As NFL Week 14 arrives, it seems the NFC Least is dead.
Long live the NFC East, or at least the pace-setting New York Giants. We launch Odds Five focusing on one of the league’s most inspiring stories as the regular season roars into the home stretch for NJ sports betting customers.
The red-hot Giants, winners of four straight, play three of their final four games at home, including Sunday’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.
The original Week 14 line is tantalizing for Giants backers. The slight underdogs are listed at +2.5 at DraftKings Sportsbook, a mild surprise after the Seattle triumph. It stayed there Monday morning, with Giants bettors waiting to see if it hit +3 before they pounced on it.
Giants are the talk of NFC East
How did the Giants get here?
Big Blue not only upset the host Seattle Seahawks 17-12 as a double-digit dog Sunday but outplayed the 8-3 NFC West leaders that beat the Philadelphia Eagles the previous week. Since opening 0-5, the G-Men have flipped the switch on their season.
They are 5-2 since, and that includes four straight victories against the Washington Football Team, the Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and the Seahawks.
Here are some of the other highlights:
- They have back-to-back road wins.
- They have roared from last place into first place and from +2000 to win the division to -225 at DraftKings, going from chumps to chalk.
- They improved to 8-4 against the spread.
- They held their last three opponents to 17, 17 and 12 points.
- They held the explosive Seattle offense to no touchdowns for three-and-a-half quarters.
The Giants look better each week and prevailed Sunday without injured quarterback Daniel Jones (who may return against the Cardinals.) Colt McCoy managed the game well enough, and the Giants held the explosive Seattle offense to one touchdown.
Suddenly, their defense is being described as sophisticated. Suddenly, the offense line is opening holes, and Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris rushed 79 yards on three successive plays to score the TD that put them ahead for good Sunday.
And suddenly, there’s a new culture as first-year coach Joe Judge, having come from the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots climate, is being associated with disciplined football.
As Week 13 concluded, the Giants became scoreboard-watching fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, clear favorites against the Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys on Monday night and Tuesday, respectively.
What they learned is that Washington isn’t going away so quietly. The Football Team shocked the NFL betting world by upsetting the Steelers, 23-17. As a result, Pittsburgh blew its chances at an undefeated season.
New York and Washington now have identical 5-7 records, but Big Blue holds the edge as a result of winning both regular-season meetings.
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) December 8, 2020
Are the Philadelphia Eagles this bad?
Yes, and change Hurts. Literally.
Jalen Hurts outplayed Carson Wentz in Sunday’s 30-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers and is the player who looks capable of rallying the team around him. He displayed speed and athleticism, converting a fourth-and-18 into a 32-yard touchdown toss to Greg Ward when the Eagles trailed 23-3. And then Jalen Reagor made the game interesting with a punt-return TD, pulling the Eagles to within a touchdown.
It wasn’t enough, but the Eagles at least came to life.
"Carson Wentz is broken! The Philadelphia Eagles have broken him."
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) December 7, 2020
Now they have to host the sizzling-hot New Orleans Saints and opened as a slightly less than a touchdown underdog. The Saints have the NFC’s longest winning streak, nine, and may have injured quarterback Drew Brees back on Sunday. That’s not always as bad as it sounds, because Brees could be rusty, but consider these implications:
- The Eagles scored 17 points in three straight games and 16 on Sunday.
- They have never reached 30 points in a game this year.
- The 10-2 Saints have done it six times.
- The Eagles’ offense looks as slow as a truck driving through a residential neighborhood. They needed 15 plays to go 41 yards to set up a game-opening field goal and six more to go 21 yards on their next drive. That was 21 plays, 62 yards. (Green Bay had 77 on one fourth-quarter play.)
- Wentz has been plodding, which he can’t afford with the team’s porous offensive line. This team’s quarterback needs to make plays with his feet.
In Wentz’ defense, he has worked with 12 different receivers since last year, the most in the NFC. And the offensive line has been awful, enabling him to be sacked three or more times for the 10th straight game Sunday.
Week 14 spotlight: Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns are suddenly looking like an elite team.
Three barely-good-enough wins over the Houston Texans, the Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars made the Browns look a bit inflated before Sunday’s trouncing of the Tennessee Titans. But Sunday’s 41-35 triumph, far easier than the final score indicated because they were up 38-7 at halftime, stamped them as a coming elite team.
The Baltimore Ravens are up next on Monday night. They are an exceptionally balanced team.
This is one of the breakout games Cleveland needs to obtain respect. Previous outings against Baltimore and Pittsburgh failed to do the trick. But they are here now. There’s no going back for this team, which has a chance to avenge its season-opening 38-6 shellacking by the Ravens.
The Browns also play the Giants and Jets before finishing against the Steelers.
They look poised to break the league’s longest playoff drought of 18 years.
Jets still winless as Ruggs bettors rejoice
If you pulled the trigger on a Fox Bet prop for Derek Carr of the Las Vegas Raiders to throw at least 275 yards and speedster Henry Ruggs III to collect 75 of them, you prospered on the Raiders’ final offensive play.
The prop paid +333 as Ruggs caught a 46-yard bomb to give the Raiders an improbable 31-28 triumph, keeping the Jets winless. Ruggs ended with 84 yards, and Carr hit for 381.
The Jets played their hearts out again (4-2 recently against the spread) but lost in horrific fashion. After rallying from 11 points down to lead late, they were beaten on a deep ball with surprising man-to-man coverage.
You know there had to be a casualty from this play, and there was. Monday, the Jets fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who called the ill-fated all-out blitz that left rookie cornerback Lamar Jackson in man-to-man coverage against the speedy Ruggs.
The play call was unprecedented in recent NFL history. According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, out of the 252 pass plays attempted under similar circumstances in the past 15 seasons, the Jets were the only defense to send more than six rushers.
And now the Jets get to board a plane and play the Seahawks.
Week 14 extra points
Key Sunday afternoon games include the Kansas City Chiefs at Miami Dolphins (1 p.m.) and an excellent Sunday Night Football matchup of Pittsburgh at Buffalo.
And here’s an in-game note regarding the Los Angeles Rams.
Los Angeles is a mind-boggling 33-0 under head coach Sean McVay when leading at halftime. The Rams did it again Sunday, toppling the shaky Arizona Cardinals after leading at the break. They face the suddenly hot New England Patriots to open the Week 14 campaign Thursday night.
Photo by Associated Press