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Eagles look set to shine

When he’s healthy, veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb makes the Philadelphia Eagles a formidable force in the NFL. But in recent seasons, McNabb has been hobbled more often than not.

The Eagles strengthened their defense in the offseason by signing cornerback Asante Samuel, and McNabb is back to full speed.

The Gold Sheet handicapper Bruce Marshall recommends a wager on Philadelphia as a 71/2-point home favorite over the St. Louis Rams today.

Marshall said the Rams are out of rhythm because running back Steven Jackson, a former Eldorado High School standout, staged a 27-day contract holdout, and his offensive line is weakened by injuries.

“Early indicators are a bit troubling for St. Louis, whose offense barely registered a pulse in the preseason,” Marshall said. “It’s not as if the Rams’ spotty defense can be counted upon to camouflage any offensive shortcomings.

“I much prefer the current situation at Philadelphia.”

McNabb missed two games and most of another with a sprained ankle last season. In the seven victories he started and finished for the Eagles, he completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 2,059 yards with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Rams went 3-9 in the underdog role last season.

Marshall (goldsheet.com) outlines some key trends in today’s games:

Cincinnati at Baltimore: The Bengals have won and covered the last three and six of the last seven in the series. Cincinnati also has covered its last three openers for coach Marvin Lewis. The Ravens are 3-14 against the spread in their last 17 games. Edge: Bengals.

New York Jets at Miami: The Jets have owned the series of late, 7-1 straight up and 8-0-1 ATS. The Jets are 16-7-1 under the total in their last 24 regular-season games. Edge: Jets and under.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans: The Buccaneers have won and covered five of the last six meetings. The last five in the series went over the total. The Saints were 2-6 ATS at the Superdome last year and 5-12 ATS as hosts since 2006. Edge: Bucs and over.

Carolina at San Diego: The Panthers are 25-11-2 in their last 38 games as underdogs dating to late 2002. Edge: Panthers.

Chicago at Indianapolis: Colts coach Tony Dungy is 11-6 ATS as a home favorite since 2006. Edge: Colts.

COMPILED BY MATT YOUMANS REVIEW-JOURNAL

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