Underdogs Rule On Wild Card Weekend
It was not a good start to the NFL playoffs for favorites.
None of the four home teams covered the spread on wild card weekend. Actually, two underdogs won outright and advanced to the four divisional games on Saturday and Sunday.
Tennessee (+350) rallied from an 18-point deficit to stun Kansas City, while Atlanta (+240) led from start to finish to oust the Los Angeles Rams.
The Falcons (11-6) now find themselves on the road for the second straight week, but this time as favorites over the Philadelphia Eagles — who were tied with the best record in the league at 13-3 (odds provided by bovada.lv).
The NFC East Division champions, who are without their franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz, are the first top seed ever to be an underdog in the divisional round. And the No. 1 reason why is because Nick Foles has not looked good at all since he took over for the injured QB. Foles was the starter for the last three games in the regular season. The Eagles went 2-1, but the sixth-year QB’s numbers got worse with every start.
Why Atlanta will win:
- Falcons 6-3 on road, 10-3 in conference play.
- Dominated Rams in wild card round last week.
- Last year’s experience seems to be helping.
Why Philadelphia will win:
- Tied for the best regular season record (13-3).
- Eagles only lost once at home (7-1) this year.
- Led the league in point differential at +162.
In Week 15, Foles completed 24-of-38 passes for 237 and four touchdowns. In his next two starts, the 28-year-old went 23-for-49 for 202 yards with one TD and two picks — hardly what a team needs for the playoffs, especially against a hot team like Atlanta.
If the Eagles can move the ball on the ground and Foles limits his turnovers, Philadelphia can advance to the NFC championship. But they will need a solid effort from their defense, which is fourth in total yards allowed (306.5). The Eagles are the best unit against the run (79.2) and fourth in points allowed (18.4).
Philadelphia has been dominant at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles held their past three opponents (Dallas, Oakland and Chicago) to a combined 19 points and went 7-1 for the season at home.
LeGarrette Blount, with 766 yards, and Jay Ajayi, with 408 yards, were the leading rushers this year. Tight end Zach Ertz and receivers Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery combined for 25 touchdowns. Each player had more than 50 receptions, but the bulk of that production came with Wentz behind center.
Atlanta’s stars showed up big time in the Falcons’ 26-13 road win over the Los Angeles Rams. Matt Ryan threw for 218 yards and a score with a quarterback rating over 100, Devonta Freeman ran for 66 yards and a touchdown and Julio Jones grabbed nine catches for 94 yards and one score.
If this trio has another big game, it will be one-and-done for the Eagles.
Ryan did not have an MVP season like he did in 2016. His TD passes plummeted (from 38 in 2016 to 20 in 2017) and interceptions rose (7 to 12).
Freeman and Tevin Coleman led the Falcons in rushing this year, combining for 1,493 yards and 12 touchdowns. Jones had 88 catches for 1,444 yards and three touchdowns, while Mohamed Sanu caught 67 passes for 703 yards and five scores.
Most of the experts and oddsmakers seem to have abandoned the Eagles, who are 10-6 against the spread and tough to beat at home. Foles may be the weak link in this team, but he has had two weeks to prepare for the biggest game of his life.
VGB’s pick — Philadelphia (+3), Under (41.5)
VGB’s Top 10 NFL Teams
(Current odds to win Super Bowl LII listed after team record. Odds provided by bovada.lv.)
- Minnesota (13-3) +375 — Vikings haven’t won a playoff game since 2009.
- New England (13-3) +200 — Pats have made playoffs 14 of last 17 seasons.
- Pittsburgh (13-3) +500 — Fourth straight playoff appearance for Steelers.
- New Orleans (12-5) +550 — NFC South champs just .500 on the road.
- Philadelphia (13-3) +1400 — Eagles first top-seed underdog in division round.
- Jacksonville (11-6) +1800 — First playoff win since 2007, beat Steelers 31-29.
- Atlanta (11-6) +650 — Odds to win Super Bowl lowest of season for Falcons.
- Tennessee (10-7) +5000 — Win over Chiefs first playoff victory since 2003.
- Los Angeles Rams (11-6) — Rams took Week 17 off, it showed in playoff loss.
- Carolina (11-6) — Second-highest passing day for Newton … and Panthers fall.