Meaningless never felt so good. The Philadelphia Eagles celebrate irony heading into NFL Week 18.
For weeks, they hoped the Dallas Cowboys would not need to win the season finale at the Linc.
Now they don’t need to either.
The Eagles seized a playoff berth in Week 17, the Cowboys lost any hope of moving up and New Jersey online sports bettors may give this game a pass in favor of other compelling matchups.
Programming note: the league nonetheless put the Eagles and Cowboys in prime time. The NFL announced late Sunday night that the Week 18 game has been moved to Saturday at 8:15 p.m.
Who will start and how long will they play? Maybe each team plays its starters for one half.
Then there is the unknown. On Monday, the Eagles placed 12 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Cowboys vs. Eagles odds at NJ online sportsbooks
How Eagles sealed postseason bid before NFL Week 18
Here’s how the Eagles-Cowboys matchup is now less important.
Call it a three-part development.
The Eagles first eked out a 20-16 triumph over the Washington Football Team.
Next, Dallas lost to the Arizona Cardinals 25-22, erasing any hope of nailing the No. 1 playoff seed.
Sunday night, the Green Bay Packers officially put the Birds in the playoffs by throttling the Minnesota Vikings 37-10 and obtaining the top seed throughout the playoffs.
Regardless of betting appeal for the final game, Eagles fans and bettors have much to celebrate.
Nick Sirianni becomes just the third coach in Eagles history to guide the team to the playoffs in his first season as head coach, joining Chip Kelly (2013) and Ray Rhodes (1995).
While the playoff field has expanded in recent seasons, the Eagles are still just the ninth team in the NFL since 1990 to make the playoffs after a 2-5 start.
Looking at the current NFC playoff picture
The important games Eagles and NFC bettors will focus on this week spring from the updated NFC playoff picture:
- Green Bay Packers, 13-3, clinched NFC North and N0. 1 seed
- Los Angeles Rams, 12-4, first in NFC West
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 12-4, clinched NFC South
- Dallas Cowboys, 11-5, clinched NFC East
- Arizona Cardinals, 11-5, second in NFC West
- San Francisco 49ers, 9-7, third in NFC West
- Philadelphia Eagles, 9-7, second in NFC East*
*The Eagles will finish sixth or seventh and have a road playoff match on Jan. 15, 16 or 17.
NFL Week 18 games with NFC playoff implications
The Rams and 49ers complete their season. San Francisco has beaten Los Angeles five straight times.
San Francisco wants to avoid a bizarre tiebreaker with the New Orleans Saints that could cost them a playoff berth, even though they are ahead of the Eagles now.
The Rams would lose a tiebreak to the Arizona Cardinals if the NFC West ended tied, so they will have motivation.
Arizona faces the Seattle Seahawks with a chance to steal the division and a first-round home game if they win and the Rams stumble.
All three games will occur in the late Sunday window, which is important. The sportsbooks want both of these games to matter to their bettors.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers must defeat the Carolina Panthers at home before awaiting the outcome of the Rams-Niners in the chase for the No. 2 spot.
If a team can’t win the top seed, this is a good consolation prize. It ensures home field in the first and second playoff weeks.
NFL Week 18 games with AFC playoff implications
The Tennessee Titans vaulted the Kansas City Chiefs and have the No 1 seed.
They visit the Houston Texans.
Well, the Texans beat them last month in Tennessee. This could be the Titans’ revenge and clinch scenario.
The Chiefs, knocked from the top spot with Week 17’s loss in Cincinnati, face the eliminated Denver Broncos. If they win Saturday’s game, that will make Tennessee’s Sunday matchup with Houston important.
If they lose, it will give Cincinnati motivation to play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. A Kansas City loss and Cincinnati win would vault the Bengals into the No. 2 spot.
The Buffalo Bills host the New York Jets. Yes, those same J-E-T-S that let the Bucs off the hook Sunday, losing a heartbreaker (but covering at +12.5).
Buffalo locks up the AFC East and a home playoff game with a win.
The New England Patriots visit the Miami Dolphins, who were just eliminated. The Patriots came back to life with a 50-10 throttling of the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17. They appear headed for a road playoff game, however.
The Patriots look to win and get help, even if that’s remote.
The Los Angeles Chargers visit the Las Vegas Raiders. Win and they are in. The Raiders can get in with a win and help.
The Indianapolis Colts need a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars and quite a bit of help.
Bettors will be able to focus on which teams need to win most and plan wagers accordingly.
Week 17 NFL betting recap
DraftKings Sportsbook bettors rode with the Eagles odds of -5.5 to the tune of 79% but did not cash the ticket.
Some who seized the opening line of Philadelphia -4 several days earlier grabbed a push.
A scenario touted here came out on Sunday.
Washington won the first half against the slow-starting Eagles. Philadelphia captured the second and the wager was a DraftKings winner.
FanDuel Sportsbook had a prop for Terry McLaurin to get 60 or more yards receiving against the Eagles. And he got 61. Talk about walking the tightrope.
Eagles overview for NJ sports bettors to mull before Wild Card weekend
The Eagles have the league’s second-lowest yards-to-go on third down. This is a tribute to the strong running game, which did labor against Washington but had just enough to score two touchdowns.
Boston Scott was indispensable against Washington. Without him, the Eagles would have lost.
Bettors will trust him in all types of yardage and scoring props if he is the No. 1 back.
Scott made some exceptionally strong gains on swing passes out of the backfield. He scored both of the team’s touchdowns on fourth-down runs.
The play of the game was his decision to leap over a defender to reach the end zone on a fourth-and-goal with the Eagles trailing 16-7. Without the leap, he would have been stopped.
On Sunday, he was the reincarnation of former Eagle Darren Sproles.
The defense must show some imagination. It allowed Washington to escape from the shadow of its goalposts for a first-half ending field goal and a final drive that nearly won the game.
Philadelphia needs linebacker pressure to create discomfort. Bend-and-don’t break won’t work in the playoffs.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon