Eagles look to end struggles this Sunday in Dallas
The NFL included a flex scheduling option for NBC's "Sunday Night Football" late-season schedule a handful of years ago to avoid having two non-contending teams on the national stage down the stretch run. Yet take a look at this Sunday's game and it's the 3-8 Philadelphia Eagles at 5-6 Dallas Cowboys.
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The Eagles have clearly quit on lame-duck Coach Andy Reid as they dropped their seventh game in a row on Monday night, 30-22 to a struggling Carolina Panthers team in a matchup of the two teams with the worst records in the NFC (alas, no flex scheduling in MNF). Eagles QB Michael Vick sat out with a concussion, as did concussed star running back LeSean McCoy.
Neither Vick nor McCoy will be ready against Dallas, and the team also will be without top receiver DeSean Jackson now for the rest of 2012. He was put on injured reserve Tuesday after suffering fractured ribs early in Monday's loss. Jackson got a big new extension this past offseason but disappointed with 45 catches and 700 receiving yards, although both led the team.
And the Eagles' news got stranger Tuesday when the team shockingly cut two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin. He was one of the big stars brought in before the 2011 season, signing a five-year, $28 million contract as a free agent from the Titans. Babin had a career-high 18 sacks last year (third in NFL) in Philly but 5.5 this year. The move is another indication the Eagles have given up on this season and will start looking at young players.
This could be time for bettors to jump on the Eagles' opponents even harder. Philadelphia is an NFL-worst 1-9-1 against the spread this season, which is on pace for one of the worst ATS seasons in league history. Their one cover was in a Week 5 16-14 loss at Pittsburgh when Philly was a 4-point dog. The Eagles are 9.5-point opening dogs at Dallas and there will be live play-by-play betting at the book.
It's a near must-win for the Cowboys (5-6) to stay in the playoff race. Dallas is currently 10th in the NFC playoff standings. The Cowboys had a two-game winning streak snapped at home on Thanksgiving, 38-31 by the Redskins. The game was essentially over at halftime with Washington up 28-3. Tony Romo lost for the first time in six starts on Thanksgiving despite a career-high 441 yards passing.
Dallas won in Philadelphia in Week 10, 38-23, as a 1-point favorite. That was the game in which Vick suffered his concussion. It was 17-17 entering the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys scored on a punt return, interception return and fumble return in that quarter to make it a rout. That has been the Cowboys' only cover in the past five games.
Sunday's Other Live Betting Games
Vikings at Packers (-9, 46.5): Green Bay was just behind San Francisco on the NFC futures odds entering Week 12, but the Packers laid an egg Sunday night in a 38-10 loss at the Giants. That dropped Green Bay to the NFC fourth-favorite at 19/4 (previously 13/4).
Aaron Rodgers was under pressure all night by the Giants and had arguably his worst game of the season, completing 14 of 25 for 219 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Rodgers had thrown at least two TD passes in his previous seven games and the Pack won six of them. But there are two reasons to believe Rodgers will have a big game versus Minnesota. First, he has won four in a row against the Vikings and in his career has 19 touchdowns and just three picks versus them in eight career games. Second, Rodgers will get top receiver Greg Jennings back from injury. He has been out since Sept. 30.
Can Green Bay's No. 11 rush defense slow Adrian Peterson? The Vikings' star has rushed for at least 108 yards in the past five games, but the Vikings (6-5) are just 2-3 in that stretch. Minnesota has covered only once in its past five visits to Green Bay.
Steelers at Ravens (TBA): The big question here is whether QB Ben Roethlisberger will return from ribs and shoulder injuries for the Steelers (thus no opening line). Most reports have it no better than 50-50. Big Ben was knocked out of Pittsburgh's Week 10 win at Kansas City and the Steelers have dearly missed him the past two weeks.
The Steelers were 5-for-17 with three turnovers behind Byron Leftwich in their 13-10 home loss to Baltimore two weeks ago. And with Leftwich out hurt last week and Charlie Batch starting, Pittsburgh had eight turnovers in a 20-14 upset loss at Cleveland. Pittsburgh had more possessions that ended with turnovers than it had in any other way (7). It was the sixth time since 1993 a team turned the ball over eight times and those clubs are now 0-6. Look for a Bovada Week 13 specials prop on Pittsburgh turnovers.
Baltimore can wrap up the AFC North win a win and a Cincinnati loss at San Diego. The Ravens will clinch a playoff spot with a victory. They also had a statistical anomaly in last week's 16-13 overtime win in San Diego, Baltimore's fourth straight victory. The Ravens converted a fourth-and-29 from their 37 with 1:37 left in regulation and trailing by three points - if you saw the play, it was a simple dump-off to running back Ray Rice. It led to the tying field goal and was the longest first-down conversion (non penalty) by any team since Week 2 of 2001.
The Ravens' NFL-high and franchise-record 15-game home winning streak is on the line Sunday. The last team to beat them there was Pittsburgh on Dec. 5, 2010, by another 13-10 score. Baltimore has covered in just two of its past eight at M&T Bank Stadium overall.
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