The Spread and Total
Atlanta Falcons (-2.5, 41 O/U) at Philadelphia Eagles, courtesy of SportsBetting.ag.
After Nick Foles spent the last two weeks proving he can’t run an offense, Philadelphia is left in a historic spot; they are the first ever no. 1 seed to be an underdog in their opening playoff game.
Atlanta Falcons: 11-6 SU (8-9 ATS); 3rd NFC South
Philadelphia Eagles: 13-3 SU (10-6 ATS); 1st NFC East
G Andy Levitre (triceps), out; WR Julio Jones (ankle), probable.
LB Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), questionable; RB Jay Ajayi (knee), probable; DE Brandon Graham (ankle), probable.
Nov. 11, 2016 (Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia): Philadelphia 24, Atlanta 15
Sept. 14, 2015 (Georgia Dome, Atlanta): Atlanta 26, Philadelphia 24
Oct. 28, 2012 (Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia): Atlanta 30, Philadelphia 17
Significant ATS Trends
Philadelphia has failed to cover in three games since Carson Wentz was hurt.
Atlanta is 3-6 ATS on the road this year.
The Eagles are 11-5 ATS at home under Doug Pederson.
The total has gone UNDER in six straight Falcons games.
The total has gone UNDER in five of the last seven Eagles games.
This is not how Eagles fans envisioned this season going. What once seemed like a team that could realistically end 58 years of misery is now not even favored to get out of the Divisional Round … in a game they’re hosting! Even the usually brash Philly faithful don’t love their chances this weekend. But on the heels of a weekend where underdogs went 2-2 straight up and 4-0 against the spread, hope abounds for the Eagles, at least from a betting perspective.
Let’s start with what this team does well. Defensively, they’re a force, ranking fifth in DVOA on that side of the ball. Thanks to a dominant front four featuring Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, the Eagles have snuffed out opponents’ run games, allowing a league-low 79 yards per game. All that focus on opposing running backs has left them only middle of the pack in terms of sacks, racking up 38 on the year.
Honestly though, when it comes to stopping this Falcons offense, pressuring Matt Ryan may not be the answer. With Aaron Donald in his face for almost the entirety of their Wild Card game, Ryan still finished the weekend with a 108.9 passer rating while pressured. A big part of that is just being able to toss it up to Julio Jones, who is even more beastly come playoff time. In seven career postseason games, Jones is catching 80-percent of his targets!
The Eagles have some good cover corners, but the season’s best was located in the slot: Patrick Robinson is only allowing a passer rating of 65.2 when targeted. Jones moves all around the field, but that may be a matchup the Falcons try to avoid when possible.
Then again, expecting Steve Sarkisian to make the right calls with this offense has been an easy way to get burned this season. Despite having all the same key players as last year’s record-setting offense, Atlanta reverted to league-average, scoring just 22.1 points a game. Expectedly, they had their biggest struggles against the league’s best units. Against defenses that finished the regular season top ten in defensive DVOA, the Falcons averaged 17.8 points per game, and that’s including last week’s 26-13 win over the Rams.
So even though you may not have confidence in an Eagles offense led by Nick Foles, there’s no guarantees the Falcons can turn this one into a rout. In fact both team’s will likely try to emulate Atlanta’s game plan from last week, in which they controlled the ball for 37 minutes and capitalized on turnovers. It’s worth remembering that both these quarterbacks are capable of sloppy play. However, where Ryan can flip a switch to great, Foles’ factory setting appears to be awful.
Still, the Jaguars managed to squeak out a playoff win with terrible quarterbacking last weekend; they limited their offense to mostly hand offs and QB runs. And where Jacksonville just has one capable running back, the Eagles have a stable of playmakers on that side of the ball: Legarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement can all rack up yards. Atlanta’s speedy defense is excellent at making tackles out in open space, but Philly should be able to find success in the trenches, running behind All-Pro center Jason Kelce.
There’s also a chance of showers in the forecast for Philadelphia, which would only make a run-heavy, win-ugly strategy for the Eagles even more attractive.
The right choice on this game may come down to what time you place your bet. Every time the line moves to Eagles +3, sharps have been jumping on it. Nobody likes Philly at +2.5, but getting a solid three points at home is a good bet. Since that’s not what we’re getting at the moment, I’m going to go ahead and recommend buying the half-point here.
Think about it this way; there has never been a no. 1-seed underdog in this round before, even though there have been some terrible quarterbacks leading no. 1 seeds: Rex Grossman in 2006, Kerry Collins in 2008, zombie Peyton Manning in 2015. Yet getting three points with all those teams would’ve been an undeniably great bet. A football team doesn’t win 13 games in this league without being good in a lot of different areas. The Eagles are good in a lot of different areas, and now Vegas has given them extra motivation. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Pick: Eagles (buying +2.5 down to +3) and UNDER (41).