The Philadelphia Eagles have picked an excellent year to have a 5-7 record going into a Monday night game in early December.
While teams already 6-7, and even the 7-6 Chicago Bears, have virtually no chance of making the playoffs, the Eagles remain in control of their destiny — starting with a contest in which they’re favored by more than a touchdown against the visiting New York Giants (2-10).
That’s because even though Philadelphia has lost three straight games, including last week’s stunner to the Dolphins, the Cowboys have done the same. A Thursday night loss to the Bears has left Dallas at 6-7, which the Eagles can equal by midnight.
For the two teams vying to win the NFC (L)East, their rematch at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 22 will almost certainly be critical. Here’s the situation before then:
First things first
If the Eagles don’t start the last quarter of their season by beating the Giants, their playoff picture gets verrry improbable.
The good news is they are a 9-point favorite tonight on the majority of Pennsylvania online betting sites, with FanDuel and FOX Bet making the spread 8.5 and thus more attractive for those who want to bet the Eagles. (Everyone had the over/under set at 44.5 as of Monday morning, and most had Philadelphia -400 on the moneyline.)
Of course, the Eagles were favored by even more vs. the Dolphins, so they carry a “buyer beware” cautionary note based on recent foibles. But there’s no question the Giants have their own bevy of woes, enabling them to get in contention for the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, should the Cincinnati Bengals opt to win another game or two.
The most intriguing thing from the Giants’ side of the ball will be the start at quarterback of Eli Manning. The two-time Super Bowl winner was behind center for the Giants’ 0-2 start this year before giving way to the now-injured Daniel Jones. New York is 8-25 with Manning at QB over the last few years, but he is eager to show other teams he is worthy of being an off-season pickup.
No doubt, Carson Wentz has had his own troubles this year, with an injured and weak receiving corps part of the blame. FanDuel lists a player prop of passing yards over/under for the game of 250.5 for Manning, compared to 238.5 for Wentz.
Among its player props, DraftKings has the o/u for rushing yards set at 66.5 for Miles Sanders and 60.5 for Saquon Barkley.
FOX Bet is offering a few “Bet Boost” options, including a payoff of +240 if the Eagles win while Wentz throws for at least three touchdowns. If you successfully bet an Eagles win combined with 10-plus receptions for Zach Ertz, the return on the bet is +280.
The NFC East is within reach
For the division title, the Eagles are placed at +110 on many sites, with FanDuel providing a +125 that’s more favorable for betting by those with faith in Philadelphia (though you’ll want to read ahead to a Parx offer before acting on that).
The Cowboys are the division favorite (between -136 and -150) partly because they’ve already won their sixth game, but also, they won the teams’ first matchup and could pretty much clinch things by winning the rematch.
The Cowboys also presently own a 4-0 record within the division (compared to the Eagles’ 1-1), which is the first tie-breaker after head-to-head competition, should the Eagles win on Dec. 22.
The biggest edge to the Eagles is the remainder of their schedule other than the Cowboys game. It consists of tonight’s Giants game at home, visiting the 3-10 Redskins on Sunday, and, in the season finale, visiting the Giants at the Meadowlands.
Dallas, meanwhile, hosts the 8-5 Rams on Sunday and visits the Redskins to close out the season.
Given all that, the analytical website fivethirtyeight.com gives the Eagles a 43% chance to win the division, compared to 57% for the Cowboys.
That’s why while a wager on Philadelphia at +110 to come out ahead is no bargain, the team’s backers should consider visiting the Parx site before kickoff vs the Giants. A one-day “Odds Boost” on the site sets Philly’s division-winning odds at +175. The bet limit is $50, but hey, that’s an $87.50 profit if it hits.
Things could get historic, in a bad way
A situation in which no NFC East team will have a winning record with three games remaining compels us to wonder just how bad things could end, in terms of ignominy.
The worst record of any NFL playoff team belonged to the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks of 2010, a dark mark that is within reach. The only other playoff team with a losing record in a full season was the Carolina Panthers of 2014, at 7-8-1.
It is not inconceivable that the Eagles and Cowboys would reach Dec. 22 both with 6-8 records, putting the winner at 7-8. They both close out the season on the road. One of them could then join 10 other teams since 1985 to reach the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
Or … well, it may be horrible to contemplate, but if you’re an Eagles fan, would you like your team to make the playoffs even with a sub-.500 record that puts it in NFL annals to be referred to whenever a similar future scenario arises? Or would you rather just be left out? Your call.
On the other side of the state …
The Pittsburgh Steelers, while no powerhouse themselves, used another strong defensive effort vs. the Cardinals Sunday to better their playoff odds.
Overcoming the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North is unthinkable, but Pittsburgh would be the second wild card team and No. 6 seed in the playoffs if the season were to end now. It has a tiebreaker advantage over the Tennessee Titans, who are likewise 8-5.
FanDuel makes Pittsburgh a heavy favorite to make the playoffs, at -205 on the “yes” and +150 on the “no.”
Fivethirtyeight.com puts the Steelers’ playoff chances at 62%, which is twice as likely as was the case two weeks ago. Their remaining schedule is no cakewalk, however, hosting the Bills Sunday night before visiting the Jets and Ravens. They have some hope that the Ravens will have clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC by that final game and may be resting key starters.
The Bills game could be a critical matchup, regardless, potentially even pushing Pittsburgh ahead of Buffalo in playoff seedings. The Steelers opened as favorites in the game by 1 to 2 points.
Photo by Jasen Vinlove / USA Today Sports