Dallas Cowboys (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (2-0)
It’s funny how narratives change. In 2018, the Cowboys went 10-6 with a 8-2 record in games decided by 7 points or less and they were seen as a team that was good at closing out games. In 2019, they went just 0-5 in games decided by 7 points or less with largely the same team as 2018, causing them to fall to 8-8 and out of the playoffs, and they were seen as a dysfunctional team that couldn’t close. That seemed to carry into week 1 of this season, when they lost a winnable game by a field goal to the Rams, but then in week 2 they completed a ridiculous 20-point comeback to win a game by 1 point that they statistically had just a 0.1% chance of winning with 2:52 left in the game.
The Cowboys wouldn’t have gotten a chance to come back if the Falcons didn’t seemingly forget the onside kick rule at the end of the game, but they also could have easily won their week 1 game in Los Angeles had they not decided to go for it rather than kick a field goal down three and there were some fluky things that led to the Cowboys needing to come back against the Falcons in the first place, like the Cowboys losing a trio of fumbles.
The Cowboys lost the turnover battle by 3, but still managed to win the game, something that only happens in about 10.3% of cases of a team with a -3 turnover margin, and they won the first down rate battle by a margin of 10.80% that is much more convincing then their margin on the scoreboard. Combine that with their slight first down rate margin win in week 1 against the Rams and the Cowboys have a +7.25% first down rate differential on the season that ranks 3rd in the league. That’s more or less in line with their +4.28% first down rate differential in 2019 (4th in the NFL), when their poor performance in close games caused them to miss the playoffs.
Ordinarily, that would be a good sign for the Cowboys going forward because a team’s record in close games tends to even out in the long run, but the Cowboys are one of several teams in the league that have been destroyed by injuries early in the season. They are without their dominant offensive tackle duo of Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, pass catching tight end Blake Jarwin, starting linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee, starting cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Anthony Brown, and possibly top defensive lineman DeMarcus Lawrence.
The Cowboys schedule also gets a lot tougher this week when they head to Seattle. Playing in Seattle isn’t what it once was because of the lack of fans, but this is also arguably the best Seahawks team in years and the Seahawks are relatively healthy compared to the rest of the league. I have the Seahawks 4th in my roster rankings and 6 points ahead of the beat up Cowboys.
This line shifted from -1.5 on the early line last week to -5 this week, but it arguably didn’t shift up enough, as even with a limited homefield advantage you can definitely make an argument for the Seahawks being favored by more than a touchdown in this one. The Cowboys’ propensity to keep games close is enough for me to not wager on the Seahawks as 5-point favorites, but they may just be too outmatched talent wise in this game with all of the key players they are missing. If DeMarcus Lawrence winds up missing this game and the line doesn’t shift significantly, I may reconsider a bet on Seattle.
Seattle Seahawks 31 Dallas Cowboys 24
Pick against the spread: Seattle -5