Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 11, 2017 at 12:00 PM
While it’s a terrible shame that Carson Wentz suffered a knee injury Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Rams that may keep him out of action for the rest of the season, the Philadelphia Eagles still have what it takes to go the distance.
By the time you read this, more will be known about the status of Wentz’s ACL. Early reports weren’t good. But, maybe better news is on the way and he’ll be able to return for the playoffs. For now, let’s assume he won’t.
*Nick Foles is a fine backup quarterback, and is comfortable with this system. While the Eagles do lose some firepower with the absence of Wentz, they don’t fall below “playoff caliber.”
*The Eagles still rank #2 in the NFL in rushing yards per game. Wentz isn’t a running back, so the talent is still there to win on the ground. Maybe Philadelphia will move the ball a bit differently, and have a different pass/rush mix moving forward. The offense isn’t crippled, just less dynamic.
*Defensively, Philadelphia still ranks #4 in the NFL in yards-per-game allowed, and #5 in yards-per-play allowed. The Wentz injury doesn’t make the defense worse, though they might have to be on the field a bit more if Foles can’t move the chains. This is a team that can win with its defense if needed.
*Philadelphia is still in great shape to earn a #1 seed in the NFC brackets. They’re currently #1 with an 11-2 record, and will be favored to win out against a soft schedule. They will be laying points on the road against the hapless NY Giants this week, then will close out the season as home favorites against the fading Oakland Raiders and the possibly disinterested Dallas Cowboys. Dallas may be out of the Wildcard hunt by then, making it a meaningless game for the visitor. If Philadelphia holds on to the #1 seed, they’ll get a bye, and then two home games in the NFC half of the playoffs. Even if Philadelphia falls to #2, they still get a bye and at least one home game.
It's possible to get to the Super Bowl with a below average quarterback if you have a great defense and a strong running game. Philadelphia’s in better shape than that because of overall team depth. And, Foles may not be “below average” in this dynamic system.
Most sports books dropped Philadelphia from 5/1 to win the Lombardi Trophy to 10/1. While meaningful, that’s still fourth best in the NFL behind New England, Pittsburgh, and Minnesota. This isn’t like in Green Bay where the Packers had to replace Aaron Rodgers with Brett Hundley. The Eagles only fall from “championship caliber” to “playoff caliber,” with potential perks from a great record that very much keep them in the championship chase. They take a couple of steps back on the ladder. Philadelphia doesn’t fall off the ladder.
CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS AT WESTGATE IN LAS VEGAS
New England 2/1
New Orleans 10/1
LA Rams 12/1
LA Chargers 18/1
Kansas City 30/1
The AFC is much less crowded, so most of the percentages favor either New England or Pittsburgh getting to the big game and winning. In the NFC, the next five on the list (plus others) will be fighting for the one spot. Once each conference’s sends its representative, the game will be close to pick-em (particularly if Minnesota gets a chance to play on its home field).
How should you handicap the Eagles going forward? Normally, JIM HURLEY would be looking at a “rally ‘round the flag” effort right after the injury. That’s tougher to ask for here because the Eagles will be playing their third straight road game…with two outings on the West Coast. They’ll be looking to get the job done against the Giants rather than worrying about running up the score.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s you vs. the market. If oddsmakers and the general public overreact to the injury, then there’s money to be made. You’re not only handicapping the team, you’re evaluating other people’s perceptions of the team. Pay close attention to how sharps and squares bet this week’s game, and plan accordingly after that.
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We’ll be back with you at the end of the week to talk about handicapping the college football bowl slate that begins on Saturday. There are more great matchups this season than, arguably, in the last five years combined!
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