Eagles Could Provide Bettors Value
The Eagles are the first No. 1 seed in NFL history to be an underdog in the divisional round since 1970. How much value do they provide bettors in their matchup Saturday against the Falcons?
According to oddsmakers from online sports book Bovada.lv, the Eagles are 3-point home dogs to beat the Falcons, who are the sixth seed in the NFC. The line for this Divisional Round playoff game also opened at 3, was bet down to 2.5, but is now back up to 3 at most sports books. As of this writing, 67% of betting tickets are on the Falcons and 84% of the money is also on Atlanta.
How much value do the Eagles provide bettors this Saturday?
Well, for starters, they beat the Falcons a year ago when Atlanta owned the No. 1 offense in football. Jim Schwartz’s defense shut down the Falcons, holding them to a season low in points, first downs (11) and yards (303) in a 24-15 Philadelphia victory in Week 10 last season.
Schwartz’s unit blitzed Matt Ryan more than the 2016 NFL MVP was used to and Ryan responded with one of his worst games of the season. He was sacked twice, threw one interception, completed only 55 percent of his passes and had a 78.7 passer rating.
This Philly defense is more talented than it was a year ago. It starts up front with one of the deepest stables of pass-rushers that you’ll see in the NFL. Unlike a year ago, Schwartz doesn’t have to blitz much to create pressure. He can rely on his front four, which gives him more freedom on the back end to blanket receivers like Atlanta’s Julio Jones.
The Falcons aren’t as potent as they were a year ago on offense, either. Under first-year coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who replaced Kyle Shanahan after he took the head-coaching job in San Francisco, the Falcons went from the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL at 33.8 points per game, to 15th at 22.1.
Do you feel a “but” coming on?
But…this Falcons offense is perhaps more equipped to deal with the Eagles this time around because of its ball-control tendencies. A week ago in L.A, the Falcons neutralized the Rams’ ferocious pass rush by staying committed to the run, mixing in a few well-timed screens, and by picking up short third down opportunities after short third down opportunities. In other words, the Falcons did to the Rams what the Eagles did to them Week 10 a year ago.
Oh, and the Eagles have been trending backwards over the past three weeks. Nick Foles struggled in his three starts, completing 54% of his passes while producing a 77.7 passer rating. During the first 14 weeks, Philly was scoring 2.4 points per drive, with a red-zone efficiency of 67 percent. Since that point, the Eagles offense has scored just 1.2 points per drive with a 56 percent red-zone efficiency.
Thus, if Foles is as bad as he was on Christmas night at home against the Raiders, it might not matter how many points the Eagles are getting on Saturday.