NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers
If we are being honest, the football on Thursday nights usually isn't great. The NFL wants to ensure that every team is showcased on national television each once, so nearly every team will play a Thursday night game. It's why we were subjected to Titans-Jaguars on Thursday the past couple of years; now that they are both pretty good, it figures we don't get them in a TNF game.
The matchups so far in 2017 have been largely meh (not counting the Kickoff Game): Houston over Cincinnati 13-9 in Week 2; LA Rams 41, San Francisco 39 in Week 3 (Niners stink but that game was very interesting); Green Bay 35, Chicago 14 in Week 4 (Bears stink); and New England 19, Tampa Bay 14 last week in a game that was boring as heck until the final few minutes.
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This week's matchup of Eagles-Panthers might be the best TNF of the season, although next week's Chiefs-Raiders is also nice. Philadelphia-Carolina is clearly the marquee matchup of Week 6 as the only game featuring teams with just one loss. The Panthers (4-1) lead the NFC South by a half-game over Atlanta (3-1), which was off last week. BetOnline still lists the Falcons are +120 favorites there with the Panthers at +175. I do think both make the playoffs.
Philadelphia (4-1) is 1.5 games ahead of Washington (2-2), which is coming off its bye, and two ahead of defending NFC East winner Dallas. The Eagles have by far the best point differential in the division at +38 (also best in the NFC) and are -200 favorites there. At least Philly no longer has to worry about the winless and Odell Beckham-less Giants as a threat.
It's not inconceivable that these two teams face off in the postseason, and obviously the winner Thursday would have a crucial tiebreaker.
Eagles at Panthers Betting Story Lines
Philadelphia's only loss of the season continues to look better and better: 27-20 Week 2 at unbeaten Kansas City. The Eagles were somewhat fortunate to win close games the following two weeks vs. the Giants and at the Chargers, but they destroyed the visiting Cardinals 34-7 on Sunday. That game was over after 15 minutes as Wentz had a perfect first-quarter rating and three TD passes on his way to 304 yards and a career-high four TDs. The second-year rising star is the only quarterback in franchise history to throw three touchdown passes in the first quarter of a game. On third downs vs. Arizona, Wentz was an obscene 11-for-12 with three TDs. That trade to move up to No. 2 in last year's draft to take Wentz looks brilliant right now.
The news wasn't all good from that win as right tackle Lane Johnson, the team's best offensive lineman, suffered a concussion so it's not likely he'll play Thursday. Second-year player Halapoulivaati Vaitai (buy a consonant or two, bro!) will take over. Since the start of last season, the Eagles are 9-2 with Johnson in the lineup and 2-8 (he was suspended 10 games) without. Also, running back Wendell Smallwood, somewhat of a 1B alongside LeGarrette Blount, was out with a knee injury as was Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox with a calf problem.
Carolina is a hard team to read. It looked bad in a close home win over Buffalo and horrible in a 21-point home loss to New Orleans but has won at New England and in Detroit by a field goal the past two weeks, not exactly easy places to play. Cam Newton looked shaky the first three games (two total passing TDs and four picks) but is on fire now with back-to-back games of at least 300 yards and three touchdowns for the first time in his career. I thought he'd get worse, not better, after the loss of Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen to injury. Last year, Newton had just one game with three TD passes. No. 2 receiver Devin Funchess and backup tight end Ed Dickson (normally a seldom-used blocker) have really stepped up their games in the past two.
If there's one concern for the Panthers thus far, it's a running game that ranks near the bottom of the league in averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. They had just 28 yards on 21 carries vs. Detroit. The struggles could be partly to blame for an injury suffered to center Ryan Kalil, one of the best in the business. He hasn't played since Week 1 due to a sore neck. He's getting close.
Eagles at Panthers Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Carolina is a 3-point favorite (-125) with a total of 46. On the moneyline, the Panthers are -175 and Eagles +155. On the alternate lines, Carolina is -3.5 (+100) and -2.5 (-150). The Eagles are 3-2 against the spread (2-1 on road) and 3-2 "over/under" (2-1 on road). The Panthers are 3-2 ATS (0-2 at home) and 3-2 O/U (1-1 at home).
Philadelphia is 4-1 ATS in its past five vs. the NFC and 3-7 in its past 10 on the road. Carolina is 12-5 ATS in its past 17 in October. The Panthers are 2-6 ATS in the previous eight Thursday games. The over is 13-3 in Philly's past 16 on the road. It's 6-2 in the team's last eight on Thursday. The over is 15-6-1 in Carolina's past 22 vs. teams with a winning record. The favorite is 4-0 in the past four meetings, and the over has hit in all of them.
Eagles at Panthers Betting Prediction
Wentz was still at North Dakota State when these franchises last played in Week 7 of the 2015 season in Charlotte, a 27-16 Panthers victory. Newton had three interceptions but a TD throw and rushing score. Jonathan Stewart had 125 yards on 14 carries. Sam Bradford was the Philly QB that day and wasn't good. I doubt Cox will play and Johnson certainly won't, so that's a big advantage for Carolina. Give the 2.5 points and lean over the total.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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