Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 3:00 PM
It’s still assumed that the Green Bay Packers are going to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 50. They’re well clear of the conference field in most respected Power Ratings. But, two legitimate contenders will be squaring off Sunday night when the suddenly hot Philadelphia Eagles visit the undefeated Carolina Panthers.
Calling Philadelphia hot is a little misleading. The offense is still struggling! But, the defense is playing so well that they’re scoring on their own or setting up cheap points. The Eagles have a playoff caliber defense already, as you’ll see in a moment. If the offense can just rise up to “adequate,” this team might still be a threat.
Carolina is also playing great defense. Cam Newton leads a ball control offense that avoids mistakes and takes advantage of field position. It’s tough for that kind of style to be a true juggernaut. But, it can reach and win in the playoffs as we’ve seen time and time again. In fact, it’s the kind of approach that can win a road game in bad January weather at a place like…say…Green Bay!
Let’s run this big TV matchup through the statistical gauntlet and see how things might play out…
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Philadelphia: 3-3 (#17 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)
Carolina: 5-0 (#31 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)
Carolina has played the second easiest schedule in the NFL according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. So…they’re probably not a legitimate superpower. You can pencil in 4-1 or 3-2 vs. a league average schedule. Philadelphia is .500 against that level of opposition. What would people be thinking about the Eagles if they had played the second easiest schedule in the league?
Philadelphia: 5.4 on offense, 5.0 on defense
Carolina: 5.0 on offense, 4.9 on defense
Wow…Carolina’s only +0.1 against an easy schedule! That’s going to be a problem vs. better teams. And, you can see that Philadelphia’s defense is also stellar. It’s tough to hold opponents to a number that low. Both have pulled it off. The Eagles are +0.4…but that tends to come with occasional big plays rather than consistent performance.
Carolina’s been the masters of percentages so far. That great defense forces turnovers and the safe offense tries to avoid making them. That being said…it’s a lot easier to pull that off against a weak schedule than a strong one. Maybe they’re not so well positioned to threaten Green Bay down the road as we thought. Philadelphia’s offense has been mistake-prone…but the defense is humbling opponents with a lot of takeaways. This category could be very interesting…because Carolina may have to open things up…which opens the door to miscues. You probably watched that Monday night game with the Eagles and Giants that saw SEVEN combined turnovers. The Eagles lost the ball four times and still won the game 27-7.
Philadelphia: 3-3 ATS
Carolina: 4-1 ATS
Carolina was definitely underrated by oddsmakers and pro bettors to start the season. They’re getting the money at an 80% success rate thus far…including that outright shocker at Seattle. Philadelphia just blew out the NY Giants and New Orleans, and have covered three of their last four after a rocky start (the other cover was at the NY Jets). You could say the market underrated the Eagles defense…overrated the offense…and it’s yielded a 50/50 performance thus far.
Current Line: Carolina by 3, total of 46.5
Home field advantage is generally worth three points in the NFL. The market is suggesting these are dead even teams. Can’t really argue with that based on the numbers we’ve seen. We’ll have to see what strength of schedule means in the big picture. This particular matchup may come down to who can play cleaner football in the second half. The worst of Philadelphia is in big trouble here…but Carolina will be facing a more aggressive defense than they saw in Seattle. The Eagles really are playing that well on the defensive side.
JIM HURLEY will only release the Sunday Night game if there’s a meaningful edge to exploit. You can purchase the final word for all Sunday action on game day right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 before the early games begin. Don’t forget about that early kick in London this week!
Some very important previews coming up in the NOTEBOOK.
Monday: NFL TV Preview…Baltimore at Arizona
Midweek: NFL TV Preview…Miami at New England
Friday-Saturday: College Football TV Preview…to be determined
Sunday: NFL TV Preview…Green Bay at Denver
Arizona is another NFC hopeful looking to make a statement this week. You know Miami would love to catch New England napping Thursday night. And, how about that Sunday nighter next week! Both the Packers and Broncos will be coming off a bye. That’s one of the best regular season matchups of the whole 2015 campaign!
For now…the Eagles and Panthers will be center stage on Football Night in America. Every night is MONEY NIGHT IN AMERICA when you hook up with JIM HURLEY!
Be sure to follow:
Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters