Philadelphia Eagles (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. St. Louis Rams (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, Week 1 NFL, Sunday, September 11, 2011, Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Mo., TV: FOX
by Badger, Pro Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Phil -5/STL +5
Over/Under Total: 43.5
Reloaded with a bevy of big name free agents, a Pro-Bowl quarterback with a new $100 million dollar contract and a whole heap of high expectations for the 2011 season, the Philadelphia Eagles will take their show on the road to kickoff the NFL regular season September 11th when they play the St. Louis Rams in the Edward Jones Dome.
The Eagles have finally come full circle, starting with the seven-figure contract they gave to Michael Vick this offseason they have gone out of their way to prove the Donavan McNabb era in Philly is over and gone, now its Vicks show. The Eagles even bolstered their roster with a few big names on defense (CB Nnamdi Asomugha, DE Cullen Jenkins) and some depth on offense (RB Ronnie Brown, QB Vince Young) for another shot at a deep run in the NFL playoffs.
The Rams have improved to the point that fans in St. Louis have renewed hope. Quarterback Sam Bradford is healthy, the team looked good in all phases in rolling to a 4-0 preseason, and once again the NFC West is a wide open race that the Rams have just as legit of a shot at winning as anyone else in the division. How well St. Louis defends their turf against the top-ranked Eagles in this weeks opener will speak volumes about how legit the Rams really are this season.
When the point spread opened back a few weeks ago Philadelphia was listed as low as 3.5-point favorites on the road, but it didnt stay there very long as quick money came in on the Eagles to drive the number up to minus -5 at most sportsbooks in Las Vegas and even a few minus -5.5 at a few of the offshore sportsbooks. Now that the steam has passed you can find the point spread sitting anywhere from Philly minus -4.5 to -5.5, depending on which book are playing with this season.
The over/under total opened at 44.5 and has dropped slightly to 44 or 43.5 at most of the books that are already listing the game total on their board.
Despite the commitment to Vick and his freakish athletic ability at QB, the Eagles do have a few questions on offense. Those questions are namely: the health of No. 2 wideout Jeremy Macklin and their inexperience along the interior of their offensive line.
Macklin has been battling some kind of sickness that the Eagles are calling mono, but after missing almost all of the preseason he has barely practiced and certainly wont be in game-shape for several weeks even if he does play on Sunday. Two rookies in the form of Jason Kelce (Cincinnati) and Danny Watkins (Baylor) won the job of center and right guard, respectively, so it will be interesting to see how defenses choose to attack that now that live bullets are about to fly.
The Rams offense has looked good in the preseason due to Bradfords maturity in the pocket, and theyve added a few new players that are not huge names (Cadillac Williams, Jerious Norwood, Brandon Gibson, Mike Sims-Walker) but are good enough to make the Rams offense as a whole a lot better. With Steven Jackson finally getting some depth at running back (see Cadillac, Norwood), you can bet the Rams will be a patient, run-orientated offense that will consume the clock at times, which will likely be the game-plan this week to try and keep the ball out of Vicks hands.
Defensively the Eagles could be shorthanded along the line, with tackle Mike Patterson still listed as questionable, which could help the Rams by giving them a spot to pound Jackson into over and over again. The Eagles are set to start rookie Casey Mathews at middle linebacker, so running it up the middle is actually a large target for the Rams this week, especially since the Eagles secondary has been reinforced with the addition of Asomugha.
The Rams played lots of different faces on defense last year, using a rotation of 10 players along the defensive line at times, so you can expect a young aggressive style of play from them against the Eagles. While no one really has the speed to spy Vick and keep him in the pocket on passing downs, the Rams James Laurinaitis is fast enough to make it close and maybe cause Vick to think twice before pulling it down to run.
These two teams last played each other in 2008, a 38-3 victory for the Eagles back when the Rams were struggling bad to be competitive. McNabb was very good (361 yds., 3 TD) as the Eagles put it away quickly, rolling to a 31-0 lead after three quarters en route to covering the point spread as 9.5-point favorites at home in the Linc. The score stayed under the closing total of 43.5.
In fact, the Eagles have owned this head-to-head matchup as far as sports bettors are concerned, going 7-1-1 ATS in the last nine times theyve played. But despite being a fast team, the Eagles are a disappointing 1-4 ATS on turf the past two seasons.
The under wager also has a few nice betting trends in its favor: with the under going 4-0 in the last four head-to-heads; 5-0 in the Rams last five openers; and 5-1 in the Eagles last six openers.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Rams will keep this game close, as I think they are better than some people are giving them credit for being. Still, a late score clinches it and also gives the Eagles a backdoor cover, winning 24-14 or 27-17. Either way, I like the Eagles here minus the 5-points.
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