NFL Week 6 Late TV Games: Eagles can finally take flight against Big Blue

Chip on his shoulder? It's time for Philly's head coach to validate his tinkering ways
Chip on his shoulder? It's time for Philly's head coach to validate his tinkering ways

Romilly Evans casts his eye over some big live match-ups to conclude Week 6, where he reckons Chip Kelly's team of all-sorts can belatedly find some cohesion...

"Expect the aggregation of Philly's small but sequential superiorities across the park to make for a comfy home victory here"

New England Patriots @ Indianapolis Colts
Start-time: Monday, 01:30
TV: Live on SS2

The close to a difficult nine-month gestation period typically results in an outcome to celebrate. And on the nine-month milestone since the infamous Deflategate Saga, Tom Brady will be hoping to put a happy ending to the laboured tug of war raging over his morality since he last faced the Indianapolis Colts. However, Brady, the NFL's poster child of gleaming promise will never be seen as perfect again.

The New England Patriots, however, are perfect this season (4-0) effortlessly picking up from where they left off last term. And Brady, who has helped the Pats to more points than any other AFC rival despite playing one fewer game, appears to be rising to the challenge.

The trouble is, I'm still not convinced. That time-honoured partnership of Brady-Gronk aside, this team has still to face a legitimate championship rival. Instead, they've either benefitted from an easy schedule or key injuries to opponents' playmakers (talisman Tony Romo's absence in Dallas last week being an eloquent example).

Now Brady's bunch travel to the imposing Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Colts' own field marshal Andrew Luck has been absent in recent weeks. Their timing couldn't be better, even though Luck is likely to return for what could prove a postseason tone-setter.

While it's better to be lucky than good, I must confess to calling New England incorrectly in the last few games I've covered. This will be the last time I oppose them confidently before I'm forced to reassess my opinion, regardless of the uncertainty under center in Indy.

The reason for that confidence is the gradual improvement the Colts are showing throughout their ranks, as their retooled offensive line irons out the kinks and become progressively healthy. Even if Luck's right shoulder niggle persists, ageing Matt Hasselbeck has already proved himself an evergreen deputy. The wily vet doesn't turn the ball over either (a failing which has blighted Luck thus far this campaign).

While it's reassuring to have wideout Hilton carving up the secondary at full pelt, the real improvement has arrived from new signing Frank Gore belatedly building up a head of steam in the backfield. Gore and running mate Josh Robinson are cleaning up their early tendency to fumble, and can help Indy control the clock and free up Hilton for some trademark downfield strikes.

If the Patriots are to ride their streak, don't focus on Brady. They must also establish their ground assault via another one-two knockout combo of Dion Lewis and LeGarette Blount. The pair are evenly sharing the load (averaging five yards per carry with five TDs between them) and demonstrating once again that Bill Belichick's tactical lab can quickly grow mighty oaks from overlooked acorns.

However, with the undefeated hype once again building around the Pats, I'm keen to take them on with some juicy handicap head-starts. They've also lost key left tackle Nate Solder to a torn bicep (out for the year) so perhaps the karma may finally be catching up with them.

Recommended Bets
Back Indianapolis Colts (+10) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.728/11 or better
Back Indianapolis Colts (+7) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 1.824/5 or better
Back TY. Hilton to score First / Anytime Touchdown 11.010/1 or better

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles
Start-time: Tuesday, 01:30
TV: Live on SS1

These two slow starters from the NFC East are now battling it out to top the division. And so weak are the Dallas Cowboys (after the aforementioned clavicle break to their leader Romo) and so rudderless are the Washington Redskins (Kirk Cousins is no saviour) that this head-to-head divisional tussle could ultimately decide play-off seeding, even participation.

So it's crucial for Philadelphia fans that the great Chip Kelly experiment gets out of the testing phase and keeps getting real-world results. That the Eagles achieved in style last weekend against New Orleans (a 39-17 thrashing which looks all the more impressive after the Saints' midweek slaying of previously unbeaten Atlanta) and I expect their rise to continue here.

Quarterback Sam Bradford bounced back from two early red-zone interceptions to record 333 yards and two touchdowns, while DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews bolstered their running returns with another TD brace for over 150 yards combined. Murray has complained of being underused so far, but the signs are that his head coach is steadily cranking up the load-carrying for more pivotal battles ahead. That needle could now hit the red against a makeshift New York Giants D which has been papering over the cracks. So expect Murray, particularly effective when released away from that shotgun formation, to break out this week.

On the other side of the ball, Eli Manning is never better, it appears, than when the hawks are circling. After some terrible decisions over the opening fortnight, the two-time Super Bowl winner has pulled up his socks and dragged his side over the finishing line with crucial game-winning drives and path-finders. Wide man Odell Beckham Jnr always hogs the coverage with his pre-game routine, but he has been slowed by a hamstring injury of late, and in truth bit-part players (like tight end Larry Donnell) have stepped in to make this offense more then the sum of its two star parts.

Nevertheless, the suspicion is that Philly outrank Big Blue in most personnel match-ups across the park. Expect the aggregation of those small but sequential superiorities to make for a comfy home victory here.

Recommended Bets

Back Philadelphia Eagles (-5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.9520/21 or better
Back Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 2.01/1 or better
Back Over 27.5 Philadelphia Eagles Total Points @ 1.845/6 or better
Back D. Murray to score First / Anytime Touchdown 10.09/1 or better

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