Okay, boys and girls – we’re back again for another week of NFL football and the illegal (in most states) activity that corresponds with it! So far this season, my documented picks are 1-0-1, and that Week 1 PUSH still really chaps my ass. If you followed me last week, you rode Michael Vick and Tony Gonzalez all the way to a 66 (!) point total and easily cashed on your bet of OVER 49.5.
As we all know, Michael Vick status for Week 3 against the Giants has been in limbo for much of the week. Yesterday was the first day where it really seemed like he is going to start on Sunday, since he took all of the first-team snaps in practice and has reportedly been cleared to play. With Michael Vick in the lineup, the Eagles’ offense presents some serious challenges for a Giants’ secondary that has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. Even without Vick, all it takes is a precision passer and some speed to put up points on the Giants. Luckily for Eagles fans, it looks like Vick will play.
The key for the Eagles’ defense in this game will be containing the rushing attack of the Giants. This “Wide-9″ style of defense that the Eagles are using is a double-edged sword because while it allows the defensive line to collapse the quarterback’s pocket and put substantial pressure on the passing game, it opens up some wide running lanes for the opponent’s running backs. This puts pressure on the linebackers to step up, clog the holes, and make tackles. Anybody who’s been watching the linebackers, specifically Casey Matthews, knows stopping run game has been an issue for them. I think the decision to switch Matthews out to the weak side and bring Jamar Chaney into the middle will help, though I still don’t like the talent at that position (given the tremendous pressure this defensive style puts on that position).
On a normal Sunday with Michael Vick in the lineup, I’d expect the Eagles to put up crazy points on this Giants’ defense. For THIS Sunday, however, I expect the Eagles to be a little more conservative with Vick and get the ball out of his hands quickly. It’s a tough scale to balance, though, because Vick can really exploit some openings down the field if he holds on to the ball a bit longer. At the same time, that type of play will make him susceptible to the kill shot, something the Giants will obviously be gunning for.
In terms of the betting lines for this week, a lot of books have yet to put the numbers up. I expect the Eagles to open as a 7.5 point favorite, with an over/under in the neighborhood of 46.5 points. If Michael Vick DOES indeed play (and all signs are pointing toward him doing so), take the Eagles and the points. I’m comfortable laying up to 9.5 points, which is what it may get to by gametime. I also lean toward the under, but let’s stick with the Eagles on anything up to -9.5.
2011 Season Record: 1-0-1