Oakland Raiders (4-7) at Dallas Cowboys (6-5)
I’m completely split on this one. On one hand, non-divisional home favorites dominate on Thursdays, going 30-14 ATS since 1989. This makes sense. Playing on a short week is rough, but it’s even rougher when you have to travel on a short week. That cuts into valuable preparation time. However, if you are the better team on the road, that usually nullifies it, so home favorites have a much bigger advantage over home underdogs.
Also, if teams are divisional rivals, they are already pretty familiar with each other so the short week won’t matter as much. For that reason, non-divisional home favorites have a much bigger advantage over divisional home favorites. The Raiders are an inferior team travelling on a short week to an opponent who they see once every 4 years (because this is a non-conference game). They could get absolutely steamrolled and the Cowboys could easily cover the 9 point spread. Touchdown plus non-divisional home favorites are 12-4 ATS since 1989.
However, this spread might just be too big. I don’t know if the Cowboys deserve to be favored by this much. Their defense is awful, especially since they lost middle linebacker Sean Lee with injury. He won’t be back this week. Everyone remembers when they allowed 40 first downs to the Saints a few weeks ago, an NFL record. The Raiders don’t have a great offense, but they could still move the chains here. The Cowboys are moving the chains at a 75% rate, as opposed to 79% for their opponents. The Raiders, meanwhile, are moving the chains at a 68% rate, as opposed to 64% for their opponents. That suggests this line should really be around 4, instead of 9. That’s a lot of line value with the Raiders.
The Cowboys are also in a bad spot here. They are coming off of a close road win as underdogs, beating the Giants by 3 points last week. Teams are 27-51 ATS since 2002 as home favorites off of a road win as underdogs by 3 or fewer. They also have a much more important game in Chicago next week on Monday Night Football, which could easily have playoff implications, considering both teams are tied at a game out of the 2nd wild card spot. The Cowboys may feel they can coast through this home game and be distracted with that game up next, especially off of last week’s big win. Non-divisional home favorites are 63-86 ATS before being non-divisional road dogs since 2008.
The Cowboys generally coast as big home favorites anyway, going 5-11 ATS at home as favorites of 6 or more since the opening of the new Cowboys stadium in 2009. At the end of the day, the Raiders are probably the right side, but I can’t shake the image of them going into Dallas and getting steamrolled on a short week on the road by a superior non-divisional opponent, so I’m not confident at all.
Dallas Cowboys 27 Oakland Raiders 20
Pick against spread: Oakland +9