Initially, it appeared Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly might instantly revolutionize the fast-break offense and take the NFL by storm. That was the knee-jerk reaction after the season’s opening week.
Upon further review, the Eagles are not on pace to break records, but they do showcase one of the league’s top five offenses despite a transition to a new system and a quarterback shuffle.
Nick Foles will start in place of injured Michael Vick for the second straight week as Philadelphia hosts Dallas today in a matchup of NFC East rivals. Both teams are 3-3, and the Eagles are favored by 2½ to 3 points.
Philadelphia has failed to cover in 10 consecutive home games, but only two of those were under Kelly’s watch this season in losses to Kansas City and San Diego.
“The Eagles don’t cover at home, but I like them in this game,” handicapper Mike Scalleat said. “I think Foles is playing better than Vick and is a better passer, and the Eagles’ speed will wear down the Dallas defense.”
The Cowboys allow 308.2 yards passing per game, ranking 30th in the league, and defensive end DeMarcus Ware is unlikely to play with a thigh injury.
Dallas might also be without running back DeMarco Murray, who is listed as doubtful with a knee injury. If the Cowboys can’t move the ball on the ground, Tony Romo will try to wear out Philadelphia’s 31st-ranked pass defense.
“I like to go against Romo in the big games,” Scalleat said.
The Cowboys are 5-1 against the spread, failing to cover in a road loss to the Chargers.
The Eagles are 3-3 ATS, after Foles passed for 296 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-20 victory over Tampa Bay a week ago. Foles has two wins in seven career starts.
Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy leads the league in rushing with 630 yards.
Scalleat (JimFeist.com) scouts the rest of today’s Week 7 matchups:
■ New England (-3½) at New York Jets: I’m going with the Patriots. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is cleared to come back, so that should open up the red zone for Tom Brady, who has one touchdown pass in the past two games. New England is losing key defensive players, but Bill Belichick will have a good scheme against rookie quarterback Geno Smith, just as Pittsburgh did last week. In the past four years, in the second game in the series with the Jets, the Patriots won all four by double digits.
■ San Diego (-7½) at Jacksonville: The Jaguars are a pitiful team. But after about Week 5, I start looking at who’s covering and who’s not, and some of those trends will start going the other way. Jacksonville is 1-5 ATS after finally covering last week. The Chargers are coming off a big Monday win and making a long trip. Philip Rivers is playing well, completing 72.6 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns, but this team is no bargain on the road. This is not one of my plays, but I would take the Jaguars and the points.
■ Houston at Kansas City (-6½): Case Keenum will make his first start at quarterback for the Texans, who are 0-6 ATS. This is a 6-0 team against a slumping 2-4 team, so you would think the line would be a little higher. The Chiefs don’t score easily, and the Houston defense is good enough to put pressure on Alex Smith and keep the game close. The line is telling me the Texans are the play.
■ Cincinnati at Detroit (-2½): Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson is still banged up and mainly out there as a decoy. He had only three receptions for 25 yards in a win at Cleveland last week. Running back Reggie Bush is picking up some of the slack. This is a good Bengals defense, and quarterback Andy Dalton is coming off one of his better performances. If the home favorite is laying less than 3, it tells me it’s not that strong, so I’ll look at the road ’dog in this spot.
■ Buffalo at Miami (-7): The Bills hang in games at home, where all four this season have been decided by three points or fewer, but I don’t like to back them on the road. Buffalo also has problems at quarterback. It appears Thad Lewis will start despite a sprained foot. The Miami defense is pretty strong. The Dolphins are not a lightning rod in terms of scoring, but off a bye, they should do enough to cover.
■ Chicago at Washington (Pick): I’ll go with the Redskins and lean over the total of 50. Robert Griffin III sort of emerged last week by running the ball more and making things happen. He passed for 246 yards and ran for 77. When the Bears are on the road, you don’t know what you’re going to get from quarterback Jay Cutler. It might not mean a lot, but in the past 12 meetings between the teams, Washington is 10-2.
■ St. Louis at Carolina (-6½): The Rams are very inconsistent, especially quarterback Sam Bradford. I was not shocked they won at Houston last week, but I was shocked by the 38-13 score. In the Panthers’ blowout win at Minnesota, Cam Newton passed for 242 yards and three touchdowns and played like he did during his rookie year. I think Newton will continue to play well and the Panthers are going to win some games. I’ll go with Carolina.
■ Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-7): Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has a depleted receiving corps and running back Steven Jackson is out again with a hamstring injury. When a team is banged up and not playing well, it’s tough to cover a touchdown in a divisional game. I don’t like Atlanta coach Mike Smith, but Tampa Bay’s coaching situation is a bigger problem. I won’t watch much of this game, and it’s not one of my plays. But I would lean to the Buccaneers if it’s 7½.
■ San Francisco (-3½) at Tennessee: Teams that play Seattle continue to lose the following week, so that factor is working against the Titans. The San Francisco defense is strong up front, linebacker Patrick Willis is back and the secondary can make plays. The 49ers have won three in a row, outscoring St. Louis, Houston and Arizona by a total of 67 points. I never like laying points on the road, but I can’t bet Tennessee in this game.
■ Cleveland at Green Bay (-10): I’m going with the Browns even though quarterback Brandon Weeden is annoying. The Packers are dealing with injuries on both sides of the ball, and they have division games against Minnesota and Chicago the next two weeks. It’s tough to cover double digits in the NFL, and Cleveland can stay in this with defense. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is without one of his favorite receivers, Randall Cobb. The Packers could be looking ahead.
■ Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-2½): The Steelers looked fresh off a bye and might be ready to win a few games. They finally found some answers last week against the Jets. Ben Roethlisberger is 9-4 in his past 13 games against the Ravens. Ray Rice is not running much and Baltimore is not consistent on offense. At 1-4, Pittsburgh needs this win more, so I’ll play this and lay less than a field goal.
■ Denver (-6½) at Indianapolis: The Broncos were held to 35 points last week, but nobody has stopped them yet. Peyton Manning has too many weapons for the Colts defense to handle. Indianapolis has not been that strong at home, barely beating the Raiders and losing to the Dolphins. I think Colts owner Jim Irsay fired up Manning with his comments, and I’m going with the Broncos.