary to destroy the Packers depleted secondary. The Saints are favored in this one by 4.5. Green Bay is a tough place to play, and the last QB named Brett that the Packers started was a Hall of Famer, but I’ll take the Saints.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams – 12 CT

This is a London game, so not quite the typical home field advantage for the Rams. The Rams are perhaps the most surprising team in the league through six weeks with a 4-2 record. I keep waiting for the Rams to implode and go back to the bad team I was expecting them to be, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen. Rookie Head Coach Sean McVay should be an early front runner for Coach of the Year. On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals were bolstered by the addition of Adrian Peterson, who ran for 134 yards and 2 TDs in his debut. Maybe the addition of Peterson will be the thing that turns the Cardinals offense around. The Rams are favored in this one by 3.5, but I’ll take the Cardinals and the points because the game is in London and weird things happen in London games.

Atlanta Falcons @ New England Patriots – 7:30 CT

A rematch of last year’s Super Bowl brings a lot of intrigue, but maybe not quite as much as when the schedule was first released. The Falcons have dropped two straight (both to AFC East teams). Can the Patriots make it three straight? The Patriots are amazingly 4-2 despite some absolutely horrendous defense. The Patriots certainly don’t look like a very good team right now, but they’ve been finding a way to win games. Vegas has the Patriots favored by 3.5. This should be a shootout, and I’ll take the Falcons because the Patriots defense looks so weak.

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles – Monday, 7:30 CT

The Eagles have the best record in the league at the moment, and Carson Wentz is ascending to impressive heights. If the season ended today, Wentz might be the MVP. Not only are Wentz and the offense clicking, the Eagles defense looks really strong, particularly their front seven. Fletcher Cox is a force to reckoned with in the middle, and a handful for even the best offensive linemen in the league. The Eagles won the matchup with the Redskins in Washington the first week of the season, and at home they are 6 point favorites. Not so fast. Since that week one game, the Redskins have only lost the the Chiefs (my current pick for Super Bowl favorites), and even that game was competitive. In a wacky NFL season, I am fully expecting the Redskins to go into Philly and somehow pull off a victory. It’s only fitting with this bizarre NFL season.

Four Games to Watch In Week 3

Atlanta Falcons @ Detroit Lions – 12 CT

This is the game of the week. Both the Falcons and Lions played in prime time games in Week 2, and both looked very impressive. For the Falcons, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman had their way with the Green Bay defense. The Falcons were also able to put pressure on Aaron Rodgers, making it a difficult game for him. The Lions pretty much dominated the Giants from start to finish. Matt Stafford and the rest of the offense look electric, and the defense looks pretty good. In Vegas, the Falcons are favored by 3 points. This should be a very good game, I’ll take the Lions and the points in this one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings – 12 CT

Case Keenum cannot lead the Vikings offense to victory, this is all riding on the idea that Sam Bradford will be able to return from his injury. What’s wrong with Bradford? We still really don’t know. After the first game against the Saints, Bradford’s knee started swelling and causing discomfort, but there has been no confirmation on what the injury actually is. Bradford has been a limited participant in practice twice this week, and he said he expects to play on Sunday. For the Buccs, they are coming off of an impressive win against the Bears. Mike Evans is a freak and will challenge Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes, but I expect the Vikings front seven will put pressure on Jameis Winston and cause a couple turnovers. The Vikings are favored by 2 points, and I’ll take them to cover.

Seattle Seahawks @ Tennessee Titans – 3:05 CT

The Seahawks and Titans both got their first wins of the season last week. While the Titans started slow, they dominated the second half and beat Jacksonville 37-16. The Seahawks on the other hand, barely squeaked out a 12-9 win at home against the lousy 49ers. Going into the season, many expected the Seahawks to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, but so far their offense has struggled mightily. When the line for this game first opened, the Titans were favored by just a single point, but now the line has shifted to 2.5. Seattle’s offensive showing so far does not give me faith that they can keep up with the Titans, I’ll take them to cover. Get ready for Seahawks panic after this one.

Oakland Raiders @ Washington Redskins – 7:30 CT

The Sunday Night game should be a good one. Many were quick to write the Redskins off after their poor performance against the Eagles in Week 1, but the Redskins bounced back in Week 2 and beat the Rams. The Raiders have beaten the Titans and Jets handily, and are one of three teams in the AFC West that are 2-0. If the Redskins can get a quality performance from Kirk Cousins and his wide receivers, they might give the Raiders some trouble. Vegas favors the Raiders by 3. Traditionally, West Coast teams struggle the further east they go, but the late night game may negate some of that. I’ll take the Raiders to cover.