Friday, January 08, 2010

Picking Green

Frank Helps You Think It All Out is on a solid 10-4 run picking the Eagles ATS in play-off games, including 2-1 last year: Vikings-win, Giants-win, Cards-loss. So for Philadelphia fans, perhaps it is a good thing that, while I am real uneasy about the Eagles chances tomorrow night, I'm inclined to take the head start. The New York Post obliges and has Dallas -4 over Philadelphia.

At first glance, four is a cheap line. As I wrote earlier in the week, did anybody in Las Vegas even see the game last week? Dallas seems better at every position but kicker and wide receiver. In fact, they are much better on defense- shutting out their last two opponents, holding the Saints to 17 on the road. The Eagles have scored one total offensive touchdown in two games against the Cowboys.

Add in a 24-0 beat down just six days ago, and this line looks a little nuts. No way the Eagles are one point ‘dogs on a neutral field, right?

I tend to think there is an unholy trifecta working in bettors’ minds here. First, Wade Phillips is calling the shots on the other side- and he is deeply distrusted. He is a guy with zero success is big, win-or-go-home spots. I would not want decisions vis-à-vis my entire season rattling around in his brainpan. There is also similar concern, not as deep, about Tony Romo.

Second, most bettors dismiss the magnitude of the beating of last week’s game. Dallas is good- falling down 14 to that defense can make you look worse than you are. Philadelphia got caught up in a game where Dallas successfully went to the emotional well. But, everything went Dallas' way- and they put up a not substantial 24 points.

Third, I think there is a real Desean Jackson price premium right now. Philadelphia really ought to be a touchdown ‘dog here- needing help to be within a score late. Well, for one thing, Jackson is generating that “free, unexpected score” more often than not. For another thing, for all its faults, the defense does force turnovers. Personally, I feel the Eagles will struggle to bust through seventeen points here through routine offense- but I also feel that Jackson on the defnese is 50-50 to bust a single crazy play over sixty minutes and push them into the 24-ish range. Between Jackson and a defense, this line is forced to reflect a favorable Eagles’ “random score” premium of half a touchdown- say three or four points- pushing the line from eight to four.

Ultimately, I don’t feel good about this game at all- Dallas is more than a touchdown better than Philadelphia on paper. But I also think Philadelphia will play a more heady game this time- and it is a division game, third time around. That does not make me confident in scoreboard separation- particularly again considering Philadelphia penchant for big play scores. This is the sort of game where it is real nice to be able to just strike for 50 yards in the absence of regular offensive ability. I’ll take Philadelphia +4 over Dallas.

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