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The playoff race heats up while the Eagles continue their tailspin
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The playoff race heats up while the Eagles continue their tailspin

Between the Lines

The final quarter of the NFL season is underway. The bye weeks are finished. Four weeks left in the regular season, with a bevy of teams in line for a playoff shot.

The Philadelphia Eagles are not one of them, and this week they hoist the season’s Hail Mary. They are 3-8-1, now one of the bottom teams in pro football.

Jalen Hurts replaces Carson Wentz at quarterback as the Eagles, losers of four straight, host the New Orleans Saints, winners of an NFL best nine straight.

Hurts will give the Eagles mobility at quarterback and will at least spark the up-tempo nature for this team.

Hard to believe the Eagles were once sitting atop the NFC East, but now they are in a battle for last with the Dallas Cowboys. For all the insults thrown upon them, the Eagles at least play hard at home. Nonetheless, they have not won since Nov. 1.

Drew Brees may be back for the Saints after missing three games because of broken ribs and a collapsed lung. When he’s out, the Saints are 3-0 without him, including three covers.

Games of the Week

The Pittsburgh Steelers are rare underdogs when they face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night. Pittsburgh suffered its first loss of the season on Monday, while the Bills outlasted the San Francisco 49ers 34-24 and have improved to 9-3.

The Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens offer an excellent Monday night game.

Although the Ravens shellacked the Browns 38-6 on opening day, the 9-3 Browns have two more wins now than the Ravens.

Baltimore rushed for nearly 300 yards in defeating the Dallas Cowboys 34-17 Monday, but they have not been a big passing threat. Cleveland has a more balanced attack.

Which of these defenses can make a play?

Week 14 games with odds

Spreads courtesy of Draft Kings

New Orleans -7 AT Eagles

Arizona -3 AT New York Giants

Seattle -13.5 vs New York Jets

San Francisco -3.5 vs Washington

Houston -1 AT Chicago

Indianapolis -3 AT Las Vegas

Tennessee – 7 AT Jacksonville

Atlanta -2.5 AT Los Angeles Chargers

Kansas City -7 AT Miami

Tampa Bay -6.5 vs Minnesota

Carolina -3.5 vs Denver

Green Bay -7.5 AT Detroit

Dallas -3.5 AT Cincinnati

Buffalo -2.5 vs Pittsburgh

Baltimore -2 AT Cleveland

This week’s picks

This week’s selections against the spread, excerpted from Beat the Degenerates, which I co-host with Scott Cronick, director of entertainment publications for The Press of Atlantic City, and Brian Cahill. The show airs 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays on Newstalk 1400-AM, WONDRadio.com and 92.5-FM. Catch the next one 5 p.m. Dec 16.

Pickett Russell, “Da Kipster,” general manager of Tennessee Ave. Beer Hall in Atlantic City: Green Bay

Cronick: Arizona

Cahill: Houston

Bontempo: New Orleans

James Rabic, WOND producer: Pittsburgh

Ky Carlin, WOND sports correspondent: KC

Dave Weinberg, Extra Points: New Orleans

Listeners: Washington

Last week’s picks: A tip of the hat to Cronick, who nabbed a half-pointer with Miami over Cincinnati. Weinberg prevailed against the Eagles with Green Bay, and DaKipster prevailed with the Colts. These three are in the lead with 8-5 records for the Degenerates Cup, awarded to the player with the most winning selections over the course of the season. No bonus points, but … DA KIPSTER picked the exact score of Indy’s 26-20 triumph over the Houston Texans.

Last week’s highlights

The G-Men, the New York Giants, won their fourth straight game, upsetting the Seattle Seahawks as a double-digit road dog. New York showed a solid defense and kept Russell Wilson contained. The Giants were shut out in the first half but came back for 17 second-half points to win 17-12. They displayed urgency, as if their season was on the line. Which it was.

Washington surprisingly matched the feat, toppling the previously-unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers 23-17 on Monday. Washington suddenly has a dominant-looking defense. The Giants and Washington are no longer jokes.

The high and the low. The New England Patriots unleashed the biggest beatdown of the season, demolishing the Los Angeles Chargers 45- 0 on Sunday. They returned to the same stadium four nights later and looked pathetic in Thursday’s 24-3 setback to the Los Angeles Rams.

Equally unsettling is how the announcers made excuses for Patriots quarterback Cam Newton Thursday night, citing an injury late in the game that they hadn’t talked about until he had a horrific game.

The Cleveland Browns were 1-31 in 2016 and 2017. Now they are poised to earn their first playoff appearance since 2002. The Browns looked like one of the league’s top offensive teams, getting 38 first-half points against the Tennessee Titans en route to a 41-35 triumph.

The 0-12 New York Jets fired their defensive coordinator Gregg Williams after New York was burned for a deep touchdown pass on the final play, giving the Las Vegas Raiders a 31-28 victory. The Jets unleashed an all-out blitz when the Raiders had no choice but to throw deep. That left a defender 1-on-1 against Henry Ruggs, one of the fastest receivers in the league. The Jets played their best game, yet remain winless.

Draft Kings considers the Jets even money to go 0-16. Do you agree? The Jets play at the Seahawks this week, the Rams next week, host the Cleveland Browns and then visit the Patriots, who may have nothing to play for in the final week.

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