Seattle Seahawks (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (2-4)
The Dallas Cowboys lost their 2nd most important offensive player (wide receiver Dez Bryant) to a serious injury in the first week of the season and their most important offensive player (quarterback Tony Romo) to a serious injury in the second week of the season. The Cowboys managed to win both of those games, but have lost all 4 since. However, as weird as this may sound, their offense hasn’t been that much worse, as they’ve moved the chains at a 73.48% rate in the past 4 weeks, as opposed to 75.36% in the first 2 weeks. Credit their offensive line and coaching staff for the Cowboys’ continued offensive success, despite all of their skill position losses (Bryant, Romo, and free agent departure DeMarco Murray).
So why have the Cowboys had significantly less success on the scoreboard in their last 4 games, as compared to their first 2? Well, their defense was fluky good in the first 2 weeks of the season and in weeks 3 and 4 started to look much more like they were supposed to, after ranking 26th in rate of moving the chains last year, getting linebacker Sean Lee back from injury this off-season, but losing defensive tackle Henry Melton (free agent), cornerback Sterling Moore (free agent), outside linebacker Justin Durant (free agent), cornerback Orlando Scandrick (torn ACL), and linebacker Rolando McClain (suspension).
They’ve been better over the past 2 weeks though, as McClain and free agent acquisition Greg Hardy have come back off of suspensions. Both are playing well and, combined with Sean Lee and defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford, they’ve got this front 7 playing pretty well right now. They should have won last week in New York against the Giants, dominating in rate of moving the chains (with 27 first downs to 13 for the Giants) and only losing by 7 because of a -4 turnover margin.
Teams that have a -4 turnover margin, on average, only win that game 5.0% of the time. Turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent from one week to the next though, as teams that have a -4 turnover margin, on average, have a turnover margin of +0.1 the following week. Given that, it’s pretty impressive that the Cowboys were able to almost win despite getting crushed in turnovers and it bodes well for their chances this week. Teams are 61-44 ATS as home underdogs off of a loss in which they had a -4 or worse turnover margin, since 1989.
Last week’s game against the Giants was one of 3 games in which they’ve won the rate of moving the chains battle (along with the first 2), so it makes sense that they rank 11th in rate of moving the chains differential. They’re not quite that good, but their offense is respectable and gets Dez Bryant back this week, while their defense is more talented now than it was during last season or during the start of this season. The Seahawks, meanwhile, rank 10th in rate of moving the chains differential, only one spot ahead of Dallas.
However, the Seahawks have faced a tougher schedule (St. Louis, Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, Carolina, and San Francisco vs. NY Giants, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Orleans, New England, NY Giants). They are the better team, are essentially completely healthy right now, and are also in a much better spot, for a couple of reasons. For one, the Seahawks are going into their bye week after this one. Good teams tend to take care of business going into a bye and win big as big favorites. Home favorites of 6+ going into the bye are 59-20 ATS since 2002. The Seahawks, unfortunately, are not at home for this one, but 3+ point road favorites are still 39-25 ATS going into a bye, for the same reason. It’s not as powerful of a trend as the other one, but the logic behind both is the same.
On top of that, they’re road favorites off of a road win, after winning big in San Francisco last week. Teams are 42-30 ATS since 2008 in that spot, as long as they are in their 2nd of two road games, as the Seahawks are. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 204-212 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.51 points per game, as opposed to 296-411 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.94 points per game. Despite all that, I can’t take the Seahawks this week, especially considering all the public action pouring in on them. This line is just too high at 6, either way. The Cowboys are better than this line suggests, even in a bad spot. I’m not confident in them either though.
Seattle Seahawks 17 Dallas Cowboys 13
Pick against the spread: Dallas +6