By Justin Mark, SGPN Football Handicapper
Week 18 is one of the hardest to bet. Some teams will play all their starters for the full game. Others will have starters begin the game but not finish. And, of course, some teams have nothing to play for and may rest all their starters. You may think the Eagles’ game seems like an easy one to figure out, but the spread on the game has shifted to a number that’s hard to get a read on. As of Friday, the Eagles are 14-point favorites!
It seems simple. The likely return of Jalen Hurts is the difference. The Eagles needing to win to keep the number one seed, get the bye and win the NFC East. The Giants have nothing to play for. Not to mention, even when the Giants had something to play for, they still lost to Philadelphia 48-22 earlier this year.
The Giants are currently locked into the sixth seed, so the game means little to them. However, this is the NFL and a division rival is never taken lightly. There’s nothing New York can do to change the playoff seeding, but they can definitely spoil the Birds’ hoped-for first-round bye. And you can’t forget the 2007 game when the Giants, with many injuries, stayed with the undefeated Patriots until the very end to only lose 38-35. One last betting trend, in the last ten years, teams that have to win for playoffs are just under 42% at covering the spread.
Key Defensive Matchup
It’s no secret the Giants’ offense is highlighted by former Penn State standout Saquon Barkley. He is currently the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL with 1312 yards. However, that didn’t scare the Eagles the first time around (Dec. 11) as they held him to only 28 yards on nine carries. We also don’t know if Barkley will even play. As for the Eagles, their defense is hurting. The Birds are coming off a tough matchup against the Saints, who laid out the blueprint for a successful ground game, running for 130 yards. They threw for an additional 228. Giants backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor completed all five of his passes the last time these two teams played for 47 yards and a touchdown. If Taylor gets the start in lieu of Daniel Jones, limiting him from an accurate passing day and from rushing effectively will be key.
Key Offensive Matchup
For all the talk about Barkley, Miles Sanders is the fifth-leading rusher in the NFL with 1236 yards. Without Jalen Hurts playing the past few weeks, defenses have been able to key in on Sanders and bottle him up. If Hurts is back and healthy, the defense has a lot more to account for. The Giants are 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. The previous Eagles-Giants’ game, Sanders ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns, while Hurts ran for 77 and a touchdown. Look for Eagles to control the game on the ground again.
Looking at lines on WynnBet, this week the Moneyline is -1000. That’s 10-1 Way too high for me. The Eagles have one of their biggest spreads of the year at -14 They are, of course, the better team, whether Hurts plays or not, and have proved that all season. On top of all that, the Giants will likely rest their starters for the majority of the game. Watch lines closely when it’s announced if Jalen Hurts will or won’t play because it changes my opinion on the spread pick. I’m taking Eagles -14 if Hurts plays, and Giants +14 if he doesn’t. The total for the game is 43. Eagles’ games have hit overs pretty frequently this year, cashing eight of the last 11 games. With the Giants’ likely resting defensive starters, I think the Eagles will be able to run up the score. Despite New York’s potential offensive struggles due to sitting their starters, I’m still taking the over whether Hurts plays or not.
No prop bets are available for the Eagles’ game as of this writing, so we’ll take a look at a couple bonus NFL bets. The Jaguars have been hot as of late and they now play the Titans for a division-deciding matchup. Tennesse has struggled, especially without Ryan Tannehill. I like the Jags to win and cover -6.5.
Dallas won’t have the benefit of knowing the Eagles’ outcome since they play at the same time. That means they’ll need to play to win, still fighting for the division. The Commanders’ head coach Ron Rivera didn’t realize they could be eliminated from the playoffs last week after losing. They’re also going to start rookie Sam Howell. This one seems easy, Cowboys -7.
Justin Mark is co-host of SGPN Fantasy Football’s show “Old-Fashioned Football”, and co-host of a show on the NFL Gambling Podcast, which airs every Wednesday at 3:30 Eastern time on YouTube. He’s also a writer for the Sports Gambling Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @JMarkFootball and The Sports Gambling Podcast @GamblingPodcast.