Philadelphia Eagles (4-8 SU, 4-8 ATS) vs. Miami Dolphins (4-8 SU, 6-5-1 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, Week 14 NFL, Sunday, December 11, 2011, Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla., TV: FOX
by Badger, Pro Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Philly +3/Mia -3
Over/Under Total: 44
Bet the Eagles/Phins game using your credit card at an online sportsbook where it WILL work for depositing: BetOnline.
The train wreck that is the Philadelphia Eagles 2011 season will make its next stop in sunny Florida, where the Eagles will travel to take on the Miami Dolphins in Sun Life Stadium this Sunday as both teams try and win their fifth game of the year.
That last part has got to be the hard part for the Eagles players, coaches and fans being lumped into the same category as the 4-8 Dolphins, a team that up until a few weeks ago was in the running for the first pick of next years draft, or better known as the Suck for Luck sweepstakes.
But what do you think would make all of those same Eagles players, coaches and fans more angry, the fact that at least the Dolphins look like they are at least trying hard to win every week, something that is debatable these days with the Eagles? Or the fact that the Eagles are considered UNDERDOGS in Sundays game?
My how the mighty have fallen.
The fortunes of these two teams have been heading in opposite directions since week nine of the season back in early November. The Dolphins were coming off of another close loss to the hands of the New York Giants to move to 0-7 on the season, while the Eagles looked near perfect in their 27-point throttling of the hated Cowboys on Monday Night Football and appeared to have righted the ship at 3-4.
Since then the Eagles have lost four of their last five games, including an uninspiring, 31-14, loss at Seattle in primetime on Thursday night football last week. Meanwhile, the Dolphins hard work has finally started paying dividends by winning four of their last five, including a surprising, 34-14, shellacking of the Oakland Raiders at home in Sun Life Stadium last weekend.
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No matter how you slice and dice it, the Eagles and Dolphins are on the same level these days and Sundays game between the two will show a lot about the character in each teams locker room.
As mentioned earlier, the oddsmakers opened this game with the Miami Dolphins as the standard 3-point favorite the home team usually gets just for being at home. With the way everyone has been jumping off the Eagles bandwagon in recent weeks, the opening point spread is probably more about trying to get anyone to wager on the Eagles these days and less about the fact they think the Dolphins are a field goal better than the Eagles right now.
Since the number wasnt released until late on Tuesday, there hasnt been enough action at the window on either team to judge if the public is going to cause any line movement later in the week.
The over/under total also opened later in the week, so theres no indication as of press time whether the opening number of 44 will move in either direction as kickoff gets closer.
The potential good news for the Eagles, as far as their offense is concerned, is that starting quarterback Michael Vick is expected back after missing the past three weeks with cracked ribs (listed as probable). Vince Young was 1-2 in his absence and didnt do terrible as the Eagles problems on offense (only 17 ppg with Young at QB, only 18.4 ppg since Dallas game) werent all his fault, but theres no denying the fact that Young is like Michael Vick-lite in both the running and passing attacks for the Eagles.
The big question for me about the Philly offense if Vick is indeed back on Sunday, is he back with the ability to run the full playbook? Or will the sore ribs prevent some throws, some twisting-from-center rollout passes, or the dangerous Vick delayed QB draw from the spread formations? If the Eagles need to keep things vanilla to keep Vick in the game, then theres obviously less chance the Eagles will become the 400-plus yards, 28-points per game type of offense they once were earlier in the season.
Especially since the Dolphins unheralded defense will likely take away the Eagles running game with LeSean McCoy. Miami is 5th in the NFL allowing just a mere 93 yards a game on the ground, so getting McCoy back on track after three weeks with a sore toe and no 100-yard games might be difficult too. However, the Eagles should be able to generate some yards in the passing game, maybe with McCoy in the screen game, since the Dolphins secondary is one of the leagues weakest (24th 249 ypg) and lacks a dominant pass rusher (Cameron Wake leads team with two).
The ironic thing is its been the play of the other quarterback in this game, Miamis Matt Moore, who has led the Dolphins offensive resurgence in recent weeks. Moore has thrown eight touchdowns to zero interceptions during the Dolphins streak, and his career-high 87.6 QB rating this season is 10th in the league. Tenth.
Running back Reggie Bush has scored all five of his rushing touchdowns during the Dolphins winning ways, young offensive linemen Mike Pouncey and Jake Long are starting to blend with veterans Richie Incognito and Marc Colombo, and receiver Brandon Marshall (910 yards) is finally getting the ball and backing up his talk. Most importantly, at 27.8 points per game during the four-of-five streak, the Dolphins are finally cashing in on drives with touchdowns instead of settling for long field goals when drives used to stall out.
The Eagle defense the Dolphins will face is an enigma, and is probably the heart of the problem that is the 2011 season. With a strong front line, and a deep and athletic secondary the Eagles defense was supposed to be better than 17th in the league (345 ypg). Theres no excuse for a worse 22nd rank in scoring defense, as 23.5 points allowed has been too much for a sputtering offense to cover every week.
With this matchup being an AFC-vs.-NFC contest theres really a small sample size of head-to-head data to look for solid betting trends. The last time these two played was in 2007, a 17-7 Philly win at home in the Linc. Going back to 1996 the Eagles are 3-1 SU in the last four games in the series (4-0 ATS), but if you go back to 1987 it becomes a 4-3 SU advantage for the Dolphins including a 2-1 mark at home in Miami.
Recent history does not help the Dolphins cause though, as they are 20-48-1 ATS in their last 69 home games, but just 9-29 ATS the last 38 times they were listed as a home favorite. Philly is also a solid 14-5 ATS in their last 19 as a road underdog.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Ive been burned by Philly too much this season, so even though the underdog role is tempting I cant pull the trigger. I think Vick comes back fresh and quick and the Eagles finally score some, but the Dolphins offense also puts 20-plus on the board as well. Im taking the over of 44.
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