Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 7:00 AM
It’s one thing to get steamed on the road against the Dallas Cowboys. The Pokes had just lost badly in the second half to the Atlanta Falcons, and would be without star rushing weapon Ezekiel Elliott. You can see why smart bettors would like the Philadelphia Eagle to win big.
It’s still not particularly dramatic to be steamed the next week against the Chicago Bears. Chicago’s starting a rookie quarterback who’s only being allowed to run the most simple offensive plays. Philadelphia was already a big favorite…smart money made them a slightly bigger favorite.
But, getting steamed AT SEATTLE?! Possibly the toughest road site in all of football? In a prime-time game where the noise is even louder because fans have been drinking all day? For the Philadelphia Eagles to move from a 3-point favorite to as high as a 6-point favorite vs. THAT team at THAT site sounds impossible.
It happened this week. Who knows, maybe the line will scoot even higher before kickoff if the public keeps winning with favorites and decides to lay more chalk.
If you understand how betting markets and team Power Ratings work, you know that the Eagles are now being priced like a Super Bowl champion. Home field in Seattle is worth at least three points (particularly for a visitor flying cross-country), and might be worth as much as four in this particular schedule spot. Let’s say Philadelphia ends up laying -5 just to play it safe…that’s still 8-9 points better than possible playoff team Seattle on a NEUTRAL field. The markets are saying Philadelphia would be a double-digit home favorite if these teams met in the playoffs (which is possible).
Do you believe that? We have to admit that this recent Eagles sequence is impressive:
Philadelphia (-13) beat San Francisco 33-10 (covered by 10 points)
Philadelphia (-7) beat Denver 51-23 (covered by 21 points)
Philadelphia (-6) won at Dallas 37-9 (covered by 22 points)
Philadelphia (-14) beat Chicago 31-3 (covered by 14 points)
Can’t argue with that, 154-45 on the scoreboard over a month of football. And, the Eagles covered the spread by a combined 67 points even with the steam in those last two games against Dallas and Chicago. But, something should jump out at you. That’s a list of BAD opponents. None of the four are going to be in the playoffs barring a Cowboys miracle. If Dallas does make it, it will be a healthier, more complete version (Elliott would be back) than the Eagles saw that night.
All we know for sure is that Philadelphia’s offense can run up the score on bad teams, particularly after they throw in the towel. And, that the defense can keep one-dimensional quarterbacks from playing catch up in garbage time. The Eagles won’t be facing C.J. Beathard or Brock Osweiler in the playoffs.
Sunday night’s game at Seattle is the BEST test for true Super Bowl quality that Philadelphia has left on its regular season schedule. Yes, they visit the Los Angeles Rams next week, which will also be a toughie. But…the Rams don’t have Seattle’s home field advantage. The Rams don’t have Seattle’s Super Bowl experience. And, the Rams don’t have a head coach or a starting quarterback that yet now what it means to perform their current roles in “playoff style” football.
If the Eagles can cover this spread, then they really are prohibitive favorites to win the NFC in January. But, if they lose outright, the race will be much more wide-open because the Seahawks would likely have exposed weaknesses that quality playoff opponents will be able to exploit next month (two opponents from a possible pool of Minnesota, New Orleans, Atlanta, Carolina, the Rams, Seattle, or maybe even Detroit or a more-complete Dallas).
Keys to watch:
*Carson Wentz against a fired up, quality defense
*Carson Wentz when pressured by the crowd (composure check)
*Philadelphia’s defense against a versatile, experienced quarterback
*Philadelphia’s coaching staff when tested by a real threat
Maybe JIM HURLEY will have a release for clients in this big TV game. Even if he doesn’t, it’s one everyone should WATCH and learn from so smart bets can be made in future Eagles games. If the Eagles flunk this test, they might flunk that road game at the Rams too, and have trouble covering inflated playoff spreads. If Philadelphia continues to soar, there’s no telling when the line will catch up. Maybe that’s still a few games away.
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Back with you Monday to recap college football’s conference championship weekend, and to take an early look at pointspreads for the Final Four. Later in the month we’ll preview the National Semifinals and Championship game for you right here in the NOTEBOOK. Of course, we’ll preview all the biggest NFL games as well.
Now, go GET THE MONEY Saturday and Sunday in CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!