New Orleans Saints (6-8) at Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
The Cowboys entered December at 6-6 after a rough month of November, traditionally a strong month for them, and it looked unlikely that they would be unable to choke again this December, mostly because there would be nothing to choke away. However, after two straight wins, they are at 8-6 and in control of their own destiny, which means that once again, they’ll have a chance to choke this December, starting with this game against the Saints.
I’m only half kidding when I say this. The Cowboys are not good as front runners. That’s why they’re 9-18 ATS as home favorites and why they always choke late in December. Here, they are home favorites and of course it’s also December. Tony Romo is 12-20 ATS in week 14 or later in his career, including 3-8 ATS as home favorites. They were able pull off two upsets to get themselves back into the playoff race, but now that they’re home favorites and something is actually expected of them as they control their own destiny for a playoff spot 2 weeks later, they probably won’t get it done.
Speaking of that win last week, they might be a little overconfident off of it. Teams are 13-29 ATS since 1989 as home favorites off a home win of 1-6 points as dogs. It’s always important to remember where teams were the week before and not overreact to one game. The Cowboys certainly didn’t play great against the Steelers, who are now 5-16 ATS as non-divisional road favorites under Mike Tomlin (including losses in Oakland and Tennessee this year). The Steelers also probably weren’t taking that game that seriously as they still control their own destiny for a playoff spot with a loss. Plus, here’s an interesting trend, teams are 20-41 ATS off a win against the Steelers since 2002.
The Cowboys might also have one eye on next week. I know the Cowboys have to beat both the Saints and the Redskins, so they won’t completely overlook the Saints here, but which game do you think they’ll be more focused for, a home game against a 6-8 team or a road rematch against a divisional rival who dominated them at home a few weeks ago? For the Saints, this is their Super Bowl, a chance to play spoiler. All they have left is a home game against the Panthers. There’s a trend for that. Dogs before being favorites are 108-67 ATS since 2011, including 118-61 ATS since 2008 as dogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be dogs.
Besides, as the Saints showed last week with their blowout win over the Buccaneers, they’re not to be overlooked. In fact, numbers say the Saints are a better team than the Cowboys. The Saints rank 12th in net points per drive at 0.14, while the Cowboys rank 18th at -0.06, while this line says these two teams are equal, because 2.5 points is standard for home field, not even taking into account the Cowboys’ home struggles.
If you take the difference, multiply by 11 (average amount of drives per game), and add 2.5 for home field, you get that this should be a pick em, again not even taking into account the Cowboys’ home struggles. DVOA backs this up as the Saints rank 15th in DVOA and 14th in weighted DVOA, while the Cowboys rank 16th and 17th respectively. We’re getting points with the better team in the better situation. It’s a big play on the Saints.
Public lean: New Orleans (50% range)
Sharps lean: NO 19 DAL 15
Final thoughts: No change.
New Orleans Saints 31 Dallas Cowboys 24 Upset Pick +120
Pick against spread: New Orleans +2.5 (-110) 4 units