Saturday, December 27, 2014

NFL Week 17 NFC East Preview & Pick

We have reached the final week of the NFL regular season and the drama that has surrounded the NFC East for the past three seasons as far as winning the division title has given way to a pair of basically meaningless games to close-out 2014. The Cowboys have been able to avoid the Week 17 winner-take-all scenario that cost them the past three NFC East crowns with a solid 11-4 record through their first 15 games. The Eagle's loss to Washington last Saturday officially ended their playoff hopes and both the Redskins and the Giants' race to the postseason never even got out of the gate.

Before the season began, I predicted that Philadelphia would go 11-5 this season to win a second-straight division title. The Eagles still have a decent shot of matching last season's record of 10-6, but I never expected that 10 wins would not be good enough to earn a spot in the NFC playoffs. I never saw Detroit coming and Arizona exceeded my expectations as well.

The biggest surprise has been the Cowboys' ability to win the games down the stretch that they would consistently lose in the past. As much as I hate to admit it, this could be a very dangerous team once the playoffs start next weekend. While I will be rooting hard to see the Boys get blown out of the water against whichever team(s) they will face in the postseason, if they can continue to run the ball behind DeMarco Murray and if Tony Romo continues to manage the game well without turning the ball over, I could easily see Dallas going all the way to either Seattle or Green Bay in the NFC Championship and making a game out of it.

As for our beloved and beleaguered Birds, I have to hope that this step backwards will go a long way towards taking a positive step forward towards a future run at a Super Bowl title. I believe Chip Kelly is wired just right for a long and productive career as a head coach in the NFL, but until he has a legitimate franchise quarterback in place to run his offense, this team will only get so far. I was one of the biggest Nick Foles' fans out there at the end of last season, but his regression this year is some serious cause for concern. Mark Sanchez is certainly not the answer and if Kelly saw something in Matt Barkley, he would have already had him in the starting lineup.

Another area of concern is the Eagles' running game. LeSean McCoy took a major step backwards this season as compared to his stellar campaign in 2013, but he did still run for over 1,200 yards heading into the season finale. The concern is that the wear and tear of being a running back in the NFL is starting to take its toll. Fortunately, the college draft is always filled with some fresh legs that can quickly fill the void. It is just a matter of the team's scouts finding the right pair of legs as Shady's heir apparent.

The Eagles made some decent strides this season on the other side of the ball with a defense that knew how to get after the quarterback and create opportunities through turnovers. On the flip side, this unit still gave up way too many big plays and it had a hard time getting off the field against some of the better offenses it faced.

We will obviously have all the time in the world to thoroughly dissect the good, the bad and the ugly of the Eagles' 2014 season now that they are just one of 20 other NFL teams that will get an early jump on the offseason. So for now, lets turn our immediate attention to a final week of football in the NFC East.

The following is a link to my complete preview and NFC East "pick of the week" for Sunday that was part of an ongoing series for Doc's Sports. My year-to-date record for these picks coming into Week 17 is 9-7 and I am looking to go out with a bang with a big win this Sunday. Unfortunately, it would be at the expense of our home-town team!

Expert NFL Betting Picks: Weekly NFC East Predictions Week 17

Friday, December 19, 2014

NFL Week 16 NFC East Preview & Pick

For the first time this season I have this sinking feeling in my gut that all the Eagles' efforts this season to repeat as NFC East Division champs will have been in vain as a result of last Sunday's loss to Dallas. They now have to win their final two games against Washington and New York, while scoreboard watching to see if the Cowboys get tripped-up this Sunday at home against Indianapolis or next week on the road against the Redskins.

Normally this would be no big thing given how Dallas has played in December the past three seasons, but this time around things have a different feel. It was Mark Sanchez throwing the ball to the wrong team last week instead of Tony Romo. The Eagles' defense showed some major signs of improvement as the season wore on, but it could not get off the turf at the Linc last Sunday night, while Dallas was able to build a huge 21-0 lead early in the game. The pendulum has appeared to swing in the wrong direction ever since the Thanksgiving Day massacre and Philadelphia no longer controls the necessary power to swing it back in the right direction to save its season.

I am still holding onto the hope that the Cowboys revert to their former selves over these next two games just for the sheer pleasure of seeing team owner Jerry Jones' face twist and turn as his team once again crashes and burns. Unfortunately, that sinking feeling I was talking about keeps telling me that I will not get the satisfaction this time around after watching our most bitter rivals blow the division title three-straight years with a loss in the final game of the season.

While there is a very good chance that my preseason prediction of an 11-5 season for the Eagles comes to fruition, in my worst nightmare I never imagined that this record would NOT be good enough to win the division, let alone make the playoffs.

First things first, Philadelphia has to get by Washington this Saturday afternoon. This should not be a problem, but I would not bet on the Birds as eight-point road favorites. The tricky part could be next week against New York. The Giants have shown some signs of life lately to the point where I made them my NFC East "pick of the week" against St. Louis. Eli Manning and Co. would love nothing more than to put the final steak in Philly's heart next week to send both teams packing to an early offseason.

As for the Cowboys, a 4-0 finish to the regular season could actually propel this team deep into the playoffs while riding a strong wave of momentum. The ability to run the ball this time of year has led to a number of Super Bowl runs over the years, and while I do not see Dallas getting that far, I could see the Boys working their way into the NFC title game.

For now, my only hope is for DeMarco Murray to cough the ball up a few times this Sunday while playing with a broken left hand. He has accounted for close to 40 percent of the Cowboys' offense this season and he was more than instrumental in last Sunday's win at the Linc.

For this week's complete NFC East preview, please check-out the link below for the piece as previously posted on Doc's Sports.

Expert NFL Betting Picks: Weekly NFC East Predictions Week 16

Friday, December 12, 2014

NFL Week 15 NFC East Preview & Pick

The rubber meets the road this Sunday night in the NFC East in what in actuality is a title game between Dallas and Philadelphia. If the Cowboys win, they would have a one-game lead in the division heading into a home game against Indianapolis next Sunday before Week 17's season finale against Washington on the road. If the Eagles pull-off the sweep, they would have the one-game lead and the tie-break should both teams end-up with identical records. They finish the season on the road against the Redskins and the Giants.

While anything could happen in those last two weeks to swing the division title one way or the other, it would be a solid bet to say that the team that wins on Sunday night walks away with this season's NFC East crown. It is also safe to say that the team that loses on Sunday runs a very real risk of missing the playoffs altogether even if they finish with 11 wins. Given these scenarios it would be an understatement to call Sunday night's showdown huge.

Philly is anywhere from a three to three and a half point favorite in this contest mainly because of the home field advantage. It is no big mystery that both teams come into this game looking to run the ball down the other's throat behind their featured running back. The Eagles' LeSean McCoy won the first round of this two-round heavyweight fight by torching the Cowboys for 159 rushing yards on their own field. DeMarco Murray has been torching opposing teams all season long with a league-high 1,606 rushing yards, but he was held to just 73 on Thanksgiving Day.

The other key factor in this game will be turnovers, but that is almost a given in any football game. The Eagles made life miserable for Tony Romo in the first meeting and he cracked under the pressure with two interceptions. Seattle made life miserable for Mark Sanchez last Sunday at the Linc in what looked more like his butt-fumbling days with the Jets. Whichever of these two signal callers does the best job of taking care of the ball will be celebrating a win early Monday morning.

The undercard in the NFC East this Sunday is Washington on the road against New York. Both teams are suffering through a lost season, but the Redskins are just plain lost. This franchise is on the verge of completely imploding given the drama between an egotistical owner, a rookie coach and a prima donna quarterback. If you are betting on this game go big on the Giants minus the 7.5 points.

Please check-out the link below for my complete Week 15 NFC East preview as well as my 'pick of the week' for Doc's Sports. I have hit a rough patch lately with three-straight losers, but I believe my call in the Dallas vs. Eagles' game is right on the money!

Expert NFL Betting Picks: Weekly NFC East Predictions Week 15

Thursday, December 4, 2014

NFL Week 14 NFC East Preview & Pick

We have reached the point of the NFL regular season where certain team's playoff hopes can immediately rise with a win or take a major hit with a loss. There are a pair of games in the NFC East this week could have a major impact on the postseason picture in not only the division, but in the conference as a whole.

The Cowboys are in Chicago for a Thursday night matchup against the Bears in what could be considered an almost "must win" situation after posting just one victory in their last four games. Dallas is still in solid shape to make the playoffs at 8-4, but a loss to Chicago as a road favorite could go a long way towards changing that. First, it would fall even deeper behind the Eagles in the division title race and second, the Cowboys would be cast into the mix for a wild card spot that includes teams such as San Francisco, Detroit and Seattle with only two of four teams making it into the postseason.

Philadelphia gained the edge in the NFC East with last Thursday's convincing 33-10 win over the Cowboys, but it has another huge test on its hands with the Seahawks coming to town this Sunday. The Eagles are a perfect 6-0 at home this season while Seattle is just 3-3 on the road, but you can throw those records out the window with this game listed as a PICK with most betting lines. This matchup comes down to the vaunted Seahawks' defense trying to slowdown the high-powered Eagles' offensive attack. If LeSean McCoy has another day running the ball like he did on Thanksgiving against the Cowboys, Philadelphia should win this game. However, if head coach Chip Kelly has to rely on Mark Sanchez throwing the ball to try and beat Seattle, things could really tighten up for next week's rematch between Dallas and Philly at the Linc.

Both Washington and New York find themselves riding out the string after posting just three victories in their first 12 games. It is highly doubtful that Redskins' head coach Jay Gruden's job is jeopardy since this his first year at the helm, but it is almost a foregone conclusion that Tom Coughlin's long and highly successful tenure with Giants will come to an end after this season.

I actually used New York's road game against Jacksonville as my NFC East "pick of the week" so to see which way I went in this one check-out my full preview of this week's games in my weekly article for Doc's Sports using the link below.

Expert NFL Betting Picks: Weekly NFC East Predictions Week 14