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Early in the week we indicated the Eagles figured out a way to take advantage of the NFL rules ahead of today’s Saturday regular season finale. By having players volunteer to test for COVID-19, 12 players from different position groups tested positive. These players will not be subject to any COVID testing throughout the playoffs and are no longer in danger of missing games or practice time going forward.
Given that today’s Philadelphia game is meaningless (locked into a Wild Card spot for a road game either way), this allows more roster flexibility to rest players. Our theory was confirmed on Friday when only center Jason Kelce was activated off the COVID-19 reserve list to play when the other 11 also qualified under the NFL’s five-day protocols.
The reason to leave the players on is it allows the Eagles to make double digit practice squad callups opening the door for other players like Lane Johnson, Landon Dickerson (thumb), Derek Barnett, Darius Slay and other veterans to rest. Kelce has been activated to continue his 121-game consecutive starts stretch (No. 3 active streak in the NFL). This is using the rules to one’s advantage and is not illegal. Likely, this loophole was not anticipated and the Eagles will use Week 18 as a modified bye week.
With two games on Saturday and 14 on Sunday, this weekend is the final chance to improve on our 46-38-1 (+8) weekly five picks record against the spread using FanDuel lines at time of publication. Here are two actionable Saturday picks with a significant SIC score differential of 17.2 and 18.3.
KANSAS CITY -10.5 vs DENVER
The Chiefs will earn a first-round playoff bye if they win and the Titans lose. Meanwhile, the Broncos are already eliminated with nothing to play for and will end with a losing record either way. KC has a healthy defense and their offensive line dodged a bullet as left tackle Orlando Brown pregame Week 17 calf issue seems to be a non-issue. The Broncos have a poor health and a low SIC score on defense and will miss their two top corners (and two inside linebackers). We would expect the Chiefs to jump off to first half lead and cruise to victory.
DALLAS -3.5 vs PHILADELPHIA
The NFC East showdown has little meaning to either squad. The Cowboys say they will play starters and the Eagles clearly plan to use this as a bye week as we indicated above. Expect 11 practice squad callups for Philadelphia and veterans to rest. Dallas is selectively resting some players but don’t have the roster flexibility without the practice squad additions. The Cowboys have the much healthier SIC score offensively and defensively. With the COVID gamesmanship (see video above), the messaging for the Eagles seems to be that of a bye week. Expect Dallas to play starters longer to ensure heading into the playoffs on a winning note after last week’s disappointing loss to the Cardinals. The second half may have the feel of a preseason game if things fall as expected.
All Field Views and SIC scores for the full Week 18 slate are posted at www.SICscore.com. Close out your NFL season strongly. Look for the playoff health rankings this Monday as the post season starts.