No one would have suspected weeks ago that the Eagles would be playing a vital game in the NFL’s Week 18 against a New York Giants team that is locked into its own playoff spot.
But that’s the situation for Sunday’s 4:25 p.m. matchup between the teams at Lincoln Financial Field, with Philadelphia again in position with a win to lock up the NFC’s top postseason seed and its only playoff bye. That was also the case the past two weeks, but the Eagles were inept Sunday in a 20-10 home loss to the New Orleans Saints after nearly beating the Cowboys in Dallas.
Philly does have one excuse for those losses — the absence of Jalen Hurts with a shoulder sprain — and a lot of this week’s attention is focused on whether he will play against New York. With Hurts healthy, the Eagles easily won 48-22 in the teams’ meeting at MetLife Stadium Dec. 11.
The Eagles desperately need him back.https://t.co/VJ0qCI7sqD
— Football Rumors (@ProNFLRumors) January 5, 2023
The star quarterback — a one-time favorite for the NFL’s MVP Award who was overtaken by Patrick Mahomes due to the injury — was described as a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice. Nothing had yet been determined about whether Gardner Minshew would be returning to backup duties.
Despite the uncertainty, the online sportsbooks have the Eagles as a heavy two-touchdown favorite for the game. That partly reflects optimism that Hurts’ shoulder has had enough time to heal, but also the prospect of Giants coach Brian Daboll resting key players — notably quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley — since New York will be the NFL’s sixth seed in the playoffs regardless of the game’s outcome.
As of Thursday morning, Daboll had issued no definitive statement about which starters, if any, will be rested.
A win clinches a lot, while loss would be costly
With their 13-3 record, the Eagles are one game ahead of the San Francisco 49ers and the Cowboys. Those teams are also heavily favored in their games against the Arizona Cardinals and Washington Commanders, respectively, and if they win while Philadelphia loses, the Eagles would become the No. 5 seed instead of No. 1 with their own win.
The Eagles were 14-point favorites over the Giants Thursday morning at all of the sportsbooks except PointsBet, which listed 13.5 and would thus be a better option for an Eagles backer.
Any bet on the Eagles moneyline requires a heavy investment for a small reward, with the -900 posted by FanDuel and Caesars Sportsbook as well as PointsBet being the best option. The over/under was most commonly listed as 43, but FOX Bet joined FanDuel in using 42.5 with “over” bettors at both being charged extra vig beyond the standard -110.
Against a mediocre Saints team, the Eagles trailed 13-0 at the half and their 10 ultimate points scored were the lowest of the season.
Minshew completed 18 of 32 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown, but he had a costly fourth quarter interception and the offense failed to convert in a critical fourth-down situation late in the game. He was also sacked six times, lacking the kind of mobility that Hurts uses typically to destroy a defense trying to pressure him.
The Giants’ Jones threw for two TDs and ran for two more in New York’s playoff-clinching 38-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts. If Daboll keeps him on the sidelines, the Giants offense would be led by Tyrod Taylor, who has thrown all of eight passes this year and was last a regular as the Buffalo Bills quarterback in 2015-17.
Despite their stumbles of late, the Eagles remain the third-rated Super Bowl favorite with the sportsbooks, at +550 and behind the Bills and Kansas City Chiefs at both FanDuel and DraftKings.
Bets can also be placed on the Eagles as a heavy favorite to win the NFC East, a scenario that would be ruined only if they lose Sunday, the Cowboys win, and Dallas thus wins a tiebreaker as a result of a better divisional record. DraftKings prices the Eagles at -1200 to win the division, a better payout than FanDuel’s -1400.
Photo: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com/USA TODAY Network