Week 17’s flexed game on “Sunday Night Football” annually involves a game with implications for a playoff spot. This year is no exception; however, it is clearly not the one that was anticipated.
The 6-9 (8-6-1 ATS) Washington Football Team travels to face the already eliminated Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1 SU, 5-10-1 ATS) for a “win-and-in” situation to the NFL playoffs. The WFT can clinch the NFC East with a victory and become the third team in the Super Bowl era (2014 Carolina and 2010 Seattle) to reach the playoffs with a sub .500 record. A loss would mean the winner of the Dallas at Giants game would win the division and get the fourth seed in the NFC.
Washington still controls its destiny despite a 20-13 home loss to Carolina last Sunday. Speaking of losses, Washington decided to cut its losses when it released 2019 first-round draft pick QB Dwayne Haskins, who committed three first half turnovers in that game.
Alex Smith is still listed as questionable with a calf injury but did participate in Friday’s final practice on a limited basis. The betting market expects him to be able to start, as the line has moved from Philadelphia -1 to Washington -3.5. Part of the line movement is due to the Eagles having “nothing to play for.”
In addition, 11 Eagles players — including DT Fletcher Cox, DE Derek Barnett, LT Jordan Mailata, RB Miles Sanders, WR DeSean Jackson and TEs Dallas Goedert and Richard Rodgers — did not practice on Friday and have been ruled out.
Philadelphia has given up more than 500 total yards in consecutive losses at Arizona and Dallas. The Eagles have been banged up in the secondary for several weeks, (allowing 13.4 yards per completion over the last three weeks) and now the defensive line is very shorthanded. However, Washington is dead last in DVOA passing offense per Football Outsiders, and it will be difficult for it to take advantage of a porous secondary if Smith and top WR Terry McLaurin (questionable, ankle) cannot go.
Washington has been favored just twice this season and gone 1-1 ATS. However, it has gone 3-2 SU and 4-1 ATS against NFC East rivals, and is 5-4 SU and 7-2 ATS in games not started by Haskins. The Eagles have covered their past four as home underdogs, and rookie Jalen Hurts clearly has given the club a spark at quarterback that they have lacked throughout the season.
Washington comes into the weekend ranked third in defensive DVOA. They sacked Carson Wentz eight times in the Week 1 meeting. Philadelphia allows an NFL-high 4.1 sacks per game, and even the more mobile Hurts has been sacked nine times in the past two games.
The total has slightly ticked up from the opener of 42.5 to 43.5. Washington has gone Under in four straight games and are 5-9-1 to the Under on the season. Philadelphia is 7-8 to the Over but has gone Over in all three of Hurts’ starts after an 0-6 Under run.
Washington has everything on the line and Philadelphia is playing out the string, but the lookahead line on this game was Philadelphia -4 and now it has moved the other way by more than a touchdown due to the Eagles’ elimination plus the “must-win” spot for Washington. “Must-win” spots are already priced into the numbers in NFL Week 17. In addition, “must-win” spots do not necessarily equal “must-cover” spots.