St. Louis Rams (1-1) at Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
Trends wise, the Cowboys are in a bad situation this week. St. Louis is road dogs after a road loss, a situation teams are 88-52 ATS since 2008. Teams cover about 65% of the time in this situation historically as well, no matter what year you use to cut off the sample. The Cowboys, meanwhile, struggle as home favorites since the opening of the new Cowboys Stadium in 2009. Excluding Thanksgiving home games, when they usually cover no matter what, they are 8-17 ATS as home favorites of 3 or more since 2009. It doesn’t have to do with the stadium, but considering the key personnel hasn’t changed much since 2009, this is relevant.
However, I think this line is way too low. This line at -3.5 suggests the Cowboys are barely better than the Rams, which is not true in my opinion. The Cowboys are still my pick to win the NFC East. They barely lost in Kansas City last week, but there’s no shame in that. They’ve fixed the turnover problems that plagued them last year, as I expected they would, going from -13 last year to +3 through 2 games. Their defense is improved under Monte Kiffin, allowing opponents to convert just 71.4% of first and 10s for a subsequent first down, better than the average team allows. They will only get better as guys like Anthony Spencer get healthier and guys like George Selvie and Nick Hayden have stepped up big time in place of guys with injury.
The Rams, meanwhile, I predicted to 6-10 at the start of the season. They went 7-8-1 last season, but I don’t think they match that, even with their increase in talent level. If they didn’t add all they added this off-season, they would have been even worse. Teams that have big win improvements like the Rams did last season usually regress about half of that improvement the following season. There are unsustainable things about the Rams’ 2012 season.
They were 6th in the league in adjusted games lost, meaning they had significantly fewer injuries than the league average. This was a season after they ranked dead last in that category in 2011. They also exceeded their Pythagorean Expectations by a whole win (assuming a half win for the tie) as they were outscored by 49 points on the season and had a Pythagorean Expectation of 6.5 wins, 23rd in the NFL. They’re not barely worse than the Cowboys this season. Part of my 6 win projection for them had to do with a hard schedule and I probably would have predicted 8-8 for them in the NFC East, but it’s not like Dallas it’s a hard opponent. I’m not putting anything on it though.
Dallas Cowboys 24 St. Louis Rams 20
Pick against spread: Dallas -3.5