The Philadelphia Eagles travel to Buffalo for a key contest in the early season. The Eagles (1-3) have lost three straight, and are coming in town after a crushing blown lead to the 49ers. The Bills, meanwhile, lost a little luster, but just a little, with their close road loss at Cincinnati when they also had a double digit lead but could not hold on.
The Eagles are the favorite, by over a field goal, in this game. I went back through the last decade and could not find a single case where a team with a winning record at this point was an underdog at home to a team with a losing record. The case for making Philadelphia the favorite at this point is entirely based on the promise of what the team can be, and not based on what has happened on the field so far.
Sure, Buffalo had two large comebacks, and though much has been made of the Eagles’ defense, the Bills’ defense has given up its share of yards and points. However, whether we look at the game results or get into the play to play results, the Bills have been the better team. Buffalo has played the tougher schedule in getting to 3-1. The simple rating system has them as better (by 13 points, as the Eagles rate as below average to date), Football Outsiders has the Bills rated higher than the Eagles, and Advanced NFL Stats has the Bills at 68% to win at home based on the per play efficiency of each team passing and running.
So, this one comes down to whether what we have seen so far this year is closer to the truth, or whether the Bills have been overachieving, while the Eagles are about to turn things around. I think both teams can score, but for me, the biggest mismatch in this game is the Bills’ edge running and screen game with Fred Jackson versus the Eagles’ linebackers and safeties. Buffalo is what we might call a “live dog.”
Oakland at Houston: The Raiders will try to win the emotional first game after Al Davis’ passing on the road against a tough opponent.
Kansas City at Indianapolis: Andrew Luck should be interested in the results of this game. Colts have played better (damning with faint praise) while KC has a win.
New Orleans at Carolina: This should be a fun shootout. New Orleans will have their way with the Panthers defense, while Cam Newton will try to keep it close.
Cincinnati at Jacksonville: yet another rookie QB matchup as Andy Dalton and the Bengals try to prevent Blaine Gabbert from winning a start for the first time.
Arizona at Minnesota: Another apparent dog of a game, as Arizona has squandered opportunities on the road recently, while Minnesota has squandered opportunities to all comers. These teams are 1-7 overall, and 1-7 in games decided by a touchdown or less.
Seattle at NY Giants. New York is now in a heavy favorite’s role after consecutive road wins. Seattle has played a little better the last two weeks with Sidney Rice back, but those have been at home.
Tennessee at Pittsburgh. Mendenhall is out, Big Ben is hurting, and the line is a mess. Not a good combo against a defense playing well. Pittsburgh’s defense will have to continue to frustrate Chris Johnson and get pressure on Hasselbeck, without Harrison in the lineup.
[photo via Getty]