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Eagles flunk road test; Pats, Vikings pass easily

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

Sunday night’s showdown between Philadelphia and Seattle was a big test for both teams. But we still don’t know…is Carson Wentz the QB of the future…or is he ready to win a Super Bowl NOW?

NFL: Seattle beats Philadelphia 24-10 in a battle of likely playoff teams
It was oh-so-close to being a fourth quarter thriller. There’s not much solace in “winning stats” when you lose scoreboard by two touchdowns. But Philadelphia Eagles fans still have a lot to be excited about regarding the short-term and long-term prospects of second-year phenom quarterback Carson Wentz. 

Seattle (plus 3.5) 24, Philadelphia 10
Yards-per-Play: Philadelphia 5.7, Seattle 5.3
Third Down Pct: Philadelphia 50%, Seattle 50%
Turnovers: Philadelphia 2, Seattle 0
Rushing Yards: Philadelphia 98, Seattle 101
Passing Stats: Philadelphia 29-45-1-327, Seattle 20-31-0-209
TD Drive Lengths: Philadelphia 81, Seattle 85-80-73

Total yardage was fairly one-sided at 425-310 for the Eagles. If you didn’t watch the game, you have to be wondering how Philadelphia turned so many positive stats into a 14-point loss. The keys.

  • A 16-play, 75-yard drive in the first half ended with a field goal
  • An 11-play, 74-yard drive in the second half ended with a fumble through the end zone

It’s hard to sustain drives on the road against Seattle’s defense in front of that hostile crowd. Wentz was able to do that up until the very end of those two drives. Fine line between 14 points, and what turned out to just be three points. The solid yards-per-play and third down conversion rates speak very well for Wentz and the offense as a whole. This is important because the Eagles may now have to win on the road to reach the Super Bowl. 

  • Philadelphia now trails Minnesota in the tie-breaker for top seed
  • Philadelphia has another tough test next week at the LA Rams, and a loss there would make it even harder to retake the #1 seed in the NFC  

Obviously, we should rave about Seattle’s three long TD drives. We don’t mean to suggest this was a “lucky” win for the Seahawks. But history suggests that the Seahawks are “supposed” to play well at home. And this is a team that may not even play a home game in the postseason if they can’t win the NFC West. 

Philadelphia may be on the cusp of a dynasty run given the relative youth of its head coach and quarterback. Seattle feels like it’s on the back end of its dynasty, now serving as the benchmark new challenges must be measured against. 

Ultimately, a flunked test for Philadelphia, which falls to 10-2, against what had been the third easiest schedule in the NFL according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. Of its prior 11 opponents, only Kansas City and Carolina would currently make the playoff brackets. Neither may be there in January! Seattle rises to 8-4, holding the first Wildcard spot in the NFC, a game behind the first place Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West. 

NFL: Minnesota (eighth straight win, seventh straight cover) and New England (eighth straight win, sixth straight cover) continue hot runs with road victories
We’ll take the rest of the card in Nevada Rotation order. Along the way, you’ll see that Minnesota and New England impressed in road tests at Atlanta and Buffalo respectively. With so many Super Bowl contenders sitting at 9-3 or better in the standings, the ability to beat quality teams on the road could be the key characteristic that hints at true championship quality in the 2017-18 campaign. 

Baltimore (-3) 44, Detroit 20
Yards-per-Play: Detroit 6.1, Baltimore 5.9
Third Down Pct: Detroit 31%, Baltimore 42%
Turnovers: Detroit 3, Baltimore 0
Rushing Yards: Detroit 78, Baltimore 101
Passing Stats: Detroit 27-34-2-294, Baltimore 23-36-0-269
TD Drive Lengths: Detroit 75-75-75, Baltimore 67-36-74-31

Baltimore led 20-0 at the half. Detroit started putting points on the board after that…but the Ravens re-asserted their dominance when it got close at 20-13. Best way to think about this is that Baltimore wasn’t as good as the score makes it look, while Detroit wasn’t as competitive as many of the stats make it look. Right team won and covered. Baltimore moves to 7-5 in the crowded AFC Wildcard race. Detroit is 6-6, with a shot at 10-6 because Tampa Bay, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Green Bay are left. 

San Francisco (plus 2.5) 15, Chicago 14
Yards-per-Play: San Francisco 5.3, Chicago 4.1
Third Down Pct: San Francisco 56%, Chicago 50%
Turnovers: San Francisco 1, Chicago 0
Rushing Yards: San Francisco 110, Chicago 62
Passing Stats: San Francisco 26-37-1-278, Chicago 12-15-0-85
TD Drive Lengths: San Francisco no TDs, Chicago 59

Chicago had a punt return TD in the first half, which made them look more competitive to scoreboard watchers than they actually were. San Francisco won total yardage by a whopping 388-147. Jimmy Garappolo led four long field goal drives (out of five total field goals), but couldn’t hit paydirt. Very good sign for the Niners moving forward…because this was a dominant boxscore on the road. Chicago QB Mitchell Trubisky is still spinning his wheels, possibly because his head coach is afraid to let him drive too fast. Best to think of this as a 24-10 type win for San Francisco. They rise to 2-10 for the season, and probably forfeit the #2 draft pick to the NY Giants. Looks like they found a quarterback, and that they might be trying to win (and offering betting value) the rest of the way. Chicago falls to 3-9, with not much to be excited about lately.

Minnesota (plus 2) 14, Atlanta 9
Yards-per-Play: Minnesota 5.0, Atlanta 5.4
Third Down Pct: Minnesota 50%, Atlanta 10%
Turnovers: Minnesota 0, Atlanta 0
Rushing Yards: Minnesota 105, Atlanta 102
Passing Stats: Minnesota 25-30-0-207, Atlanta 16-29-0-173
TD Drive Lengths: Minnesota 53-89, Atlanta no TDs

Statement win for the Vikings, particularly on defense. Atlanta had kicked things up a notch lately. Here, Minnesota kept the Falcons out of the end zone while holding an experienced Pro Bowl caliber quarterback to just 1 of 10 on third down tries. It’s looking like the main NFC threats can all win at home. Important to show you can win on the road. Case Keenum didn’t light up the scoreboard. But 25 of 30 passing with no giveaways will get the job done in high pressure situations like this. And, that 50% to 10% advantage on third downs enabled the Vikes to win total yardage 312-275 even with the deficit in YPP. Minnesota moves to 10-2 and in temporary possession of the #1 seed in the NFC (don’t forget their stadium hosts the Super Bowl this season). Atlanta falls to 7-5 to stay behind both New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South. If the playoffs were held right now, the defending NFC champs wouldn’t be in the brackets. 

New England (-7.5) 23, Buffalo 3
Yards-per-Play: New England 6.4, Buffalo 4.2
Third Down Pct: New England 42%, Buffalo 38%
Turnovers: New England 1, Buffalo 1
Rushing Yards: New England 191, Buffalo 183
Passing Stats: New England 21-30-1-244, Buffalo 15-34-1-85
TD Drive Lengths: New England 70-78, Buffalo no TDs

The danger of using “year-to-date” analysis in any sort of modeling or preview discussion, is that an outlier beginning to a season can pollute the numbers for WEEKS. We all remember that New England’s defense was a bunch of matadors in September. That means they’ve been projected to stay as partial matadors for a couple of months since. In their last eight games, the Patriots have allowed 14, 17, 7, 13, 16, 8, 17, and 3 points on a per-game basis. And they’re 7-1 against the spread in those. New England moves to 10-2, with the showdown at Pittsburgh now just two weeks away. Buffalo falls to 6-6, hoping their rematch in New England in the next-to-last week of the season will be against a lame-duck team that won’t need a victory. (If you skimmed over the stats, note that Buffalo’s passing line of 15-34-1-85 is a reminder why the coach felt the need to bench Tyrod Taylor.)

Miami (plus 1.5) 35, Denver 9
Yards-per-Play: Denver 4.0, Miami 5.7
Third Down Pct: Denver 8%, Miami 27%
Turnovers: Denver 3, Miami 3
Rushing Yards: Denver 103, Miami 145
Passing Stats: Denver 19-41-3-167, Miami 18-32-2-222
TD Drive Lengths: Denver no TDs, Miami 75-61-23

Remember when Michael Jordan kept making horrible personnel decisions as owner of the Charlotte Hornets? He was thinking he could read intangibles in young guys, imagining they had “the eye of the tiger” like he did. You get the sense that John Elway is doing the same thing with his quarterback choices. It takes talent too! That awful QB passing line was all Trevor Siemian today (19-41-3-167 against a lousy team). And he’s the “best” of what appear to be three horrible Broncos quarterbacks. Denver’s only TD today came on an interception return. The stubborn market continues to adjust as slow as molasses. Denver is 0-8 against the spread (and counting) the past two months. Denver falls to 3-9 straight up on the season, with a playoff caliber defense wasting a full season to offensive incompetence. Miami is 5-7, but will need to upset New England next Monday Night to re-inspire any discussion about the AFC Wildcard race. 

Tennessee (-7) 24, Houston 13
Yards-per-Play: Houston 5.1, Tennessee 6.9
Third Down Pct: Houston 50%, Tennessee 45%
Turnovers: Houston 1, Tennessee 1
Rushing Yards: Houston 53, Tennessee 198
Passing Stats: Houston 31-49-1-331, Tennessee 15-23-0-146
TD Drive Lengths: Houston 87, Tennessee 75-80-80

Tennessee’s yards-per-play (and rushing total) was juiced a bit by a 75-yard TD run when the Titans could have been playing it safe to run the clock out in the final moments. Bad luck Texans bettors! Houston quarterback Tom Savage is showing more awareness and better decision-making in the pocket. His only pick was very late when he had to force something. That said, Houston still only scored 13 points. Looks like the current “young QB learning curve,” is “can’t do anything,” “cuts down on mistakes,” starts to move the ball but doesn’t score,” “moves the ball and settles for field goals,” moves the ball and scores touchdowns.” The high cover rate for favorites the past several weeks saw several inexperienced QB’s stumbling around the early part of that chart. Another reason to be wary of “year to date” stats. It becomes easier to cover road dog spreads once you start moving the ball. Tennessee stays atop the AFC South at 8-4 with the win. Houston falls to 4-8. 

Jacksonville (-10) 30, Indianapolis 10
Yards-per-Play: Indianapolis 4.4, Jacksonville 6.7
Third Down Pct: Indianapolis 33%, Jacksonville 60%
Turnovers: Indianapolis 2, Jacksonville 0
Rushing Yards: Indianapolis 141, Jacksonville 96
Passing Stats: Indianapolis 21-36-2-149, Jacksonville 27-36-0-330
TD Drive Lengths: Indianapolis 75, Jacksonville 80-75-67

The score told the story here, so not much reason to elaborate. Too bad Jacksonville won’t be able to play Indianapolis in the playoffs. Jags move to 8-4, losing the tie-breaker to Tennessee. Indianapolis is 3-9. 

Green Bay (-3) 26, Tampa Bay 20 (in overtime)
Yards-per-Play: Tampa Bay 5.3, Green Bay 4.9
Third Down Pct: Tampa Bay 56%, Green Bay 42%
Turnovers: Tampa Bay 1, Green Bay 1
Rushing Yards: Tampa Bay 165, Green Bay 179
Passing Stats: Tampa Bay 21-32-0-230, Green Bay 13-22-1-77
TD Drive Lengths: Tampa Bay 75-78, Green Bay 45-72

Tampa Bay dominated regulation statistically. But Green Bay had a fumble return TD that helped forge a tie. The only drive of the extra period was a 72-yard steamroller for the Packers. Tampa Bay arm-tackled like they weren’t getting paid time-and-a-half. Total yardage was 395-256 for Tampa Bay even with that GB OT drive. You can deduce how one-sided it was before that. Jameis Winston had a good day. Not enough. Brett Hundley fell way back to earth with a thud after a decent showing in Pittsburgh. A passing line of 13-22-1-77 would be bad in a blizzard. Green Bay moves back to .500 at 6-6, but is still tough to take seriously as a Wildcard sleeper. Tampa Bay is 4-8. 

NY Jets (plus 4) 38, Kansas City 31
Yards-per-Play: Kansas City 10.3, NY Jets 5.8
Third Down Pct: Kansas City 38%, NY Jets 65%
Turnovers: Kansas City 0, NY Jets 0
Rushing Yards: Kansas City 112, NY Jets 158
Passing Stats: Kansas City 19-33-0-362, NY Jets 26-36-0-331
TD Drive Lengths: Kansas City 75-36-79-69, NY Jets 75-68-75-75

Quirky boxscore. The Jets used a 43-17 edge in time of possession (keyed by that great third down conversion rate) to win total yardage 489-474. You can see that Kansas City moved like they were on fire when they had the ball. You rarely see anything above 8.0 yards-per-play in this league, let alone 10.3. No turnovers. Though, Kansas City had a missed field goal and a failed fourth down try…which were service breaks in a fast-break game like this. The Chiefs, who once seemed a lock for the playoffs are now 6-6 as their fall off a cliff continues (0-2 vs. the Giants and Jets!). Big divisional games vs. Oakland and the L.A. Chargers are up next. Friendlier end to the season with Miami and Denver. The Jets, a borderline inspiration given how hard they try with talent that was supposed to threaten 0-16, move to 5-7.  

New Orleans (-5) 31, Carolina 21
Yards-per-Play: Carolina 5.3, New Orleans 6.2
Third Down Pct: Carolina 30%, New Orleans 40%
Turnovers: Carolina 1, New Orleans 1
Rushing Yards: Carolina 112, New Orleans 148
Passing Stats: Carolina 17-28-0-167, New Orleans 25-54-0-252
TD Drive Lengths: Carolina 75-45-75, New Orleans 70-84-31-67

The numbers tell the story pretty well. Plus, it was 31-14 Saints until Carolina scored a late garbage time TD. If the Saints had won at the LA Rams last week, it would be easier to see them as a Super Bowl threat. As of now, they’d only get a home game vs. a Wildcard if they win the division. New Orleans is 9-3, behind Philadelphia and Minnesota. Carolina falls to 8-4, but had some insurance with three home games coming up. Panthers played like they had some insurance. 

LA Chargers (-13) 19, Cleveland 10
Yards-per-Play: Cleveland 5.1, LA Chargers 6.2
Third Down Pct: Cleveland 45%, LA Chargers 33%
Turnovers: Cleveland 2, LA Chargers 0
Rushing Yards: Cleveland 89, LA Chargers 94
Passing Stats: Cleveland 15-32-1-202, LA Chargers 31-43-0-335
TD Drive Lengths: Cleveland 65, LA Chargers 78

Cleveland covered! Deshone Kizer moved the chains, and found the end zone once. That can be enough to cover two-touchdown spreads if your defensive teammates help out. The loss keeps Cleveland in the driver’s seat for the #1 draft pick at 0-12. The Browns are now two games clear of the field…and have the luxury of trying to win at least once in December if the mood grabs them. The Chargers are 6-6, tied with Kansas City and Oakland atop the extremely disappointing AFC West. 

LA Rams (-7.5) 32, Arizona 16
Yards-per-Play: LA Rams 5.4, Arizona 5.0
Third Down Pct: LA Rams 27%, Arizona 47%
Turnovers: LA Rams 1, Arizona 2
Rushing Yards: LA Rams 90, Arizona 118
Passing Stats: LA Rams 21-31-1-213, Arizona 18-32-2-194
TD Drive Lengths: LA Rams 23-30, Arizona 67-70

If you were only scoreboard watching, the Rams didn’t play as well as the score made it seem throughout the day. They had an interception return for a TD, and struggled to move the chains. You can see that their two offensive TD drives were only 23 and 30 yards. Basically, they let down off the big win over the Saints but won and covered anyway thanks to cheap points. Arizona won total yardage 312-303. The Rams are 9-3. Big tests the next three weeks vs. Philadelphia, at Seattle, and at Tennessee. The finale vs. San Francisco is no longer a gift with Garappolo on the field either. Work to do. Arizona falls to 5-7, and already has the brooms and mops ready for an offseason housecleaning. 

Oakland (-9) 24, NY Giants 17
Yards-per-Play: NY Giants 4.3, Oakland 6.1
Third Down Pct: NY Giants 36%, Oakland 40%
Turnovers: NY Giants 2, Oakland 1
Rushing Yards: NY Giants 65, Oakland 119
Passing Stats: NY Giants 21-34-0-200, Oakland 22-36-0-282
TD Drive Lengths: NY Giants 74-88, Oakland 60-79-68

Geno Smith at least provided a change of pace from Eli Manning. Enough to get a second touchdown on the board in a point spread cover. Oakland’s stats look more commanding than the game must have felt to fans until a late 24-14 lead. Oakland is in that logjam at the top of the AFC West at 6-6. The Giants jump past SF in the race for the #2 draft pick behind Cleveland. Both NYG and SF are 2-10, but the Giants “own” the backwards tiebreaker with a head-to-head loss. 

Today’s “Big Money Monday” showcase is Pittsburgh at Cincinnati. A full game preview (plus additional stats and trends) for that matchup is available in Point Spread Weekly. Be sure you join VSiN programming all day for comprehensive coverage of Steelers/Bengals, and informative preview analysis of Big 10 college basketball featuring Michigan at Ohio State, Wisconsin at Penn State, and Iowa at Indiana.

Back Tuesday, with our weekly update of “market” Power Ratings in the NFL. We’ll begin our college football postseason coverage with a look at early lines (and resulting “market” Power Ratings) in all the marquee matchups. 

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