For what it's worth, I sat there last night, crying in my scotch, as Corey Kluber and the Indians crapped the bed. I live in the metropolitan NY area and have followed the Yankees all season long, but I had a big wager on the Tribe last night, and that takes precedence. I hate CC Sabathia! I think he sucks, and the Indians ought to be flogged for not beating the crap out of him. OK I've ranted enough. On to the NFL.
Last week was a little disappointing. It started out so well, petered out late, and could have been great. We liked five games and won three of them.
Our first loser was the Rams. They could have won, and probably should have won. They completely outplayed the Seahawks, outgaining them 375 to 241 in total yards, and , 5.28 to 3,65 in yards per play. However, it's almost impossible to win in the NFL when you turn the ball over 5 times. The one that really kills me was Gurley's early fumble as he's stretching to get the ball over the goal line. That one alone cost us 7 sure points. The really amazing thing about this games is that in spite of the 5 turnovers, the Rams still had a chance to pull out the win at the end. On the final drive, trailing by 6, with just over a minute left and no timeouts, Jared Goff drove the Rams down the field to the SEA 20, with 35 seconds left on the clock, but the Rams couldn't finish the drive. They dominated the Seahawks, but couldn't quite overcome the turnovers
Our second loser was the Texans, We lost that one o thew first KC drive. When Mercilus and Watt got hurt, it was over. Mercilus' chest injury was bad enough, but the Watt knee fracture was the killer. The Texans couldn't gat any push up front with Watt and Mercilus out. Watt is the heart and soul of the team, and his injury just sucked the life out of the team and the crowd. From that point on, the Texans' defense just couldn't get off the field. The Chiefs converted one 3rd down after another, including a 3rd and 14, and a 3rd and 11. The Texans gave up 35 points! Unfortunately, there's no way to predict injuries ahead of time. I'm not sure the Texans were the right side, but I do know that without Mercilus and Watt, HTN had no chance.
Fortunately, the Eagles, Jaguars and Packers all cashed for us, so we still finished +0.65 units for the day, leaving us at +7.52 units for the season.
As for this week's games, first of all, we're still avoiding totals like the plague. We can't pick totals NFL or MLB to save our lives.
Second, We'll again be posting games as we finalize our wagers.
PHIL @ CAR
My first impression was to pass on this one. I hate Thursday night games, and even though this one features two 4-1 teams squaring off, I had no strong opinion going in. However, a close look look at the injuries changed my mind.
On the PHIL OL, Ts Jason Peters and Lane Johnson are the top tackle duo in the league. However, All-Pro RT Lane Johnson is in concussion protocol, and has been ruled out of this game. That's huge. The Eagles were 5-1 last season and 4-1 this season, with Johnson, in the lineup and 2-8 without him. The one loss with Johnson last season, came against the Lions, when RB Ryan Mathews fumbled late in the game with the Eagles leading and trying to run out the clock. Johnson is arguably the top RT in the league. His replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai won't be able to deal with DE Mario Addison off the edge, and Wentz will get pressured a lot more than he's used to by a Panthers defense that ranks 3rd in the league with 17 sacks.
The rest of the Eagles elite OL should be able to contain DE Julius Peppers and DT Kawann Short for the most part. The Eagles are still solid on n the interior, and they should be able to open holes for RBs LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement.
Last season, the Eagles' major weakness was their running game, or lack thereof. They didn't have anyone capable of pounding the ball between the tackles, when needed. LeGarrette Blount was signed to change that. Blount rushed for 1,161 yds and 18 TDs with the Patriot last season. This season, the Eagles are rushing for 138.8 yds per game (rank #5) and 4.5 yds per carry (rank #6). Last week, Blount rushed for 74 yds on 14 carries. Corey Clement chipped in with 7carries for 17 yds. However, PHIL's 3-headed running back committee could be mission RB Wendall Smallwood who is listed as "questionable".
The Eagles coul have problems running the football here because CAR's run defense is solid. They are allowing just 79.8 yds per game (rank #6), amd 4.0 yds per attempt (rank #17)
2nd year QB Carson Wentz has been better this season with his OL intact. His mobility has allowed him to move around the pocket easily and find open receivers. However, with Johnson out. that could change here. Last week, Wentz was excellent, going 21 of 30 for 304 yds, 4 TDs and 1 INT. Wentz again did a good job of moving around in the pocket and buying time to set up deep throws. Unlike some other QBs, Wentz doesn't settle for short passes on 3rd andl long situations. He was 11 of 12 on 3rd down for 225 yds and 3 TDs. The Eagles are averaging 259 passing yds per game (rank #8) and 7.3 passing yds per attempt (rank #8).
Wentz also has more weapons at his disposal this year including newly acquired WR Alshon Jeffery, WR Nelson Agholor, and TE Zach Ertz. Last week, Ertz had 6 catches for 61 yrds and 1 TD. Agholor chipped in with 4 catches for 93 ydsand 1 TD, and Jeffery also had 3 catches for 21 yrds.
The problem here again is that CAR is very good at defending the pass. They are allowing just 194.2 yds per game (rank #5), and just 5.7 yds per attempt (rank #5)
This week, the Eagles will be facing an elite group of linebackers that has done an excellent job of shutting down opposing TEs, allowing more than 30 yds to a TE just once this season, and that was to NE's Rob Gronkowski. As a result, Ertz could struggle in this one. Ertz is Wentz's favorite target, and the Panthers ability to shut him down could be another big factor in this game.
The Panthers also have OL issues. Their Ts are very shaky. LT Matt Kalil hasn't been very good. RT Daryl Williams has played better than expected, but he hasn't really been tested yet. That will change this week because Williams has a very tough matchup against DE Brandon Graham. DE Vinny Curry should also win his matchup with Kalil. On the interior, C Ryan Kalil has been ruled out for this game, but that might also true of All-Pro DT Fletcher Cox, who has missed the last two games, and is "questionable" again this week . With Kalil out, The Eagles might choose to rest him again and give him some extra time to recover before next Monday's divisional matchup with the Redskins.
I think it's safe to say that Cam Newton is healthy now. That might not have been the case a few weeks ago, when the Panthers lost to the Saints, but he sure looks fine now. Last week, Newton finished 26 of 35 for 355 yds and t TDs. He could've put up even bigger numbers if the game hadn't been so lopsided. Newton put up 237 yds and 2 TDs in the 1st half alone! He has now torched the Patriots two weeks ago and then the Lions, and both teams have better CBs than the Eagles, at least until CB Ronald Darby returns. The only Eagle CB who is playing well is Patrick Robinson. Robinson did a nice job in the slot last week against the Cards stud WR Larry Fitzgerald, but the Panthers don't get much production out of the slot.
Backup TE Ed Dickson, playing for the injured Greg Olsen, caught 5 passes for 175 yards WR Kyle Benjamin caught 4 passes for 58yds and 1 TD, WR Devin Funchess had 7 catches for 53 yds and 1 TD, and RB Christian McCaffrey caught 5 passes for 31 yds and 1 TD. Funchess had his 2nd straight big game. He is off to his best start yet, with 14 catches for 123 yds and 3 TDs in his last 2 games. With teams double-teaming Benjamin, and paying more attention to McCaffrey, as a receiver out of the bckfield, Funchess has become an integral part of CAR's offense.
The Eagles are giving up 283,2 passing yds per game (rank #29), and 7.2 yds per pas attempt (Rank #25), so Benjamin and Funchess could feast on the Eagles' outside CBs. The only favorable matchup the Eagles have here is their LBs going against McCaffrey out of the backfield. The Eagles have done a good job against opposing RBs this season.
The Pantheres don't have a great running game. They are averaging 98.6 yds per came on the ground (rank #19), and just 3.4 yds per rushing attempt (rank #27). McCaffrey did very little on the ground, almost all of his production came as a pass receiver He rushed for just 7 yds on 3 carries. RB Jonathan Stewart had 18 carrier for only 21 yds.
The Eagles are very good at stopping the run. They are giving up just 62.8 rushing yds per game (rank #2), and 3.9 yds per rush attempt. I doubt the Panthers will be able to establish the run here.
The Eagles are still a little underrated. They barely get a mention when folks talk about the top teams in the league, yet they are 4-1, with their only loss at undefeated KC. The Eagles could have beaten the Chiefs, but made too many mistakes. PHIL actually played KC even. They also beat the Redskins, who haven't lost since; beat the desperate Giants in a close one that would've been a blowout had DT Fletcher Cox and MLB Jordan Hicks not been knocked out of the game. They beat he Chargers as a small dog in LA, with an impressive final drive, literally running out the clock and never giving the Chargers the ball or a chance. And Last week they blow out the woeful Cards.
I think the Panthers are alsoa little underrated too. After blowing out the winless 49ers, they beat the Bills, but only by 6, and without scoring a TD. They beat the Pats, but only by 3, and heeded a late NE penalty to keep the Pats from pulling it out at the end. Last week they beat the Lions, but again only by 3. Folks just see the final score and don't realize what a blowout that game really was.
If Lane Johnson and Fletcher Cox were at full strength and playing, I'd be all over the Eagles here, but Johnson's out, and Cox might be as well. That's big, big enough to swing this game in CAR's favor.
This spread looked to be about right at -3, but at +3.5, I'd be a little worried about a Wentz back door TD. The Panthers do tend to get sloppy when they have a huge lead, like last week at DET.
The Eagles have a big division rival, WASH coming to town on Monday night. They could be looking ahead, and could rest players (Cox) here to make sure they're ready next week.
The Panthers may not be able to run, but Newton should be able to pick apart PHIL's suspect secondary, while the Eagles could struggle to move the chains on the ground or through the air, and with no Johnson, Went could see heavy pressure.
The sharps have bet this spread up to -3.5 in some books, so I'll grab the -3.
Pick - CAR -3 (-120 for 2 units)