Dallas Cowboys (1-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (0-1)
I had the Eagles as being a little bit better than the Cowboys coming into the season, winning 10 games and the NFC East, while the Cowboys win 9 and come up just short. The Cowboys barely beat the Giants week 1, needing a miracle last second drive to win by 1, and also lost starting left guard Ronald Leary, starting defensive end Randy Gregory, and top receiver Dez Bryant with injuries. This line was 4 last week and now has shifted to 5.5, all of which seems reasonable at first glance.
However, I actually really like the Cowboys this week for a few reasons. For one, when I predicted the Cowboys at 9 wins, it was because I expected them to have more injuries on offense, after having the 2nd fewest offensive adjusted games lost in the league last season. Losing Dez hurts, but this is still a talented offense. Meanwhile, Randy Gregory is just a 2nd round rookie anyway and Leary can be replaced in the lineup by La’El Collins, an undrafted rookie, but one who would have been a 1st round pick if not for the fact that he was wanted for questioning in the case of his pregnant ex-girlfriend’s death around the time of the draft. Collins was able to clear his name a few days after the draft and the Cowboys got a steal when he signed with them as an undrafted free agent.
The Cowboys should not be 5.5 point underdogs here in Philadelphia against the Eagles, who lost week 1 to an Atlanta team that isn’t very good. I’d say the Cowboys had a more impressive week 1 performance because they were able to win in spite of a -3 turnover margin. Teams that lose the turnover battle by 3 win just 10.7% of the time over the past 25 or so years. On top of that, turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. In fact, over the past 25 or so years, teams that post a -3 turnover margin in a game, on average, have a -0.1 turnover margin the following week. If the Cowboys can win despite some fluky turnovers, I think it speaks better to their long-term outlook than losing in Atlanta does.
The Cowboys are also arguably a better team on the road than at home, so I’m not concerned that they almost just lost at home to the inferior New York Giants. Since 2010, the Cowboys are 22-20 at home (14-28 ATS), outscoring opponents by an average of 2.21 points per game, as opposed to 22-19 on the road (24-16 ATS), getting outscored by an average of 0.37 points per game. The road team generally tends to do well in NFC East matchups overall anyway, for what that’s worth. The road team in NFC East divisional matchups is 53-34 ATS since 2008.
The reason this isn’t a higher confidence pick is because the Eagles have an easy game on deck, going to New York to face the Jets, where they are projected to be 3.5 point favorites. Teams are 96-70 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of a field goal or more. The Cowboys do host the Falcons up next, but, when both teams are 100% focused with no upcoming distractions, it tends to benefit the favorite more than the underdog. I’d still put money on Dallas though.
Philadelphia Eagles 24 Dallas Cowboys 23
Pick against the spread: Dallas +5.5