When the Eagles take the field in Chicago Sunday afternoon, they will be facing a quarterback who resembles a younger Jalen Hurts, but Philly has the real MVP favorite — plus a whole lot more.
Hence, Philadelphia is a heavy road favorite against Justin Fields and the struggling Bears in pursuing its fifth straight win and a near-lock on a first-round bye in the postseason. Pennsylvania’s online sportsbooks had the Eagles as a consensus 9-point favorite as of Friday morning.
The Steelers visit the Carolina Panthers, meanwhile, in a game matching two 5-8 teams mired in mediocrity in 2022, but one of which has a shot at playing beyond the regular season. Thanks to the lowly status of the NFC South, in which no team has a winning record, Carolina is just a game behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Carolina is a small favorite, by a field goal or less, in a game expected to be close and low-scoring, with uncertainty still surrounding the Steelers’ quarterback situation late in the week.
Eagles seem to be at their best
The Eagles’ 48-22 win over the New York Giants Sunday followed a 25-point margin over the Tennessee Titans the week before. It’s a 12-1 team that somehow seems to be playing even better than when it rolled off eight straight wins to start the season.
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) December 12, 2022
It’s almost as if the only thing that could get in the way of the Eagles in Chicago — facing a 3-10 team that has lost six straight — is if they are caught looking ahead to a Christmas Eve showdown with the Cowboys in Dallas.
Aside from the 9-point spread — the second-biggest margin on the NFL slate this weekend — the lopsided moneyline makes it hard for a Philly backer to make much money without risking a lot. The best return is -400, available from FanDuel, BetMGM, FOX Bet, or PointsBet.
The over/under is almost universally 48.5, although “over” bettors could go to PointsBet to use 48 with just -107 vig.
Philadelphia has averaged 41 points all by itself in its last three games, becoming the NFL’s highest-scoring team. During their six-game losing streak, the Bears have given up an average of 33.5 points. One might forgive Hurts, Miles Sanders, A.J. Brown, and DeVonta Smith if they’re in a hurry to board the flight to Chicago.
While the Eagles have amassed the second-most rushing yards per game in the NFL, the Bears are the one team ahead of them, with 189.2 per game. On the other hand, they are last in passing, averaging 140.6 yards.
Even more than Hurts, Fields is a running threat, leading his team with 905 yards on the ground and an average of 7.1 per carry. Chicago had a bye last week, and in the game before that — a 28-19 loss to Green Bay in which the Bears were outscored 18-0 in the fourth quarter — Fields completed 20 of 25 passes for 254 yards, with two interceptions, and scored on a 55-yard run.
For player props on Sunday’s game, DraftKings has set Hurts’ over/under on passing yards at 235.5 and Fields at 164.5. Hurts’ rushing o/u is 47.5, with Fields at 70.5.
Matchup meaningful despite the mediocrity
Pittsburgh lost rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett to concussion protocol early last Sunday and lost the game to the Baltimore Ravens, 16-14, after replacement Mitch Trubisky threw three interceptions. Pickett has been limited in practice this week, hasn’t yet been cleared to play against the Panthers, and Trubisky seems to be the likely starter Sunday. Backup Mason Rudolph, who hasn’t played a down this season, is another option for coach Mike Tomlin.
The Panthers have won two straight games since Sam Darnold returned from a high ankle sprain, and that includes Sunday’s 30-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Most of the sportsbooks list Pittsburgh as a 3-point underdog, but with inflated vig at that point spread, such as -115 from BetMGM, Barstool Sportsbook, BetRivers, betPARX, Unibet, and PointsBet. Another option for a Steelers backer is getting just 2.5 points with reduced juice of -105 from DraftKings and Betway.
On the moneyline, DraftKings, Betway, Caesars, PointsBet, and Betfred were all offering a +130 return on the Steelers. The over/under was among the lowest for NFL games this week, at 37.5 across the board.
The Ravens’ running attack mauled the Steelers defense last week, and the Panthers could be a threat to do likewise after rushing for 408 yards in their last two games, including 223 against Seattle. D’Onta Foreman became Carolina’s top back starting with Week 7, and his four 100-yard games since then are tied for tops in the league.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, only posted 65 yards on the ground against Baltimore after having shown a resurgent running game in the weeks prior. Najee Harris was held to 33 yards on 12 carries.
Despite the 5-8 records, the rest of the season is meaningful to both teams. If Carolina wins out over its final four — though it has no wins over the Steelers in six meetings since 1996 — it will make the playoffs. If Pittsburgh wins out, it will enable Tomlin to avoid the first losing season of his 16 as a head coach.
Photo: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com/USA TODAY Network