Dallas Cowboys (8-7) at Washington Redskins (9-6)
The name of the game is simple for the Dallas Cowboys. If they lose, they go home. If they win, they win the NFC East. For the Redskins, it’s a little bit more complicated. They clinch the division with a win, same as with the Cowboys, but they can technically still make the playoffs if they lose, assuming an improbable sequence of events happens earlier in the day before this Sunday Night showdown. I don’t think that will, however, and either way, both teams will be treating this as a must win game as the prize for both teams is a home playoff game.
Assuming we were getting enough points, I was thinking of thinking the Cowboys here. A very good trend is on their side. Road dogs are 52-26 ATS trying to avenge a same season home loss as favorites. The logic behind this is simple: when the location of the game between two teams determines who is favored and who is not, that generally means those two teams are evenly matched and I’d say that’s about right with these two teams. When two teams are evenly matched, they tend to split the season series and if one team wins as dogs on the road, it generally evens out with the other team getting revenge and at least covering as dogs on the road in the next game (40-41 SU).
However, we’re just getting no line value with the Cowboys. These two teams are fairly even, but the Redskins are the better team. They rank 13th in net points per drive, 11th in DVOA, and 8th in weighted DVOA. Meanwhile, the Cowboys rank 17th, 14th, and 15th respectively. If you take the difference between the Redskins’ net points per drive and the Cowboys’, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per game per team), and add 2.5 for home field, you get that the Redskins should be favored by 4.5, a figure that is pretty well supported by DVOA.
Furthermore, as bad as the Cowboys generally are in December, I can’t take them to win this game and that would be what I would be doing taking them plus a field goal. Tony Romo is 12-21 ATS after week 14 in his career, though slightly better, 9-12 ATS, as dogs. They’re also 11-6 ATS as road dogs since 2009 (while they struggle as home favorites). Still, I can’t pick them to win here. Games in which a team is a dog are generally a low pressure situations, which is where these Cowboys thrive, but this is far from a low pressure situation, so I have to lay the points. I really wish we were getting at least 3.5, but it’d have to be more than 4 for me to feel comfortable.
Public lean: Washington (50% range)
Washington Redskins 31 Dallas Cowboys 27
Pick against spread: Washington -3 (-110) 1 unit