NFL Week 15 TV Games: Philly can spread their wings and fly to play-off country

The Eagle has landed: LeSean McCoy sets the Philly pulse
The Eagle has landed: LeSean McCoy sets the Philly pulse

In-form Romilly Evans casts his eye over Sunday's triple-bill of live games where he reckons the Eagles can book their postseason ticket

"Pumpkin City beckons for Cinderfella Tony Romo. And not even his fairy-godmother Jerry Jones can save him."


Back Philadelphia Eagles (-3) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.855/6 or better


Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
Start-time: Sunday, 18:00
TV: Live on SS2

Here's Johnny! The Cleveland Browns are finally to unleash first-rounder Johnny Manziel in their desperate bid to keep their faint play-off hopes alive. He takes over at QB from local boy Brian Hoyer, a leader whom all the senior Cleveland players preferred but essentially couldn't keep makes excuses for.

Manziel, known in his college days in Texas as "Johnny Football", is prized for his twin-threat versatility. However, for all we've heard of his stellar practice sessions this week, he remains an unknown component in a hitherto onerous offense which has slowed the Browns' progress to the postseason.

Cleveland's D, on the other hand, has proven the team's guiding light, making Indy's almighty Andrew Luck look little better than Hoyer last week and even outscoring their own offense with two touchdowns.

Importantly, these defensive playmakers also owned this weekend's opponents, the Cincinnati Bengals, when this pair last met, restricting Andy Dalton to a miserly 86 yards in a one-way 24-3 rout. Dalton, who was picked three times and sacked twice, surely can't be as poor again. Especially since he's pulling the strings of a crack receiving corps, headed by AJ Green (unplayable at his best) and rising star Mohamed Sanu.

Still, having shut down them down at Paul Brown Stadium, there's no reason to suspect the Browns can't slow them again at home in Ohio. Manziel's benefits (variety and speed) should outweigh his likely costs (inexperience and smaller stature at six feet).

Yet the real kicker is Cleveland's emerging rushing game. Running men Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell are coming into form. West looks especially dangerous if he has now corrected his early propensity for fumbling, while Crowell is also supremely gifted and willing to bear the burden. This gang can move the chains in Cleveland for years to come and can serve notice of the Browns promising future in this divisional duel.  

Recommended Bets
Back Cleveland Browns to win on the Match Moneyline @ 1.9520/21 or better

Back Cleveland Browns to win on the First Half Moneyline @ 1.991/1 or better

Back Over 22.5 Total Cleveland Browns Points @ 1.9110/11 or better


Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers
Start-time: Sunday, 21:25
TV: Live on SS2

San Diego are hanging on by a thread to divisional and play-off credibility - and I've backed them at big prices for both. So it would be churlish not to double-down in this match-up. They led the barnstorming Pats 14-3 before crumbling last week and have hopefully have learnt a valuable lesson.

Philip Rivers remains that rarity among quarterbacks, holding a 4-3 head-to-head record against Peyton Manning. Granted Manning has won the last two, but those victories came at the helm of the most dynamic receiving corps in football last term. While Denver's offense endures as one of the most talented in the league, focus in recent weeks has been taken away from Manning and the Thomas twins and placed on the running game, with C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson both enjoying big days out against Buffalo with three rushing touchdowns.

Coach John Fox single-handedly snapped Manning's steak for consecutive games with a passing TD (the run had stood at 51) and while the Broncos have now proved they can deliver in every avenue of offense, many view this shift in strategy as a vote of no confidence in Manning (who also had two interceptions against the normally stingy Bills).

For that reason alone, expect Fox to place the ball back in his storied signal-caller's hands here. Whether it stays there safely is, of course, a matter for the Bolts' D and whether they can bring the sort of rapid-fire pressure under which Manning can succumb.

At home, with a crowd baying for the play-offs, this is their time to stand up and be counted. Anderson has been a revelation for the Broncos but the suspicion persists that blazing from obscurity (a few years back he was giving workout classes down his local gym) has been his key weapon. San Diego should've seen enough to stop him, even if he is the perhaps the most diligent and clever rusher in the NFL. Kids, if you want to get on in life, watch this guy.

Also watch out for a scene-stealing performance from Rivers, who can still keep pace with the best of them, rejuvenated as he has been by a combination of the old and the new in his crew. That's the breakout brilliance of 22-year-old wideout Keenan Allen and the emerging Ryan Matthews at RB, coupled to the maturity of older faithfuls like Malcom Floyd, Eddie Royal and the timeless Antonio Gates

Rivers often surpasses Manning when it matters most and this is his time to throw another spanner in his great foe's works. The Chargers are a great team in a tough division and with a closing schedule that doesn't let up (Jamaal Charles' injury in Kansas aside), they have to win their home games. Even now against in-form Denver, one of the Super Bowl favourites. Time to stand up and be counted.

Recommended Bets
Back San Diego Chargers (+4.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.9110/11 or better

Back San Diego Chargers (+2.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 2.56/4 or better

Back A. Gates to be First / Anytime Touchdown Scorer @ 11.010/1 or better


Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
Start-time: Monday, 01:30
TV: Live on C4

The Philadelphia Eagles stumbled into a reality show entitled Eat Your Own Medicine last time against the Seahawks of Seattle. Having demolished their rivals in Dallas the previous week 33-10, they received a gritty leveler in Philly from the Hawks with a 24-14 reversal.

As a result, the NFC East is still up for grabs and this re-match with the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field should decide it. The question, of course, is can Dallas now possibly turn the tables and repeat the Seattle dose? It's asking a lot of a foundering defense (the Seahawks' fail-safe) and a QB in Tony Romo who isn't in the best shape.

I've long given up on trying to confidently predict the erratic arm of Romo. But the truth is, he was not himself against the Eagles last time and you can't rely on his dodgy back bouncing back for Sunday night. Instead, Dallas have found another more dependable stalwart in DeMarco Murray who leads the league with 1,606 yards from scrimmage this year.

Murray is a strong runner who can sustain the speed and repeated reliance. Indeed, he's chalked up over 40% of the Boys' total offensive production for the current campaign. However, this is a heavy burden which also generates an air of predictability. The Eagles D know Murray is coming and shut him down completely in Dallas. This forced Romo to chase and his desperate dispatch quickly downward-spiraled into defeat. So can Romo and his offensive co-ordinators make the corrections so quickly?

I doubt it. On the other side of the ball, running back LeSean McCoy could give his counterpart Murray a schooling session in elusive weaving. And even if Philly use McCoy more sparingly, his mere presence opens up time and space for Mark Sanchez under center.

Time and space is exactly what Sanchez's slow decision-making needs. They were certainly not afforded him by the Hawks, but Dallas are different. Philly operate a high-energy, up-tempo offense (epithets which will follow coach Chip Kelly for his entire career) and it seems Kelly can get it done with any quarterback. Like Sanchez, Mike Vick and the injured Nick Foles had their frailties, but that has been no barrier to success over the majority of the past two regular seasons and a 19-10 record.

Expect a more relaxed Sanchez to pick apart Dallas's porous secondary and McCoy to control the clock throughout. Dallas, however, may have once again run out of time as the second hand strikes midnight and their belle-of-the-ball status ends. Pumpkin City beckons for Cinderfella Romo. And not even his fairy-godmother Jerry Jones can save him.

Recommended Bets
Back Philadelphia Eagles (-3) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.855/6 or better

Back Philadelphia Eagles to win on the Match Moneyline @ 1.584/7 or better
Back Over 29.5 Philadelphia Eagles Total Points @ 1.9110/11 or better
Back Philadelphia Eagles Touchdown to be First Scoring Play 4.03/1 or better

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