Dallas Cowboys (7-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)
The Chiefs got a huge win in Las Vegas last week, winning by a final score of 41-14 against a decent Raiders team. They have always seemed like they were going to break through at some point, but their offense had been uncharacteristically struggling across the Chiefs previous three games, a stretch in which the Chiefs scored just 36 points. That same stretch saw them have significant improvement on defense though, as they finally had top edge defender Frank Clark, top safety Tyrann Mathieu, top interior defender Chris Jones, and starting cornerback Charvarius Ward healthy at the same time for the first time all season and gave up just 51 points across three games.
Even with the Chiefs’ recent offensive struggles, they still ranked among the league’s best in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency going into last week, so if their offense bounced back as expected, paired with a much healthier and improved defense, the Chiefs were going to be a dangerous team. That seems to have happened. The Chiefs still rank just 30th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency, but they should be significantly better than that defensively going forward, while their offense and special teams rank 2nd and 1st respectively in schedule adjusted efficiency.
Aside from injuries, the Chiefs’ biggest problem thus far has been the turnover margin, as they rank third worst in the league in turnover margin at -8. Turnover margin is not a predictive stat on a week-to-week basis though and, though I would expect any team in the Chiefs’ turnover margin situation to bounce back going forward, the Chiefs are even better equipped than most teams to bounce back, as having an elite quarterback like Patrick Mahomes is the best way to consistently perform well in the turnover margin. Prior to this season, the Chiefs were +23 in turnover margin across Mahomes’ first three seasons in the league combined and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see their turnover situation swing dramatically over the remainder of the season.
Now the biggest problem for the Chiefs is they have another tough game this week, despite having one of the toughest schedules in the league thus far, as they play host to the 7-2 Dallas Cowboys. The Chiefs actually probably have the better defense in this matchup, with the Cowboys ranking 24th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency and missing their two best edge defenders DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory due to injuries, but the Cowboys are also the only team who ranks higher than the Chiefs in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency.
The Cowboys are also healthier than they have been on offense for most of the season, with their two stud tackles Tyron Smith and La’El Collins set to play with quarterback Dak Prescott in the same game for the the first time week one, as well as the return of starting wide receiver Michael Gallup for the first time since week one, to offset some of the absence of fellow starting wide receiver Amari Cooper, who is on the COVID list and will miss his first game of the season. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are missing starting right tackle Lucas Niang and will likely be without starting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire again as well.
Overall, I have these two teams about even, so we aren’t getting any value with either side, with the Chiefs favored by 2.5 points at home. The most likely outcome of two evenly matched teams like this facing off against each other is the home team winning by a field goal, so I am taking the Chiefs for pick ‘em purposes, but this line is right about where it should be and there are no situational edges for either team, so there is nothing worth betting on here.
Update: Tyron Smith will be out for the Cowboys and yet this line has stayed put at 2.5. I am going to up the confidence here a little bit.
Kansas City Chiefs 31 Dallas Cowboys 27
Pick against the spread: Kansas City -2.5