Eagles – 49ers

A few thoughts for today’s game:

– At some point, you figure the Eagles injuries and inconsistent offense have to cost them. Today looks like a prime opportunity to drop a game.  Here’s the good news: the Eagles took care of business over an easy start to the season, and have some room for error now.  So my overview today focuses on one point:  this is a relatively unimportant game for the Eagles.  It might come into play for the wild card, but it’s pretty clear that the Eagles best opportunity for a playoff spot will come from winning the division.  The worst they can do after today is a tie with Dallas.  Meanwhile, the Cowboys are underdogs against New Orleans and the Giants (bye week) already have 2 losses.

So today is all about upside. A win puts the Eagles in a strong position to make a run at a top conference seed, but a loss doesn’t cost them much.

– Colin Kaepernick scares me today.  The Eagles are down their most athletic LB (Kendricks), and I don’t know who is going to chase down the 49ers QB.  Billy Davis likes sending A-gap pressure, but if the Eagles have nobody to contain a roll-out it will be a huge day for Kaepernick on the ground.  The good news is that the 49ers passing attack isn’t that potent, so we should see Fletcher and Allen get a slight reprieve from last week, at least in coverage.  They might still be called on to take down a runner…

– The 49ers have a mediocre STs unit, at least thus far.  While there aren’t as many glaring holes as we saw against the Redskins, there should be some opportunity in the kick return game.  In a close matchup, a field position advantage could easily swing the game.

– The 49ers, despite my misgivings, are not as good right now as they have been over the past few seasons.  Particularly important for the Eagles is the 49ers pass-rush struggles.  Last year, the 49ers had a sack rate of 7.16%.  This year, they’ve recorded sacks on just 3.67% of drop-backs.  Hopefully this is significant, and not just a short-term blip.  If it is, then things won’t be quite as dire for the Eagles’ O-Line as many expect.

More thoughts below in my BGN piece, but today is a good day to not think too much.  A win is very meaningful, a loss is not.  We’re essentially playing out a free option, so enjoy it.

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My picks record to date:

Line: 2 – 1

O/U: 1 – 2

Reader record:

Line: 2 – 1

O/U: 3 – 0

This week’s lines:

Eagles +4.5 (-115)

49ers -4.5 (-105)

Over 51 (-105)

Under 51 (-115)

Reviewing last week:

Enough is enough, I’ve learned my lesson.  With Chip Kelly’s offense and Billy Davis’ defense, it looks as though you really can’t make the O/U high enough.  The Eagles have hit the over in 6 of the last 8 games, and 8 of the last 10 road games.  Regarding my analysis, I made one very big mistake.  I significantly underrated Kirk Cousins.  That didn’t hurt me on the line breakdown, but it definitely played into the Under pick.

This week’s matchup:

I’m thinking of this game as a pure bonus.  The Eagles face a very tough matchup on the road against a 49ers team that is pretty desperate for a win (at least as desperate as a team can be 3 games in).  Moreover, Colin Kaepernick is particularly troublesome given Mychael Kendricks’ absence.  Throw in the offensive line injuries, and you can see why the Eagles are 4.5 point underdogs against a team with 1 win and a negative point differential.  So, while you’re watching, try to keep that in perspective.  The Eagles took care of business over an easy first 3 games and the team doesn’t really “need” this game.  Now, to the FO rankings:

Eagles overall DVOA: 20.9% (8th)

49ers Overall DVOA: -1.9% (18th)

Eagles Offense DVOA: 5.1% (12st)

49ers Defense DVOA: 4.8% (21st)

Eagles Defense DVOA: -7.0% (7th)

49ers Offense DVOA: 5.4% (10th)

It’s also worth noting that the Eagles rank 3rd overall in STs DVOA, while the 49ers rank 22nd.  Lastly, FiveThirtyEight.com has started putting out weekly ELO ratings and using them to create “true” point spreads.  This week, the site has the same line as Bovada (49ers -4.5).

So, what the hell is going on?  On paper, the Eagles have been a much better team. As you can see above, the Eagles rank better in each phase of the game, yet they’re still 4.5 point underdogs.  Even if we assume 3 points for home field advantage (unless it’s Seattle I usually use 2), that still leaves the 49ers as the favored team on a neutral field.  As I mentioned above, the 49ers have a negative point differential (-6), while the Eagles rank 3rd overall with a +23 PD.

We know the Eagles resume.  Here’s what the 49ers have done thus far:

Beat the Cowboys in 28 – 17 (Road)

Lost to the Bears 20 – 28 (Home)

Lost to the Cardinals 14  – 23 (Road)

And there it is.  The Bears are 5th in DVOA, the Cardinals are 12th.  Clearly, the 49ers have played a much tougher schedule than the Eagles have.  The Bears and Cardinals both rank in the top ten on defense, which might explain why the 49ers scoring output has been so poor (just 20.7 ppg).  Despite a 7th defensive DVOA ranking, I’m not willing to put the Eagles defense on that level.  That means we can expect the 49ers to outperform their average output so far.  If we factor in home field and use the Cowboys as a comp (a little worse than the Eagles), we’re in a scoring range of 25 – 31 points.  With the Kendricks’ injury, I think they’ll be at the high end of that range, so lets say 28-31 points for the 49ers.

For the Eagles, we have a much tougher analysis.  The injuries to the O-Line are ridiculous.  If it were any other team, I’d project a severe diminution in scoring.  Of course, this is Chip Kelly’s team, and he’s currently on an extremely prolific scoring streak as an offensive coach.  The Eagles are averaging 33.7 ppg this season and have gone over 30 each time.  Going back to last season, the Eagles have scored 30 or more in 7 of the past 11 regular season games (starting after the Matt Barkley Giants game).  Over that same stretch, the lowest number of points the Eagles have scored is 24.  So we’ve really got to give Chip the benefit of the doubt here.  I do think the Eagles will struggle to move the ball on Sunday, but one way or another the team always finds way to put points on the board (even if it comes on STs or D).

Still, the road game against what I believe to be a decent defense (certainly better than JAX and IND, probably better than WAS despite what DVOA says) coupled with the injuries on offense means I’m projecting output BELOW the average thus far (33.7).   I’m going to go even further than that and say the Eagles expected point production will be towards the bottom of the range we’ve seen over the past 11 games.  That puts us in the 24-27 range.

Let’s do this in matrix form:

Screen_shot_2014-09-26_at_3.49.13_pm_medium

Green means the Eagles cover, Yellow means the 49ers cover.  As you can see, there’s more green than yellow.  So, if we’re using this matrix, we should take the Eagles +4.5.  It’s also pretty obvious from the chart that we’re looking at an Over 51 pick.  Also note that there are no negative numbers up there.  The ranges don’t overlap, so even though I’m taking the Eagles, I still see this as a loss.

Eagles – Colts Odds

As some of you know, I write a weekly odds column for Bleeding Green Nation.  I’ll be posting it here as well from here on in.  It’s a fairly rough analysis, so keep in mind that its intended for a slightly different audience.

——

My Picks Record to Date:

Line: 0 – 1

Over/Under: 1 – 0

Poll Record (whichever choices got the most votes):

Line: 1 – 0

Over/Under: 1 – 0

This week’s lines:

Eagles +3 (-105)

Colts -3 (-115)

Over 54 (-115)

Under 54 (-105)

Notes:  The line opened at Colts -2.5.  Market is probably reacting to the Eagles injuries and first-half performance against the Jags.  Probably some recency effect here but, given the injury complications, not enough to give a strong signal one way or the other.

Reviewing last week:

The game didn’t play out exactly as we though it would, but it’s hard to be too disappointed with the results.  Yes, the Eagles delivered one of the most ridiculous back-door covers I’ve ever seen, but at least the good guys won.  Above all else, the game did a good job of underlining the main point I made last week: The first couple of weeks are very difficult to analyze.  There is a lot of uncertainty, and until you see a team play a few times against a variety of competition, it’s impossible to get a really good read on its true strength.

Moving forward, note that the Eagles almost hit the over as well, despite scoring 0 points in the first half.  This team can score VERY quickly, so expect to see a lit of high lines this season.  That might provide some opportunities, but it will also lead to some late-game nail-biting for those of you who do wager.

This week:

As shown above, the Eagles face their first test as an underdog this season.  The Colts are favored by 3 points, meaning Vegas sees the teams as relative equals (2-3 points are given for home field).  We already know what the Eagles did last week.  Meanwhile, the Colts lost by a touchdown (31-24) to the Broncos in Denver.  Note, the game wasn’t as close as the final score suggests.  Denver led 24-0 at one point.

Lets look at some data.  One week isn’t a very good sample, so we’re still reaching back to last season for indications of each team’s strengths/weaknesses.

From last season:

Eagles Overall DVOA:  15.2% (8th overall).

Colts Overall DVOA: 3.2% (13th overall).

Eagles Offense: 22.9% (3rd)

Colts Defense: 0.9% (16th)

Eagles Defense: 4.9% (23rd)

Colts Offense: 4.3% (13th)

Special teams were not significantly different.

The numbers above give the Eagles the advantage.  However, these are obviously a bit out of date.  After last week, my concerns about the offense remain.  Yes, the team scored 34 points, but is anyone out there confident?  The good news is that the Colts defense isn’t great.  In fact, the one player that would really worry me, Robert Mathis, won’t play (suspension + Injury).  How big of a loss is that?  Well last season the Colts had 42 sacks.  Mathis had 19.5 of them (46%).  Also, the Colts had a sack rate of 7.04% last season, good for 9th overall.  In their first game, against a very immobile QB (Manning), the team recored just one sack and registered a rate of 2.7%.  For reference, the Jaguars had a sack rate of 10% against the Eagles this past week.  In other words, with the Eagles injury problems on the O-Line, the team is pretty fortunate to be going against the Colts.  Overall, the matchup looks pretty good for the offense.

On the flip side, the Eagles defense and the Colts offense look like a fairly even matchup.  I’m a very big fan of Andrew Luck, and if the Eagles have DB breakdowns like they did last week, he’ll take advantage of them.  However, the cast around him isn’t great.  The Colts’ RB corps shouldn’t scare anyone (Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson).  At WR, Reggie Wayne is still playing at a relatively high level, at least when he’s on the field (he missed 9 games last season).  We’re all familiar with Hakeem Nicks.  The one player that really does scare me is T.Y. Hilton.  In his second year in the league (last season), Hilton had 1000+ receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. He also ran a 4.34 40 when he entered the league, and at 24 years old probably hasn’t lost a step.  As I said last season, with the Eagles issues at Safety, speed scares me a lot more than size.  If Fletcher Cox and Mychael Kendricks play as well as they did last week, though, the Eagles should be able to focus heavily on stopping the passing game.

Lastly, since 2004 there have been 21 home teams that were favored by 3 points in a Monday Night game.  8 of them covered.  That’s not statistically significant, but if we expand the data set, the trend persists.

Post-merger, just 22 of 57 teams that were favored by 3 points at home in a Monday Night game covered the spread. Meanwhile, over the past 10 years, road teams favored on Monday Night by 3 points have covered the spread 14 out of 19 times.

To reiterate: that doesn’t lead us to any conclusions, and if we play with the data enough we can make it say whatever we want.  However, it suggests that MAYBE home field advantage doesn’t mean as much in Monday Night games as it does in Sunday games, at least not when teams are evenly matched.

Coming into this breakdown, I expected to end up picking the Colts.  However, after looking at the data, injuries, recent results, etc., I’m going the other way.  This is a tough game for the Eagles, and I’m not very confident in a win (it’s a tossup), but since it looks like a close matchup and a lot of uncertainty remains, take the points.  With the 3 point line, we also have some protection against a late FG to win for the Colts.

I’m taking the Eagles +3.  The fact that it’s against the crowd makes me feel even better about it.

The over/under is set at 54 points.  That’s really high.  The only other line above 50 this week is Denver-KC (51).  To cover, each team would need to score 27 points.  Last season, the Eagles scored 27 or more points 9 times.  The Colts also hit the mark 9 times.

However, last week the Colts “held” Denver to 31 points in Denver.  The Eagles offense is not as good as the Broncos’ offense.  The Eagles put up 34 points, but did so against a Jaguars defense that will probably finish in the bottom third of the league (maybe worse).

Data-wise, over the past 10 years Monday Night Dome games have hit the over just 22 times in 64 games.  Small sample of course, but suggestive.  We don’t know if the roof will be open or closed, but right now the forecast calls for a chance of rain.

What this really comes down to is:  Do you have faith in either team to score 30+ points?  If not, take the under.  After last week’s performance, I’m not banking on the Eagles.  If the Eagles defense really has improved from last season, it should also be tough for the Colts to hit that mark.  In all, I think this game shakes out in the 27-24 range one way or the other.

Hence, take the under.

So, we’re still in rather uncertain territory, but I’m taking the Eagles +3 and the Under.

Eagles vs. Saints: Odds Breakdown

blew it last week, missing on both the spread and O/U (very rare, at least this season). I blame Patrick Chung…but I did overlook the recency effect of the Bears game. Probably wouldn’t have effected the final pick, but may have changed the expected safety margin.

Anyway, that’s all in the past. Unfortunately, this week is difficult, for several reasons I’ll explain below. I’m assuming everyone has already read a ton of breakdowns, so I’ll keep the stat comparisons to a minimum, let’s just get the basics out of the way:

The Eagles are favored by 2.5. The Over/Under is 53.5 or 54, depending on the source.

– Eagles rank 8th overall by DVOA, the Saints rank 4th.

– The Eagles offense ranks 2nd. The Saints defense ranks 10th.

– The Eagles defuse ranks 23rd. The Saints offense ranks 5th.

– The Eagles STs rank 25th, NO ranks 24th.

– The Eagles point differential this year is +60. The Saints is +110.

Overall, the Saints have been the better team, though the only significant advantage is presented by the weakness of the Eagles defense. However, as everyone’s heard by now, the Saints offense has been MUCH better at home than on the road this year. If that’s meaningful (and not just a statistical fluke), it could go a long way towards equalizing the only significant difference in these two teams. Also, this is my favorite stat for this week (for Eagles fan’s confirmation bias):

In playoff games when the weather was 35 degrees or below, dome teams have won 3 of 25 games. – Chase Stuart

Now, let’s actually analyze this a bit.

The Spread

The following numbers show why this game is a terrible one to bet on:

NO – 14.7% (25th)

PHI – 30.1% (32)

Any guesses as to what those represent? It’s something I’ve talked about relatively recently. Maybe this will make it easier:

I’m talking about the performance Variance of each team, as measured by Football Outsiders. Put simply, these are two of the least predictable teams in the league. For projection purposes, that’s obviously a bad thing (in this case, sometimes you can benefit from high-variance). As you can see in the rough approximation I’ve drawn above, while the Saints are the slightly better team, there is a LOT of room for overlap here, and the spread is just 2.5 points.

So, I’ll make a score projection anyway, but it will warrant less confidence then usual.

Player-wise, Kenny Stills scares me a lot, as the PHI safeties don’t have the speed to stay with him. Darren Sproles does as well, because the defense has struggled to cover RBs out of the backfield. Graham will get his, but if the Saints win, it’ll be because one of those two guys (if not both) do some serious damage.

There are two games on the Saints schedule this year that stand out as good comparisons for this week. In weeks 5 and 6, the Saints played Chicago and New England, both on the road. Chicago’s defense ranks 25th, two spots below the Eagles. The Saints scored 26 points against them in a win. New England’s defense is ranked 21st, two spots higher than the Eagles. The Saints scored 27 points against them in a loss. Unfortunately, those games took place relatively early in the season. However, the Saints do not have any major injuries (though Pierre Thomas might sit out), and the team that took the field in those games is very similar to the one that will play against the Eagles.

Overall, the Saints are averaging 25.9 points per game, but just 17.75 on the road. Note, however, that those road games included contests against Seattle, Carolina, Tampa Bay, the Jets, and the Rams. Those 5 teams are all ranked in the top 12 in defensive DVOA.

As a result, I think we should put more stock into the overall average and the games against the Bears and PatriotsThat gives us a projection of 26-27 points.

Meanwhile, the Eagles are averaging 27.6 points per game. As far as key guys, I’m looking to Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. Shady should have a big game, but that’s expected. After watching the Cowboys, I’m sure the Saints will look to pressure Foles, which means he’ll need outlets. If I’m Kelly, I use the TEs to chip the DEs/LBs, then leak into the middle of the field, 5-10 yards from the line. Foles’ height and the shotgun snap should allow him to hit this area despite having defenders in his face, and both Celek and Ertz can be dangerous after the catch (though for different reasons). The normal screen game would make sense, but it’ll likely be a focus of the Saints defensive game-plan.

Looking for comparable team match-ups, the week 6 game against Tampa Bay stands out. While it was on the road, it was against the 8th ranked defense (2 spots above NO), andNick Foles was the starter at that point. In that game, the Eagles scored 31. More recently, the Eagles scored 24 points at home against Arizona, the 2nd ranked defense in the league, and 34 points at home against Detroit, a defense that ranks 4 spots below NO.

That gives us a range of 24-34. Adjusting those boundaries to account for the difference in opposing defense, we get a range of 27-31 points.

Taking the midpoints of both projections, we get a combined projection of:

Eagles 29 – New Orleans 26.5

Does that look familiar? (I swear I didn’t back into it). While 29 points is a very unlikely football score, remember that we’re more concerned with the DIFFERENCE and not the actually values. Here, it’s 2.5 points, which is exactly what the spread is.

So, to sum up the spread, we have a projection that lines up EXACTLY with the spread. We also have two very unpredictable teams.

That means, of course, that the smart play is to stay away from the game. Moreover, an Eagles win will be entertaining enough that winning money on top of it won’t mean much. Conversely, unless you’re a professional (in which case you’re likely to be less of a “fan”), there’s no way you’re betting against your team in a playoff game.

If I HAD to take a side, I’d go with the Eagles, on the off chance that there really is something substantial behind the “Drew Brees in cold weather” story. However, I don’t HAVE to do anything, so I’m passing on this one.

The Over/Under

If we add up our scoring projections, we get a total points scored range of 53 – 58 points. Depending on your source, you’re looking at a line of 53.5 – 54 points. That means the Over looks to be the SLIGHTLY better play here.

BUT

Remember the variance. Remember you’ve got a young QB (Foles) playing in his first playoff game. Remember that game-time temperatures are going to be below 20 degrees. Also note that, at home, the Eagles are just 3-5 against the O/U. On the road, the Saints are 2-6. Combined, that’s a record of 5-11.

I don’t put much stock in those things to actually shift the projection, but I DO use it to adjust the relative confidence level of the game. So I like the OVER, but it’s by a very narrow margin.

Summing Up

I hate the spread (because it looks to be a great one). I like the OVER, but by a very narrow margin. My overall recommendation would be to pass on this game completely. I just don’t see much opportunity here, and the game will be entertaining enough with out it. The line hasn’t shifted, so we can’t take advantage there, and the teams are both very unpredictable.

That’s a pretty unsatisfying recommendation, but I just can’t see a way around it. Hopefully, the Eagles will win the game and gives us another opportunity next week.

Eagles vs. Cowboys: Breaking down this week’s betting lines.

Split the action again last week, so let’s try to finish strong.  I will do a breakdown for any playoff games, but of course, that’s not guaranteed.

I get the sense that a lot of fans are nervous about Sunday night’s game.  Things are going a bit TOO well and everyone’s scared of getting the rug pulled out from under them.  That’s fair, but really, Eagles fans should be nothing but ecstatic and excited heading into this week.

Before I start breaking things down, I want everyone to ask themselves one question:

What were your preseason hopes and expectations for this team?

My guess is, if you’ve answered honestly, then the team has already surpassed them.  My personal projection was for a 9-7 record, with a playoff spot depending on whether one of those nine wins came from the last game of the season.  That was spot on, but I’ve still been surprised by the level of play.  The fact is that we’re now playing with house money. A loss on Sunday sucks, but it doesn’t change the fact that the season has been successful in every sense.

The goals for this season were:

– Prove Chip Kelly can be successful.

– Make the transition to the 3-4 and find a couple of young players who fit the scheme.

– Identify one or two “cornerstones”.

– Give Nick Foles a chance and see what he can do (not a popular one, but a big one for me).

In every aspect, the team has met those goals.  Chip Kelly’s “college” offense is tearing up the league, even after teams have seen it once and supposedly had the chance to make adjustments.  So far, the only thing that has really defeated it is having a 3rd string rookie QB at the helm or a Nick Foles body-snatcher.  The 3-4 is installed and functioning much better than I expected.  To be fair, I wasn’t a fan of the switch.  However, it’s been decent and, more importantly, Mychal Kendricks and Fletcher Cox have made successful transitions.  In that vein, while it’s too early to call Kendricks a “cornerstone”, the team clearly has a few guys with the potential to be impact players (Cox, Kendricks, Boykin).  Moreover, there have been several big surprises that bode extremely well for the future (Logan, Thornton, Wolff in particular).

Lastly, Nick Foles is having one of the greatest seasons ever for a QB. Read that sentence again, this time emphasizing NICK FOLES.  He leads Peyton Manning, having perhaps HIS greatest year ever, by 5.7 points in the Passer Rating title race.  Safe to say Nick Foles has done better than anyone thought possible.  Ok, one more thing:

Nick Foles’ current Rating is 118.7.  Only TWO QBs in history have had higher single-season Ratings (Aaron Rodgersand Peyton Manning).  Remember Tom Brady’s 2007 season?  The only with Randy Moss and the undefeated record?  Well Foles’ rating is currently 1.5 points higher than Brady’s was that year.

So, relax.  Win or lose, this season has been an unqualified success, and the Eagles look like they’ll be the class of the NFC East (again) for the foreseeable future.

Now, this week’s game:

The Breakdown

The Eagles are 7 point favorites.  The Over/Under is 52.5.

The comparison:

– The Eagles are ranked 8th overall by DVOA.  The Cowboys are ranked 18th.

– The Eagles are ranked 3rd overall by Weighted DVOA, which is just regular DVOA weighted more heavily to recent games.  The Cowboys rank 22nd.

– The Eagles offense ranks 2nd overall by DVOA.  The Cowboys defense ranks 30th.

(If you didn’t just tee-pee your hands and say “Excellent….”, go relive the 90s)

– The Eagles defense ranks 23rd by DVOA.  The Cowboys offense ranks 11th.  Note that’s with Tony Romo at QB.  We can safely assume that its AVERAGE performance level would be lower with Kyle Orton at QB.

– The Eagles STs rank 26th overall, Dallas’ rank 6th.  This is the only matchup where Dallas has a significant advantage.

– The Eagles have a point differential of +58.  The Cowboys’ is +9.

– The Cowboys last five games:

Beat the Giants (27th DVOA) by 3 points.

Beat Oakland (31st)  by 7 points.

Lost to Chicago (12th) by 17 points.

Lost to GB (21st) by 1 point.

Beat Washington (29th) by 1 point.

Notice anything?  Dallas’s resume isn’t exactly great.  In fact, it’s not even good.  Looking at the whole season, the Cowboys’ only win over a top 10 team by DVOA (currently) is when they beat the Eagles.  Outside of that game, here are the DVOA ranks of the teams the Cowboys beat:

14th, 26th, 27th (twice), 29th (twice), 31st.    The Eagles, of course, rank 8th.

Meanwhile, the Eagles’ wins have come over teams ranked:

10th, 12th, 16th, 17th, 27th, 29th (twice), and 31st.

It’s also worth noting that Dallas’ only “good” wins came in weeks 3 and 7.  More recently, the Cowboys have lost to both Chicago and Green Bay.  Conversely, the Eagles’ “good” wins have come in the past few weeks, against Chicago, Arizona, and Detroit.

So…taking the above as a whole, the Eagles are the MUCH better team.  The ONLY significant factor weighing in Dallas’ favor is the fact that it beat the Eagles head-to-head.  However, that was in week 7, so that win’s informational value has seriously depreciated since then.  Also, Kyle Orton.

That’s why the Eagles are a 7 point road-favorite in a winner-takes-all division title game.  (That and the Romo injury).

The Projection

Since the bye week (4 games ago), the Eagles have averaged 35.5 points per game.  The Cowboys defense, as I showed above, is bad.  It ranks 3 spots below Minnesota’s, and the Eagles put up 30 points against them.  There are no significant injuries and weather will not be a factor unless something completely unexpected happens.  As a result, I’ve got the Eagles base-case projection at 31-35 points.  To make things easier, we’ll take the mid point and say 33.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys have averaged 28.6 points per game since their bye week (5 games ago).  The Eagles defense is also not very good, and ranks just 1 spot above Oakland, against which the Cowboys scored 31 points (4 weeks ago).  Additionally, the Eagles defense ranks just one spot BEHIND Washington, against which the Cowboys scored 24 points just last week.  So there’s our range, 24-31 points.  Taking the midpoints, we’ll say 27.5.

HOWEVER, we have yet to account for the Tony Romo injury.

I know a lot of people rip Romo, but the fact is he’s one of the best QBs in the game.  In my opinion, not nearly enough blame gets put on everyone else in that organization.  Stepping down from Romo, who has a career rating of 95.8, to Kyle Orton, who has a career rating of 79.7 (and just 15 pass attempts over the past two seasons), is a MASSIVE hit.

Also, this “game-manager” stuff is bullshit.  Kyle Orton’s career Interception rate is 2.6%, just a tick below Tony Romo’srate of 2.7%.  Romo has 55 fumbles in 108 career starts, or .51 per game (that’s total fumbles, including from games not started, if there are any like that).  Orton has 32 fumbles in 69 career starts, or .46 per game.  So there’s a difference there, but it’s very small (.05 per game).  Overall, Orton is really no less likely to turn the ball over, and in fact may be MORE likely, by virtue of the fact that he’s barely played in 2 years.

To account for Orton, I’m taking EIGHT points off the Cowboys’ projection.  That sounds like a lot, right?  Especially since the line moved just 5 points after the injury was announced.  Looking at it practically, though, you’ll see it’s not that drastic.  Basically what I’m saying is that, as a result of having Kyle Orton instead of Tony Romo, the Cowboys will have 2 drives that end up in field goals instead of TDs.  Of course, that’s just one way the difference could manifest itself, but it’s instructive because of how reasonable it is.  Kicking 2 field goals instead of scoring 2 TDs gets you the 8 point difference.

Taking that from the 27.5 points projections, we’re left with 19.5 points.  However, there’s a big special teams discrepancy, so I’m going to add another 1-2 points back in, giving us 20.5-21.5.  That’s a very convenient number (I swear I didn’t work backwards) because it’s midpoint is 21, or three TDs.

Pulling it all together, I’ve got the base-case projection at Eagles 33, Cowboys 21.

That’s a difference of 12 points.  The Spread is 7, meaning our margin of error is 5 (very large).  That’s the second biggest margin I’ve seen this year.  Take the Eagles -7, and take them confidently.

The Over/Under

This bit is easy, since we’ve already got our scoring projection.

Eagles 33, Cowboys 21 adds up to 54 points overall.  The O/U is 52.5.  Also, the teams are a combined 18-12 against the O/U this year, and the line hasn’t shifted at all since opening, so we’re not joining a sucker’s move by taking the over.

54 is 1.5 points higher than 52.5, so take the over.  Note, however, that it’s a relatively small margin, so adjust the stakes accordingly.

Summing Up

I like the Eagles -7, and I like it A LOT.

I’ve got the Over 52.5 as the better side there, though it’s not as attractive as the spread.

Finally, for fans here, a win is much more important than whether the Eagles cover or not.  So, I looked up win rates for 6-8 points road favorites since the year 2000.  In those games (245 of them), the favorite has won the game almost exactly 70% of the time.

Using my projection, 12 points, I looked at the recored of teams since 2000 that were 11-13 point favorites.  Road favorites won the game 75% of the time, but the sample was just 20 games.  Looking at ALL games, home and away, the favorite won roughly 83% of the time.

So yeah, the odds are HEAVILY in the Eagles favor. (But that still leaves close to a 1 in 5 chance of a Dallas victory).

Eagles vs. Packers: Breaking Down the Odds

Below is a repost of the weekly odds column I do at BGN

Nailed it last week, though I wasn’t very confident in my Over pick. Starting to see a trend here; when the Eagles get competent QB play, they hit the over. Whether they’ll get decent play from the QB each week is a tough prediction to make though.

This week, we’ve got some issues breaking down the line. Prior to the Rodgers injury, the Packers were favored by 10 points. Now they’re favored by just 1.

From a pure handicapping perspective, this would have been a lot easier with Rodgers healthy. Of course, we all want the Eagles to win, and playing against Seneca Wallace instead is a huge break.

So…the lines

Eagles +1

47

The Spread

As you can imagine, getting 1 point isn’t a huge advantage, so we’re basically trying to figure out which team is more likely to win. If it’s 50/50, then you take the point. Anything else, and you take the team more likely to win. First, lets consult Football Outsiders.

– The Packers rank 10th overall by DVOA, the Eagles rank 16th.

– The Packers offense is the team’s biggest strength, coming in 2nd by DVOA (23.5%). The Eagles are relatively close behind, ranking 6th overall on offense (14.8%).

– The Packers rank 26th by DVOA on defense (7.1%), while the Eagles rank 30th (13.4%)

– The teams have nearly identical special teams rankings, coming in 25th (GB) and 26th (PHI), with a DVOA difference of just 0.9%.

Without the injury to Rodgers, it’s a clear advantage for GB. However, I think 10 points was a bit excessive, and frankly might have rather taken the Eagles in that situation getting 10 points instead of taking them now against Wallace with just 1 point. But it is what it is, so lets work with what we’ve got. First question:

Will Nick Foles provide decent or better QB play? If so, then the Eagles will score plenty. The Packers defense, as illustrated above, isn’t good. I should also note that, in the FO DVOA rankings, Green Bay is just one spot above Oakland. So while we shouldn’t expect 7 TDs again, it’s completely reasonable to expect a good performance, and something on the order of 30 points. In the games in which the Eagles QB has played reasonably well, the Eagles have scored 33, 30, 36, 31, and 49 points. Going against a bad defense, I’m comfortable with setting a 28-35 point expectation from the Eagles. Unfortunately, if bad Foles shows up, they may not hit 10 points. I’m assuming we’ll see decent-not-spectacular Foles.

How should we view Seneca Wallace? Seneca Wallace is NOT a complete unknown. The guy has been in the league since 2005 and has played in parts of 64 games, starting 21 of them. In that time, he has a Rating of 80.6, a completion percentage of 59.1%, an interception rate of 2.4%, and a sack rate of 7%.

Overall, that amounts to a slightly below average QB.

Replacing Rodgers, who is, at this point, putting up the greatest statistical career ever for a QB with a slightly below average QB is a massive difference. But how much?

Well if we expect a performance in line with his career averages, we’re essentially looking at this years’ Alex Smith, with a slightly higher propensity for interceptions. Against Smith, the Eagles allowed 26 points. However, 7 points came from Eric Berry’s pick-six. Now the rest of the Packers offense is better than the Chiefs, but not by that much. The difference really is mostly Rodgers. The Packers receivers look to present a bigger challenge than the Chiefs did, so we should adjust upwards there, since the Eagles weakness has been through the air. How much is Nelson/Cobb instead of Bowe/Avery worth? A few points? Lets be extra conservative and call it 7. So we’re looking at a rough range of 24-30 points. (I’m writing off Lacy-Charles as a wash, not because that’s fair, but because it makes our estimate even more conservative and gives us a greater margin of confidence).

Since I had the Eagles at a range of 28-35 points, that means take the Eagles +1. Just know that the high-variance nature of Foles’ play means it’s a relatively binary outcome. If Foles can deliver the ball with some accuracy, I like the Eagles. I think it’s more likely than not that we see an at-least-decent Foles. Therefore, take the point.

The Over/Under

The line is 47. Taking the mid-point of the ranges I set above gives us around 58 points. That’s a big difference. Usually, when the difference is that big, it means either we did something wrong or one of our assumptions is way off. If it’s neither, than we need a good explanation of why “the market” is off. What’s my story?

– Overreaction to Wallace’s poor showing in relief (11 of 19 with an interception). Wallace will likely be better than the general public expects. Remember we have a pretty good sample on him (783 career attempts).

– Still underestimating Nick Foles. If I wasn’t from Philadelphia and I wasn’t paying as close attention as I have been, I’d likely dismiss Foles as well. He just doesn’t have the pedigree. Of course, the people paying close attention know the truth; Foles has been a pretty damn good QB so far. He had a terrible performance against Dallas, and I think people are likely still giving that significant weight. In fact, I think his record-tying performance last week might actually work AGAINST him. It was so cartoonish that it’s easy to dismiss as a fluke. “Nick Foles playing the best game ever by a QB? C’mon. He just got lucky.” Conversely, if he had played really well, but only thrown 4 TDs, I think the story would be harder to write off. It doesn’t make any logical sense, but remember we’re dealing with people, logic doesn’t always apply.

Also, Eagles games this year have failed to hit 47 points just 3 times. Once was against the Chiefs (great defense) and the other two were the Barkley game and the bad-Foles game. Every other game has hit at least 51 points.

Also, the Eagles are 5-0 against the O/U on the road this season. I don’t actually put much weight into this fact, but it’s a nice confidence boost.

Conclusion

I like the Over 47 most.

I like the Eagles +1

It all hinges on Nick Foles. That sounds obvious, and it is, but the key nuance is that Nick Foles doesn’t need to be great, or even very good. If he just does what a decent QB should do (hit open men and not make stupid mistakes/TOs), that should be enough. I think the odds favor him reaching that level of play.

You can follow me @EaglesRewind

Week 8 Odds

I promise i’ll get back to the “Not All Points Are Created Equal” post soon, hopefully tomorrow, and incorporate some of the very good comments/feedback I’ve received (both here and at BGN).  For now though, here’s a breakdown of this week’s betting lines for the Eagles/Giants.  I’m doing a weekly breakdown for BGN, so obviously I’ll share it here as well (though I think I forgot to post it here last week).  I’ve had a pretty good season thus far, hopefully that continues (straight up, I’m challenging Jaworski for the top spot in the Sports Media Monitor’s rankings, seen here.)

—————

After a few very successful weeks, I got tripped up by last week’s Eagles/Cowboys game.  I did say that I’d take the Cowboys, so I was on point there, but I was also confident in the Over, especially if it was teased down by 6 points.  Obviously, the teams came nowhere near hitting the over.

I’m not going to rehash why the over didn’t it, because I think it’s instructive without explanation.  Basically, games don’t have to proceed as all reason and logic suggest they should.  I doubt anybody doesn’t already know that, but it helps to be reminded from time to time.

With that, let’s try to do a bit better this time.  The Eagles visit the Giants on Sunday, and as I’m writing this, the lines are as follows:

Spread – There is some disagreement among the online bookmakers, though all of them have the Eagles as favorites.   The lines range from -4.5 (BetOnline) to -6 (Bovada).  As I’ve previously explained, I’m going to use Bovada as the default, so for today’s breakdown, we’ll be assuming Eagles -6.

Over/Under – A little more agreement here.  It’s set at 51 or 52, depending on the source.  We’ll go with 52.

Here are the major stats:

– The Eagles have a point differential of -27.  The Giants have a differential of -90, which is worse than every other team in the league outside of Jacksonville.

– The Eagles have scored 169 points, and rank 8th overall in Offensive DVOA (14.2%, Football Outsiders).  The Giants have allowed 216 points, and have the 23rd ranked defense by DVOA (5.2%).

– The Eagles have allowed 196 points, and rank 29th overall in Defensive DVOA (12.1%).  The Giants have scored just 126 points, and rank 29th overall by Offensive DVOA (-18.2%).

– The Eagles Special Teams rank 28th by DVOA.  Fortunately, the Giants are worse (31st).

– Overall, the Eagles Team DVOA is -4.6%, good (bad?) for 20th overall.  The Giants rank 31st in the league, at -34.9%.

The Spread

As I just showed, there’s no question that the Eagles are the better team.  In both traditional measures and “advanced” ones like DVOA, the Eagles maintain a significant advantage over the Giants.  The question, of course, is how much better?

Normally, I’d be happy with the -6 line, on the Eagles side.  After all, the teams played each other just 3 weeks ago, at which time the Eagles won by 15 points.  However, there’s the extremely significant issue of Michael Vick’s health to account for.  Put simply, we have no idea how healthy Vick is or if he’ll be at all inhibited on Sunday.  He is going to play, but if he’s a shell of his normal self, it obviously affects the outcome of the game somewhat dramatically.

With Nick Foles likely out of commission, if Vick re-aggravates his injury (or suffers a new one), the Eagles will be relying on Matt Barkley, in which case I’d be avoiding the Eagles -6 line like the plague.

In a sense, this is a pretty simple analysis, and the outcome just depends on your personal view of Vick’s health.  If Vick plays and is anywhere close to 100%, then take the Eagles with confidence.  If you think Vick is more injured than the team is letting on, then stay away from the game.

Me?  I’m inclined to go for it.  As I said, the team’s just played each other 3 weeks ago and the Eagles won by 15 points. Even if Vick is not quite 100%, the team shouldn’t have trouble winning by a touchdown.  The only player on the Giants that worries me is Victor Cruz, and he has registered more than 5 catches just twice this season, with the last time coming back in week 4 against the Chiefs.

6 points is a fairly large line, especially considering the Eagles schizophrenic performance this year (and the terrible defense), but, as anybody who watched the Giants-Vikings knows, the Giants are REALLY bad.  Barring a complete “shit the bed” performance from the Eagles or a serious injury to Vick, I say the Eagles cover fairly easily.

The Pick:  Eagles -6

The Over/Under

The Over/Under is a bit trickier, largely as a result of the Eagles inexplicably bad performance on Sunday (well Nick Foles’ inexplicably bad performance).  With the line at 52 points, these teams need to score fairly often to hit the over. That’s a little under 7.5 touchdowns.  Can these teams do it?

Eagles games, thus far, have averaged 52.14 points, just above this game’s line.

Giants games have averaged 48.86 points.

So that doesn’t help much.  Against the Over/Under, the teams are a combined 9-5, meaning the “market” has generally underestimated the amount of points these two teams will score/allow.  Point for the over.

In the team’s last meeting, the final score was 36-21, or a combined 57 points.  So another point for the over.

We also have last week’s results to account for.  Here, I’m talking about the Recency Effect, or people’s general habit of overweighting the most recent information.  Against the Cowboys, the Eagles offense looked terrible.  The team scored just 3 points.  So a 51 point line is crazy, right?

That’s what I’m hoping “the public” thinks, because I’m taking the over.  As some of the All-22 breakdowns have noted, the Eagles poor offensive performance was largely the result of a very bad game from Nick Foles.  As you may have noticed, Nick Foles is not the Eagles QB this week.  In other words, last week was likely an anomaly, and we should expect the team’s offensive output to come much closer to the 30 point level it’s hit 4 times this year.

Last game, the Eagles scored 36.  If the team repeats that performance, the Giants need to score just 16 points to push the O/U line.  The Eagles defense has been playing a bit better recently, but let’s not lose sight of the big picture, it’s still quite bad.  Conveniently enough, the team has yet to hold a team below 17 points.

All together, I’m taking the Over, though I’m less confident on this side of the game than I am on the Spread.  Note that this too is predicated on Vick playing, and not missing a significant part of the game with injury.  That’s your risk here, adjust your personal thoughts accordingly.

Summary

I feel best about the Spread, taking the Eagles at -6 (though obviously go get the -4.5 or -5 if you’re not agnostic regarding the bookmaker).

If I take the Over/Under, I’m going Over the posted 52 points.  This one’s a bigger risk, but I think it’s a better bet than the Under, though not by a large margin.

I’m staying away from a teaser option this week, though if I was doing it I’d push the game to a Pick’em and take the Eagles while moving the O/U down to 46 and take the over.  The reason I’m not going for this option is because you’re not getting enough risk reduction in the lines to account for the payout difference (slightly worse with the teaser).  If the Eagles win, it’s very likely to be by at least 6 points.  If they lose, it probably involves a Vick injury, in which case the Eagles wins of 1-5 points become much more unlikely.

Eagles vs. Giants Odds: Take the points and run…

Last week, I said to take the Over and the Eagles +11.  The over hit, but the Eagles didn’t cover.  I should have made it more clear, but the Over/Under was clearly the bet in which I had more confidence.  This week, it’s the reverse, I like the spread a lot more than the Over/Under.

For reference, here’s the SBNation odds page.

Note there is some discrepancy between sources.  The spread ranges from Eagles +3 to Eagles +1.  Note the +1 spreads have better payoffs.

Meanwhile, there’s a consensus Over/Under of 53.5 (one site has 53).

Let’s start with the spread.  Should the Eagles even be underdogs?

According to Football Outsiders, no.

They’ve got the Eagles at 26th overall, with a DVOA of -14.9%

The Giants, meanwhile, rank 31st overall, with a DVOA of -48.7%.

While both teams rank poorly, that’s a big difference.  For example, the distance between the Eagles’ and Giants’ DVOA is roughly the same as the difference between the Eagles and the Patriots.  The DVOA stats aren’t meant to be used this way, but it’s illustrative of the fact that, while both teams have looked bad, the Giants have looked much worse.

It should also be noted that the Giants, using FO’s metrics, have played the HARDEST schedule in the league to date. However, the Eagles have played the 2nd hardest.  While this doesn’t do much for our comparison, it’s important in that it indicates both teams might actually be better than they currently seem to be.

Here’s the relevant info:

– The Giants have scored 61 points, and rank 31st in DVOA (FO).

– The Eagles have allowed 138 points, and rank 30th.

– The Eagles have scored 99 points, and rank 5th.

– The Giants have allowed 146 points, and rank 22nd.

From those stats, it’s pretty clear that the bigger advantage lies with the Eagles Offense (5th) against the Giants defense (22nd).  Conversely, the Eagles defense gets a break.  While the Giants have weapons (namely Victor Cruz), they don’t represent anything close to what the team had to deal with last week.

If we look at Special Teams, we get even more support for the Eagles.  While STs have been terrible the past two weeks, and predictably rank very low by DVOA (31st), they have the good fortune of playing against the only team ranked worse.  That’s right, the Giants rank 32nd, negating what could have been a substantial advantage.

We’re not done yet though.

Let’s look at the Sacks numbers.  As I explained last week, Sack Differential is an excellent indicator of team success.

The Eagles are – 4.

The Giants are -10.

Both teams have actually taken the same number of sacks (14), but the Giants have just 4 sacks on defense.  As we’ve all seen, Vick, without pressure, is a much different player than Vick with pressure.  The data thus far suggests we’ll see the good version on Sunday.

All told, I think it’s crazy that the Eagles aren’t slight favorites in this game. I realize the “home premium” accounts for that difference, but in this case I think it’s unwarranted.  In fact, if you’re betting the game, take the alternative line (pick’em) for a better payout.

The Over/Under, on the other hand, is murkier.

The line is 53.5.

Given that two of the worst defenses in league are involved, we should expect a lot of points.  So far, the games these teams have been involved in have averaged 55.5 total points, and just 3 of the 8 games have failed to record more than 53.5.

If you’re taking a side here, I’d go with the over.  The Eagles are primed for a big performance, and it’d surprise me if the team didn’t score 30 (remember they scored 30+ against both the Redskins and the Chargers).

The question is what can we expect from the Giants.  Honestly, I have no idea.  To date the New York offense has been terrible.  However, given the Eagles’ defensive play, I find it hard to believe the Giants won’t move the football.

Therefore, I think the Over is the SLIGHTLY better side, but be cautious with this one.

The risk, as I see it, is for a sloppy, turnover/penalty filled game in which both teams move the ball easily but fail to score TDs consistently.  We’ve already seen the Eagles blow great scoring chances and settle for FGs.  If that happens, I still like the Eagles to cover (and win), but hitting 53.5 is out of the question.  It’s up to you to decide how likely this scenario is to play out.