NFL teams try to embrace the routine, to eliminate as many variables as they can in preparation for the next game. Schedules for road games rarely vary from one trip to the next, and coaches do everything they can to make sure that everything is exactly the same off the field.
That may be why funny things can tend to happen around the holidays. Playing on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is almost guaranteed to throw a fairly substantial break into every team’s routine.
That’s good news to underdogs, who can hope to take advantage of a favored team being off its game a bit for this week’s holiday slate in the NFL odds boards.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys
Saturday, December 24, 2022 – 04:25 PM EST at AT&T Stadium
The Eagles are a surprise underdog as they head to Dallas to face their biggest NFC East rival, the Cowboys. Philly is 13-1 and has won five straight games. Dallas is in second place, at 10-4, and both teams have wrapped up playoff berths.
The reason Dallas is favored in the game is the injury status of MVP candidate Jalen Hurts. The Eagles quarterback sprained his shoulder in last week’s win over the Bears. Initial reports seemed to indicate that he would be out for this week’s game, and backup Gardner Minshew would get the start. However, Philadelphia coach Nick Sirianni is keeping the Cowboys in the dark, and keeping them preparing for both possibilities.
“I don’t put anything past Jalen Hurts as far as his mental and physical toughness,” Sirianni said. “There’s a chance he could play this week. He is one of the toughest guys I know, and he heals fast. He’s a freak. His body is not like yours or mine. I will not rule him out, will not put a timetable on him, and we’ll see.”
With the playoffs already wrapped up, playing Hurts seems like an unnecessary risk. However, Minshew may not be as big a setback as expected.
According to several Eagles players, the backup has been killing it in practice this week, completing through tight windows. Tight end Dallas Goedert said Minshew is “slinging the hell out of the football.” Look for the Eagles to get the win in Dallas to wrap up the division.
NFL Pick: Eagles ML (+180) at BetMGM
Las Vegas Raiders vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Saturday, December 24, 2022 – 08:15 PM EST at Acrisure Stadium
The Raiders and Steelers are both 6-8, and both got there by getting hot late in the season. Pittsburgh has won three of the last four, Las Vegas has won four of five.
The weather will be a factor as the Christmas weekend storm will wreak havoc on the area. Temperatures are expected to be in single digits with 30 mph winds sending the chill well below zero.
The Steelers expect to get back rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, who has been out with a concussion. The Raiders might be getting back both starting guards, which will help an offensive line that struggled in their absence. Alex Bars and Dylan Parham both returned to practice this week. Both left the last game with knee injuries.
Look for the Raiders to get more of a boost from having their line intact than the Steelers do from getting back Pickett. Vegas should be able to pull out the upset on a frigid Pittsburgh night.
NFL Pick: Raiders ML (+120) at Unibet
Denver Broncos vs. Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, December 25, 2022 – 04:30 PM EST at SoFi Stadium
Two teams wrapping up far worse seasons than they expected will meet in Los Angeles on Christmas Day. The Broncos are 4-10 but snapped a five-game losing streak last week, beating the Cardinals. The Rams have lost 7 of 8 to drop to 4-10 as well.
The Broncos are favored, mostly because they expect to get back Russell Wilson. The quarterback has been out with a concussion. He was cleared late last week but held out of the game as a precaution. He’s back at practice this week. Receiver Courtland Sutton is also expected to return after a hamstring kept him out of the last two games.
The Rams will turn to Baker Mayfield, acquired two weeks ago to replace the injured Matthew Stafford. He’s got two games under his belt now, so look for him and Sean McVay to have a game plan that will help him produce points against a Broncos team that has been bad all year, even with Wilson taking snaps.
NFL Pick: Rams (+130) at BetMGM