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Public Fades – Week 13
By Kevin Rogers
Only one undefeated team remains in the NFL heading into December, as the Panthers waxed the Cowboys on Thanksgiving to improve to 11-0. New England fell apart late at Denver, blowing a 21-7 lead in an overtime loss to the Broncos to suffer its first defeat following a 10-0 start. Both the Panthers and Patriots are in line for home-field advantage in their respective conferences, as each team is listed as a touchdown-plus favorite in Week 13.
In this week’s edition of “Public Fades,” we’ll look to go 2-0 for the first time since Week 8, even though the last four weeks have produced a 1-1 split each time. The Saints and Eagles had playoff aspirations but each team is currently below .500 with five weeks to go. Can either team pull off an upset against the best from the AFC and NFC on Sunday?
Panthers (-7, 50) at Saints – 4:25 PM EST
It’s been a season to remember in Carolina for its pro football team, looking to make its second Super Bowl in franchise history. The Panthers still have plenty of work to do, trying to remain undefeated while trying to hold off Arizona for the top seed in the NFC. Carolina dominated Dallas on Thanksgiving, 33-14 to improve to 5-0 SU/ATS away from Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers beat the Saints back in Week 3 by a 27-22 count, but failed to cash as 10-point favorites, while Drew Brees sat out that game due to injury.
New Orleans has seen plenty of ups and downs this season, starting 1-4, followed by a three-game winning streak to even their mark at 4-4. The Saints have fallen backwards again thanks to a three-game skid, capped off by a 24-6 setback at Houston last Sunday as 3 ½-point underdogs. New Orleans was held to single-digits for the third time since Brees took over at quarterback in 2006, as Sean Payton’s team is listed at their highest home underdog number in the past 10 years.
So why back the Saints?
Handicapper Joe Nelson says New Orleans’ offense will try to get on track at home, “With three straight losses, the playoff hopes for the Saints are slim sitting at 4-7, but the home results for New Orleans have been good with a 3-2 record with wins over the Cowboys, Falcons, and Giants and narrow losses to Tampa Bay and Tennessee. New Orleans is the third-most productive offensive team in the league posting 401 yards per game, more than 52 yards more per game than the 11-0 Panthers produce. The Saints do have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, but they are particularly vulnerable against the pass and Carolina is the fourth least productive passing team in the league.”
Nelson believes the Panthers peaked with their Thanksgiving rout of the Cowboys, “With extra time off this week having played on a big stage on Thanksgiving in Dallas, the Panthers will have a hard time bringing the same energy to a second straight road game knowing a bigger game with the season’s first meeting with Atlanta is up next. Last week’s lopsided result featured two defensive touchdowns for the Panthers, who also have the league’s best turnover margin at +16, breaks that may not continue all season and the Panthers are starting to reach their peak valuation.”
Eagles at Patriots (-9 ½, 49) – 4:25 PM EST
Philadelphia suffered an embarrassing defeat on national television on Thanksgiving, falling at Detroit, 45-14 as three-point underdogs. The Eagles allowed 45 points for the second straight week, as Mark Sanchez threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns in place of the injured Sam Bradford. This week, Bradford is expected back in the lineup, as the Eagles’ offense needs a jolt after being held to 19 points or less in four of the past five games. Philadelphia has received more than four points under Chip Kelly once only since 2013, getting blown out at Denver that season, 52-20 as 10-point underdogs.
The Patriots were on their way to an eleventh straight win to start the season, but New England squandered a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter of a 30-24 overtime loss at Denver. The rushing defense of the Patriots was shredded by the Broncos’ ground game, allowing 179 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 48-yard touchdown scamper by C.J. Anderson. Tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a knee sprain and will miss Sunday’s game against the Eagles, adding to the laundry list of offensive weapons sidelined for New England.
So why back the Eagles?
Nelson says fading New England in this spot is a good idea, “The defensive yardage numbers are similar for these teams despite the contrasting scoring and records and the possibility of Bradford returning could provide a boost for the Eagles. The injuries are adding up for the Patriots on the receiving corps as well as on defense and while the Patriots have a great track record off a loss they are on a 21-36 ATS run when favored by more than seven points.”
NFL handicapper Antony Dinero breaks down all the changes of personnel the Eagles have to endure in order to compete in Foxboro, “Bradford is progressing to play, so his return would be an upgrade given how Sanchez has played. Jason Peters and Zach Ertz look like they’re returning and Ryan Mathews might make it back too. If nothing else, the Eagles may take a fairly fresh, talented squad into New England to see Tom Brady and the walking wounded. If Danny Amendola is out, the Pats will be down their top four reception leaders. It sounds like a massacre waiting to happen given how bad the Eagles have been, but they might find some unexpected fight simply to avoid being embarrassed.”
NFL expert Vince Akins provides an interesting betting angle regarding undefeated teams coming off losses late in the season, “There is a lot of pressure on a team to keep that undefeated record going, and when they lost their first game of the season as New England did in Denver last week, there is a bit of letdown the next game as a team re-adjusts to their new reality. In fact, teams in Week 6 of the season and beyond that just lost their first game of the season last game have covered just 40% of the time after that first loss and just 1-3 SU and ATS this season. There is plenty of room of New England to still win this game without playing to their full potential this week.”