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Futures for Eagles, Rams less bright after showdown

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

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Carson Wentz leaves the field with an injured knee.
© USA Today Sports Images

Philadelphia won the battle but lost its star quarterback as Carson Wentz may have suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Eagles’ 43-35 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Stat breakdowns for handicappers from an eventful NFL Sunday begin now in VSiN City. 

NFL: Nick Foles now the QB for new #1 seed in the NFC
It’s the instinct of athletes to battle for every yard and every point, particularly when something as important as the #1 seed in a conference is at stake. Unfortunately, running into injuries is always a threat for NFL quarterbacks in this current era of vicious, hard-hitting defenses. Carson Wentz passed for almost 300 yards and four TDs Sunday in Los Angeles, but surely had one ill-advised charge to the end zone he’d like to take back. 

Philadelphia (-1) 43, Los Angeles 35
Yards-per-Play: Philadelphia 5.4, LA Rams 6.8
Third Down Pct: Philadelphia 40%, LA Rams 29%
Turnovers: Philadelphia 1, LA Rams 2
Rushing Yards: Philadelphia 139, LA Rams 109
Passing Stats: Philadelphia 29-51-1-316, LA Rams 16-26-0-198
TD Drive Lengths: Philadelphia 75-88-86-75, LA Rams 37-75-71-75

Wentz was 23-41-1-291 before leaving the game. Nick Foles helped engineer a comeback from a 35-31 deficit. The yards-per-play is a bit misleading. Philadelphia actually won total yardage 455-307, thanks to a time-if-possession edge of about 39-21. The Eagles won every stat category BUT yards-per-play. Both teams scored one non-offensive TD. The Rams with a blocked punt recovery. The Eagles returning a botched LA lateral sequence on the final play of the game. 

Jared Goff has had trouble converting third downs vs. both of the projected bye teams in the NFC. The Rams were 3 of 11 for 27% at Minnesota a few weeks ago, 2 of 7 here for 29%. It’s tough to count on your quarterback in playoff games to make occasional huge yardage plays that make up for a failure in moving the chains. And that’s an even bigger deal if your own defense can’t get the opponent off the field. 

Rams vs. Vikings and Eagles
Lost total yardage 451-254 and 445-307
Lost rushing yardage 171-45 and 139-109
Lost third down conversions 50% to 27% and 40% to 29%
Lost turnovers 1-0 and 2-1 (only one forced turnover)

Not a championship pedigree, though the franchise deserves a ton of credit for coming so far so fast. 

Philadelphia moves to 11-2 with the win, reclaiming the #1 NFC seed from Minnesota. The Rams fall to 9-4, and will fall out of first place in the NFC West if they can’t win on the road at 8-5 Seattle next week. (Philadelphia is now 10-3 against the spread this season, while the Rams are 8-5 ATS).

We’ll know soon what kind of market adjustment will be made for Foles at QB. The Eagles will still be favored with him on the road against the NY Giants Sunday (a tough third straight road spot for the visitors). Their Futures price will take a hit (if it's confirmed Wentz tore an ACL) because the perceived difference between Wentz and Foles is very likely to knock Philadelphia below other contenders in Power Ratings. 

Let’s take a quick look at the second part of “the Eagles pass the Vikings” before running the rest of the Sunday card…

Carolina (plus 2.5) 31, Minnesota 24
Yards-per-Play: Minnesota 5.0, Carolina 5.5
Third Down Pct: Minnesota 47%, Carolina 33%
Turnovers: Minnesota 3, Carolina 1
Rushing Yards: Minnesota 100, Carolina 216
Passing Stats: Minnesota 27-44-2-256, Carolina 13-25-1-129
TD Drive Lengths: Minnesota 75-73, Carolina 69-89-75

A surprising amount of offense (701 total combined yards) given the caliber of defenses, and Cam Newton’s recent struggles in the air (which continued). Tough for Minnesota to keep hitting on all cylinders in a third straight road game. But they almost rallied back to steal the win after a Newton pick gave them a cheap field goal with a few minutes to go. Newton atoned with a long run that set up the game-winning TD. Case Keenum can make plays in a shootout, but is turnover-prone when he has to carry that much of the load. Minnesota falls to 10-3 in its attempt to host all its postseason games including the Super Bowl. Carolina’s win is HUGE in the playoff chase. They move to 9-4 (tied with New Orleans in the NFC South, a game ahead of Atlanta). The Panthers want to stay well clear of Green Bay and the other seven-win teams. 

NFL: Important results up and down the Sunday ticket as season enters final month 
A rare day with dramatic finishes and important results all over the busy schedule. Let’s dig in.

(Remaining games are presented in Nevada Rotation order. There were a couple of time changes, which means Seattle/Jacksonville will show up with the early games, while Dallas/NYG won’t come until near the bottom.) 

Detroit (pick-em) 24, Tampa Bay 21
Yards-per-Play: Detroit 7.0, Tampa Bay 5.8
Third Down Pct: Detroit 45%, Tampa Bay 50%
Turnovers: Detroit 3, Tampa Bay 5
Rushing Yards: Detroit 53, Tampa Bay 133
Passing Stats: Detroit 36-44-2-381, Tampa Bay 26-38-2-267
TD Drive Lengths: Detroit 74-46-51, Tampa Bay 75-75-72

A turnover fiasco, with EIGHT combined between the two teams. Matthew Stafford was cleared to play Sunday morning…then almost passed for 400 yards on the horrendous Tampa Bay defense. The Lions still had to sweat the ending even with the five takeaways from TB. Detroit moves to 7-6 to stay in the very crowded NFC Wildcard race. Tampa Bay falls to 5-8, and an even worse 3-9-1 against the point spread. Kind of a quiet disaster because so many interesting things are happening above and below them in this conference this season. Tampa Bay basically has “the Cleveland Browns of defenses,” but hardly anyone is making fun of them for it.  

Chicago (plus 6) 33, Cincinnati 7
Yards-per-Play: Chicago 6.7, Cincinnati 4.4
Third Down Pct: Chicago 36%, Cincinnati 25%
Turnovers: Chicago 0, Cincinnati 2
Rushing Yards: Chicago 232, Cincinnati 70
Passing Stats: Chicago 25-32-0-250, Cincinnati 18-37-1-164
TD Drive Lengths: Chicago 51-76-43-80, Cincinnati 72

Cincinnati had little fight in them after that brutal Monday night war with Pittsburgh. Chicago took advantage early and often against the football equivalent of a shattered porcelain vase. Don’t get too excited about Mitchell Trubisky’s passing line. Yes, he’s very promising. But he was coasting through zombies all afternoon. Sometimes handicappers can anticipate spots like this on the schedule. Given the lack of a dramatic line move toward the Bears, more probably should have. The last time Chicago played on the road, it gained only 140 yards at Philadelphia (then just 147 last week vs. SF). Here the Bears made a run at 500 total yards, finishing with 482. Chicago moves to 4-9 with the win. Cincinnati falls to 5-8, knowing that last week’s loss had already all but eliminated them from a Wildcard berth.

Buffalo (-3.5) 13, Indianapolis 7 (in overtime)
Yards-per-Play: Indianapolis 3.3, Buffalo 4.8
Third Down Pct: Indianapolis 25%, Buffalo 56%
Turnovers: Indianapolis 0, Buffalo 2
Rushing Yards: Indianapolis 163, Buffalo 229
Passing Stats: Indianapolis 11-22-0-64, Buffalo 7-16-1-92
TD Drive Lengths: Indianapolis 77, Buffalo 80-65

You probably know the game was played in a blizzard, with snow accumulation during the game making it very tough for players to move around at speed. Usually best to throw a boxscore like this out. Though, these can be helpful for visualizing future expectations when sub-par teams play in sub-freezing temperatures in a blizzard! You still hear mainstream announcers suggest these kinds of conditions “help” offenses because defenses can’t get their footing. Every so often there are a lot of goofy points in bad weather. But percentage-wise (particularly when wind is involved), these conditions don’t just lead to Unders…but to games staying WAY Under. Might have taken a little under nine quarters to get to the 36 that closed in Las Vegas. Neither “half” got halfway to its respective Over/Under. Buffalo rises to 7-6 as it tries to hang around the AFC Wildcard chase. Indianapolis falls to 3-10. Note that Nathan Peterman started for Buffalo. He couldn’t go the whole way after suffering a head injury. Joe Webb “got the win in relief” going 2-6 in the frigid air with one interception. 

Jacksonville (-2) 30, Seattle 24
Yards-per-Play: Seattle 7.0, Jacksonville 6.5
Third Down Pct: Seattle 22%, Jacksonville 31%
Turnovers: Seattle 3, Jacksonville 1 
Rushing Yards: Seattle 141, Jacksonville 157
Passing Stats: Seattle 17-31-3-260, Jacksonville 18-27-0-268
TD Drive Lengths: Seattle 25-61-79, Jacksonville 42-75-1

A lot of weirdness here. Jacksonville only led 3-0 at the half. That’s 51 points in the second half with two good defenses and Blake Bortles on the field! The Jaguars led 27-10 entering the fourth quarter before relaxing and making things way too interesting for the home fans. There weren’t any defensive scores. But Jacksonville had that 1-yard TD drive you see above, while Seattle’s first TD was also cheap. You probably saw clips of the “chippiness” late in proceedings. Really dumb for Seattle to risk suspensions before that huge home game next week against the Rams. Jacksonville is now 9-4 and in sole possession of first place in the AFC South. Seattle falls to 8-5, a game behind the Rams in the NFC West, and in that conference’s Wildcard logjam. 

Kansas City (-4) 26, Oakland 15
Yards-per-Play: Oakland 4.9, Kansas City 5.7
Third Down Pct: Oakland 38%, Kansas City 38%
Turnovers: Oakland 3, Kansas City 1
Rushing Yards: Oakland 70, Kansas City 165
Passing Stats: Oakland 24-41-2-198, Kansas City 20-34-1-243
TD Drive Lengths: Oakland 67-43, Kansas City 86-38

Kansas City started to look like its old self, which may only be a reflection of how far Oakland has fallen. The Raiders were at .500 heading in because a friendly schedule fed them the NY Giants, Denver, and Miami in recent weeks. They didn’t do much here until second half garbage time. Hard to find much evidence that Oakland isn’t a 5-11 type team at the moment. Kansas City ends its losing skid to get back over the .500 mark at 7-6. Oakland falls to 6-7. The Raiders are now 4-8-1 against the number, and were the most popular Futures bet to win the Super Bowl in Las Vegas because of their pending move. Not a good year to be a Raiders investor. 

Green Bay (-3) 27, Cleveland 21 (in overtime)
Yards-per-Play: Green Bay 4.6, Cleveland 6.1
Third Down Pct: Green Bay 50%, Cleveland 54%
Turnovers: Green Bay 0, Cleveland 2
Rushing Yards: Green Bay 85, Cleveland 136
Passing Stats: Green Bay 35-46-0-256, Cleveland 20-28-2-209
TD Drive Lengths: Green Bay 74-75-25-42, Cleveland 84-70-88

Cleveland led 21-7 entering the fourth quarter of a game they didn’t “have” to lose in the downward race for the #1 draft pick. Yet, they gave it away anyway. You can see that Green Bay’s last two TD’s came on drives of 25 and 42 yards, the game-tying and game-winning scores. Brett Hundley of Green Bay didn’t lose his head. Though, he’s about to lose his job because Aaron Rodgers looks ready to come off the injured list. Green Bay is now 7-6 (needing virtual miracles to beat lousy Tampa Bay and Cleveland the past two weeks), but has a shot at 10-6 with the gunslinger coming back. Tie-breakers are largely smiling on the Packers. They’ll still need some help. Cleveland stays “perfect” at 0-13. 

San Francisco (plus 2) 26, Houston 16
Yards-per-Play: San Francisco 6.3, Houston 4.9
Third Down Pct: San Francisco 18%, Houston 23%
Turnovers: San Francisco 1, Houston 1
Rushing Yards: San Francisco 102, Houston 90
Passing Stats: Indianapolis San Francisco 20-33-1-314, Houston 20-38-0-221
TD Drive Lengths: San Francisco 68-85, Houston 75-75

Good things continue for Jimmy Garappolo. Though, converting just 2 of 11 on third downs against a lousy defense is a negative. Otherwise, another impressive road win with more than 300 yards in the air. San Francisco has established clear superiority on the road over Chicago (388-147 yardage edge) and Houston (416-311), and may still offer market value because lines can be slow to adjust to new realities. T.J. Yates threw most of the passes for Houston, after Tom Savage was belatedly knocked out of the game with a head injury. San Francisco is 3-10, but 2-0 straight up and ATS as underdogs with Garappolo as a starter. Houston is 4-9, but should quickly return to being a playoff threat next season if they can figure out how to keep Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watts healthy. 

LA Chargers (-6) 30, Washington 13
Yards-per-Play: Washington 4.0, LA Chargers 6.9
Third Down Pct: Washington 17%, LA Chargers 40%
Turnovers: Washington 1, LA Chargers 1
Rushing Yards: Washington 65, LA Chargers 174 
Passing Stats: Washington 15-27-1-136, LA Chargers 19-34-1-314
TD Drive Lengths: Washington 77, LA Chargers 92-75-55

Washington is playing like another “shattered vase” team. But they don’t really have an excuse because no-shows vs. Dallas and LAC came in well-rested spots off the Thanksgiving win over the NY Giants. Washington lost its last two by a combined 68-27 in games that were supposed to be reasonably close. The LA Chargers, who supposedly don’t have any home field advantage at their current stadium, have won their last four home games by scores of 21-0, 54-24, 19-10, and 30-13. That’s a combined 124-47 on the scoreboard and 3-1 ATS (non-cover in the 19-10 win over Cleveland). Philip Rivers and company move to 7-6 in the AFC West, still tied for first place with Kansas City. Washington is 5-8, but feels like it fell off a cliff. 

Denver (plus 1) 23, NY Jets 0
Yards-per-Play: NY Jets 2.1, Denver 4.0
Third Down Pct: NY Jets 23%, Denver 41%
Turnovers: NY Jets 2, Denver 0
Rushing Yards: NY Jets 59, Denver 84
Passing Stats: NY Jets 8-21-1-41, Denver 19-31-0-189
TD Drive Lengths: NY Jets no TDs, Denver 20-68

Horrible game. The Jets played like their gas tank hit “empty” just as they hit altitude. Obviously hurt that quarterback Josh McCown broke his non-throwing hand and had to sit out the rest of the afternoon. The Jets had the passing line of a blizzard team in good conditions. While it was a win for Denver, it wasn’t a good performance. Only 4.0 YPP, and one of its two TDs was cheap. Denver moves to 4-9 with the win, but still pretty much looks like Cleveland (and has for two months). The Jets fall to 5-8. 

Arizona (plus 3) 12, Tennessee 7
Yards-per-Play: Tennessee 204, Arizona 261
Third Down Pct: Tennessee 33%, Arizona 21%
Turnovers: Tennessee 2, Arizona 0
Rushing Yards: Tennessee 65, Arizona 136
Passing Stats: Carolina Tennessee 16-31-2-139, Arizona 17-26-0-125
TD Drive Lengths: Tennessee 50, Arizona no TDs

Horrible result for (likely) playoff-bound Tennessee. You can’t even call it a flunked litmus test because visiting Blaine Gabbert and Arizona shouldn’t be a litmus test for a contender. At least the Titans kept Gabbert out of the end zone. Marcus Mariota isn’t much of a quarterback when his rushing option is taken away. The need to protect himself has exposed his weaknesses. Tennessee falls to 8-5, and is now looking at a Wildcard spot behind Jacksonville in the AFC South. Arizona is 6-7.

Tennessee’s last seven games
Lost at Arizona 12-7
Outgained at home by Houston 384-344 but vultured a cover on a late TD
Nail biter at Indianapolis
Lost at Pittsburgh 40-17
Nail biter vs. Cincinnati
Outgained at home by Baltimore 341-257 in a close win
Overtime win at Cleveland

Even when the Titans win they don’t look like they’re better than anybody. 

Dallas (-4) 30, NY Giants 10
Yards-per-Play: Dallas 7.4, NY Giants 4.4
Third Down Pct: Dallas 50%, NY Giants 38%
Turnovers: Dallas 0, NY Giants 2
Rushing Yards: Dallas 122, NY Giants 102
Passing Stats: Dallas 20-30-0-332, NY Giants 31-46-2-228
TD Drive Lengths: Dallas 75-82-88-21, NY Giants 68

Another bad outing for the Giants, who won’t be likely to put Humpty Dumpty back together again until the offseason. Though, it was closer much of the day than the final score and YPP stat makes it look. Just 10-10 at the half.  Dallas moves back over the .500 mark at 7-6 with the victory. Ezekiel Elliott still can’t return until the final two games. But facing floundering Oakland next week gives Dallas a shot to sit at 8-6 when Elliott returns. NYG, the preseason Vegas favorite to win the NFC East, falls to 2-11...putting a ceiling on how many wins the Cleveland Browns can aim for the rest of the month in the backwards battle for the #1 draft pick. 

Pittsburgh (-6) 39, Baltimore 38
Yards-per-Play: Baltimore 6.7, Pittsburgh 6.4
Third Down Pct: Baltimore 40%, Pittsburgh 67%
Turnovers: N Baltimore 1, Pittsburgh 0
Rushing Yards: Baltimore 152, Pittsburgh 59
Passing Stats: Baltimore 20-35-1-261, Pittsburgh 44-66-0-486
TD Drive Lengths: Baltimore 78-85-60-74-56, Pittsburgh 59-90-67-68

Pittsburgh’s defense clearly felt the affects of the Monday Nighter vs. Cincinnati. They made an unimpressive Baltimore offense look like a touchdown machine. Ben Roethlisberger IS a touchdown machine, and wasn’t going to roll over and accept a loss. A huge fourth quarter rally brought Pittsburgh from down 31-20 and 38-29 to a 39-38 victory. That’s almost 500 passing yards on 66 throws without any turnovers! Pittsburgh is 11-2 heading into the battle for AFC #1 seed with New England next week. Baltimore misses an opportunity to take commanding possession of the second AFC Wildcard spot, falling to 7-6. 

Today’s “Big Money Monday” showcase is New England at Miami. 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 Patriots/Dolphins and early college football bowl talk.

Back Tuesday, with our weekly update of “market” Power Ratings in the NFL and more football talk. 

The college basketball schedule is going to be fairly quiet for a bit because of late-semester exams. We’ll pick our spots until the weekday schedule heats back up. If you were focused on Sunday football, you might not be aware that ranked Arizona State (plus 12) shocked Kansas (falling from #2 with its second straight loss) in Lawrence 95-85 Sunday afternoon. ASU shot 50% or better on two-pointers and three-pointers (14 of 28). Kansas once again had trouble shooting from distance and earning trips to the FT line. We saw that last week in Kansas' loss to Washington that was played in Kansas City. 

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