One of the best pieces of coaching advice that Bill Belichick has ever given is when he said the less adaptable a team is, the better it must be at whatever it excels at.

The idea here is that if you can only do a couple of things well you must be exceptional at them because your opponents are going to go all out to stop that part of your game plan. If your foes are successful in that effort and you don’t have a backup avenue, it’s all but certain that defeats will follow.

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This lesson doesn’t seem to be lost on Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni. Going into the Week 16 matchup against the Giants, his squad had rushed for 175-plus yards in seven straight games, a feat that had not been accomplished since 1985. When your approach is working at a once in every 36 years level, it’s a heady achievement. But it also should lead a coach to start finding other ways to move the ball given that some team is eventually going to figure out how to stop this trend.

Sirianni seemed to be taking the develop alternate offensive methods approach against the Giants, as the Eagles had 18 dropbacks versus 12 planned rushing plays in the first half. They then had a 12-11 pass-to-run split in the second half until running the ball seven straight times to kill the clock while up 34-10 late in the fourth quarter.

This was done in part to help the Eagles abide by Belichick’s adaptability credo, but a side benefit of it could be that it will help the Eagles in the event they end up in a high-scoring playoff contest.

The Eagles currently have a 61% chance of making it to the postseason and will have a 98% shot if they beat an overmatched Washington squad this week and the Packers win against Minnesota at Lambeau Field.

If a postseason berth is in the Eagles’ future, the odds are very high that the game could turn into a shootout, which is defined as when both teams score 24-plus points. The five teams that have currently clinched NFC playoffs berths (Green Bay, Dallas, Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay, and Arizona) have been in a total of 16 shootouts this season and had six additional games that were within three points of meeting that criteria (Note: this counts the six shootout/near shootout games between these clubs only one time each). That means having the ability to keep up in a high-scoring game is going to be a necessity in the 2021 postseason.

A shootout matchup could be problematic for the Eagles, as they have a 1-2 mark in that type of contest this season. That 33.3% win rate is tied for the lowest among the top 11 NFC playoff contenders, as only New Orleans has fared as poorly among that group. The Eagles also lost two matchups where they gave up 24-plus points and scored 22 (Week 6 against Tampa Bay, Week 7 against Las Vegas).

This isn’t to say the Eagles are incapable of keeping up in a shootout, as they have scored 24-plus points in nine games, a total that is tied for the ninth most times in the league, per Stathead. Even with that trend, it sure doesn’t hurt to have multiple ways to get there, so give Sirianni and his staff kudos for trying to build alternative plans for success.

Gambling 10-pack

Here is this week’s gambling 10-pack, a section that reviews some of the top gambling, fantasy, and DFS plays for NFL games in Week 17 (odds per BetMGM).

1. Let’s start with a word of advice for fantasy managers in title games this week: Start as many upside players as possible. It’s usually best to go with percentage plays during the regular season, as that approach can even out over the course of 14 games, but in the fantasy playoffs every opponent is strong and high-floor performances just won’t do. This means when you are in doubt as to who to start this week, aim for high-ceiling candidates.

2. The Eagles pass-centric approach did cut into Jalen Hurts’ fantasy production in Week 16, as his 16.7 points against the Giants were tied for his third lowest point total of the year, but only the foolhardy would keep Hurts out of a fantasy championship game against a Washington squad that has allowed 1,016 offensive yards over the past two weeks (including 519 to the Eagles in Week 15). This should return Hurts to the land of 20-plus points and makes him a must-start.

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3. Speaking of the Eagles-Washington matchup, why are the Eagles only favored by four points? Washington has been dealing with its share of off-field issues, but their defense is having the aforementioned woes and their offense is struggling so badly that the Football Team may end up rotating quarterbacks this week. That isn’t a formula for success and should lead to the Eagles being favored by more, but since they aren’t, this makes the Eagles a very good wager at -4.

4. There may be a potentially profitable set of wagers available via the Super Bowl winner odds. With the Chiefs at +400, the Packers at +450, the Buccaneers at +600, the Bills at +850, the Rams at +900, and the Cowboys at +1,000, it might be wise to place a $100 wager on each, as there is a very strong case to be made that the Super Bowl winner will come from this cluster of teams. If that is correct, there is a risk of a $200 loss if Kansas City wins or a $150 loss if Green Bay wins, but there is also one chance for a push and three chances to clear a profit.

5. Take Buffalo over Atlanta at -14.5. That’s a huge point spread but consider that eight of the Bills’ nine wins have come by 15 or more points and their victory last weekend over the Patriots was by 12 points. Buffalo has plenty of motivation with the AFC East title only two wins away. Add that to the game being in a frigid Orchard Park (31 degrees is the high!) and it should vault the Bills to cover that huge point spread.

6. The Vikings don’t like shootouts, as they are 3-5 in those types of games this year. The Packers do like them, as they are 4-1 in shootouts. Minnesota beat Green Bay in a 34-31 shootout the last time they played in Week 11, but the Vikings offense hasn’t been the same without Adam Thielen, as they have scored only 40 points over the past two weeks combined. This means it is a good idea to take the Packers -6.5, as Green Bay’s offense will hold up its end of the high-scoring bargain while Minnesota’s offense won’t.

7. Dallas linebacker Micah Parsons is a very good wager at +225 for AP Defensive Player of the Year. His strongest competition is Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt, who leads the league with 17.5 sacks and thus is listed at +200, but if the Steelers falter down the stretch as it looks like they will, Watt’s case will be damaged. Combine that with Parsons drawing comparisons to Lawrence Taylor for redefining the linebacker position as a rookie and the Cowboys having two high-profile matchups coming up against Arizona and the Eagles and Parsons has a very good chance of edging Watt for this honor.

8. Chicago could be a strong D/ST stream start against an abysmal Giants offense. Dallas also falls into that category even in a matchup against Arizona, as the Cowboys D/ST has racked up four straight games with 14-plus points and tallied 77 fantasy points in that span.

9. Seattle’s Gerald Everett is a very good fill-in tight end for anyone short at that position this week, as he has posted 10-plus points in three straight weeks and four out of the past five. Detroit has also been one of the worst teams in the league at covering tight ends this year, so Everett has high-ceiling potential to go along with the high floor.

10. Houston quarterback Davis Mills is a bargain at $5,500 in DraftKings, as he has thrown for 794 yards and five touchdowns over the past three weeks. He also makes for a good long-shot play for fantasy teams desperate for a last-minute quarterback play if they lose someone to COVID-19.

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