Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys: 2016 NFC Divisional Round Pick

Green Bay Packers (11-6) at Dallas Cowboys (13-3)

This is another game I’ve gone back and forth on all week. On one hand, the Packers are hot right now and the Cowboys haven’t had much homefield advantage in recent years.  Since 2010, they are 31-24 ATS on the road, as opposed to 20-36 ATS at home (12-28 ATS as home favorites). Over that time period, they’ve been outscored opponents by 0.25 points per game on the road and outscored opponents by an average of 1.63 points per game at home, meaning home field advantage hasn’t even been worth a point for them in recent years. That makes sense because their fan base travels so well that it doesn’t really matter where they play.

On the other hand, the Cowboys are only favorites of 4.5 points, so we’re not getting a ton of points with the Packers, and the Cowboys have been the significantly better team this season. Among remaining playoff teams, they rank 3rd in first down rate differential at 4.22%, while the Packers rank 5th at 1.99%, including their victory over the Giants last week. The Cowboys also beat the Packers earlier this year, winning 30-16 in Green Bay and winning the first down rate battle by 3.00%. Despite that, the public is actually on the Packers this week, so I’m going to fade the public and take the Cowboys. People seem to be so caught up in how the Packers have played in recent weeks that they’ve forgotten how good the Cowboys have been all season. I couldn’t be confident in the Cowboys at 4.5, but they are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Dallas Cowboys 30 Green Bay Packers 24

Pick against the spread: Dallas -4.5

Confidence: None

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Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (13-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-9)

I almost never bet on teams that are expected to rest their starters for some or most of a game in week 17 because it’s too unpredictable. In this game, the Cowboys are expected to start their starters, but how long they play is a complete mystery with the #1 seed already locked up. This line expects their backups to play a lot as they are 5 point underdogs in Philadelphia in a game in which they likely would have been favored by 5 points if their starters were going to play the whole game.

The Cowboys have been one of the best teams in the league this season, particularly on the road, where they are 5-2 ATS (31-23 ATS since 2010), so they could easily jump out to a 10-0 or 14-0 lead with their starters out there and cover this spread even with Mark Sanchez and company playing most of the game, but I’m not going to bet anything on it, especially since the Eagles are an underrated team that has top offensive lineman Lane Johnson back from suspension and is 6-9 despite a 1-6 record in games decided by a touchdown or less.

Philadelphia Eagles 23 Dallas Cowboys 20

Pick against the spread: Dallas +5

Confidence: Low

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Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (9-5) at Dallas Cowboys (12-2)

With the Eagles’ upset victory over the Giants on Thursday Night Football, the Dallas Cowboys have clinched the NFC East and homefield advantage all the way through to the Super Bowl. The Cowboys have said they won’t take their foot off the gas, but it’s going to be tough for them to match Detroit’s intensity this week given that Detroit is still fighting for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, the line moved a point from 7 to 6 after the result of the Philadelphia game, a significant point given that about 9% of games are decided by exactly a touchdown.

If this line was still a touchdown, this would be worth a bet, as I like the spot Detroit is in besides the fact that this game is actually meaningful for them in the standings. The Lions are at an advantage because they are in their second of two road games. Teams are 142-108 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 113-74 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. 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 239-254 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.94 points per game, as opposed to 341-476 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.96 points per game. On top of that, the Cowboys have no real homefield advantage because their fans travel so well. They’re just 11-28 ATS as home favorites since 2010. At 6, this is a low confidence pick, but if there are any 7s still floating out there it’s worth grabbing.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit +6

Confidence: Low

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) at Dallas Cowboys (11-2)

The Buccaneers are getting a lot of attention right now thanks to a 5-game winning streak that has improved their record to 8-5 and pushed them into a tie for first place in the NFC South with the Atlanta Falcons. As a result of their home victory over the Saints last week, as well as the Cowboys’ close loss in New York to the Giants, this line has shifted from 9.5 in favor of Dallas on the early line to 7 this week. I think that’s an overreaction. Both Tampa Bay’s win and Dallas’ loss were close, as have most of the Buccaneers’ wins on their winning streak. Four of 5 victories have come by single digits. On the season, they still have a negative point differential and they rank just 20th in first down rate differential.

Their defense has led the way over the 5-game winning streak, allowing just 12.8 points per game, but they still rank in the bottom half in first down rate allowed (20th) because their defense was awful to start the season, allowing 37+ points on 3 separate occasions. They’re better now that they’re healthier on the defensive line, I don’t buy that they’re as good as they’ve looked, so I think we’re getting good line value with the Cowboys as 7 point home favorites. Despite a close loss to a good Giants team, they are still arguably the best team in the league and rank 3rd in first down rate differential. This is a no confidence pick though because the Cowboys have no homefield advantage, going 11-27 ATS as home favorites since 2010.

Dallas Cowboys 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23

Pick against the spread: Dallas -7

Confidence: None

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Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (11-1) at New York Giants (8-4)

The Giants gave the Cowboys their only win of the season way back in week 1, but the Cowboys have very impressively ripped off 11 straight wins since then. They enter this game 2nd in first down rate differential, while the Giants enter 8th, and they travel as well as any team in the league. Since 2010, they are 31-22 ATS on the road, as opposed to 19-35 ATS at home. Over that time period, they’ve been outscored opponents by 0.06 points per game on the road and outscored opponents by an average of 1.20 points per game at home, meaning home field advantage hasn’t even been worth a point for them in recent years. The Cowboys also enter this game much healthier than the Giants, who have a key absence on both sides of the ball with injury, talented left guard Justin Pugh and talented defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. This line is 4 and about 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer, so I’m taking the Giants, but this is a no confidence pick. A 3 or 4 point Dallas win seems like the most likely outcome.

Dallas Cowboys 23 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +4

Confidence: None

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Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (10-1) at Minnesota Vikings (6-5)

This line has shifted from 2 in favor of the visiting Cowboys on the early line last week to 4 now this week. Ordinarily, big week-to-week shifts like that are the result of overreactions to a single week of play and create line value, but I think this line is right about where it should be. The Cowboys enter this game 3rd in first down rate differential, while the Vikings enter in 20th and likely missing their head coach with emergency eye surgery and talented center Joe Berger with a concussion.

The Cowboys also travel as well as any team in the league. Since 2010, they are 31-21 ATS on the road, as opposed to 19-35 ATS at home. Over that time period, they’ve been outscored opponents by 0.02 points per game on the road and outscored opponents by an average of 1.20 points per game at home, meaning home field advantage hasn’t even been worth a point for them in recent years. That makes sense, as the Cowboys have fans throughout the country and get great support on the road.

That being said, I’m taking the Vikings here for a no confidence play because they’re in a good spot. While the Cowboys have arguably their toughest and biggest game of the season next week, a road game in New York against the Giants team that gave them their only loss of the season way back in week 1, the Vikings instead go to Jacksonville, a much easier game. This could be a bit of a trap game for the Cowboys as a result. Home underdogs like the Vikings are 47-27 ATS since 2008 before being road favorites, as the Vikings are expected to be next week. This pick is only for pick ‘em purposes though, as I wouldn’t recommend betting on either side.

Dallas Cowboys 20 Minnesota Vikings 17

Pick against the spread: Minnesota +4

Confidence: None

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Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (6-3-1) at Dallas Cowboys (9-1)

I mentioned this in my Minnesota/Detroit pick as well. Divisional road underdogs are 60-33 ATS since 2002 in same season divisional revenge games against an opponent that previously beat them as home favorites. Division rivals know each other well, so it makes sense that comparable teams tend to split the season series, even if the road team pulls the upset in the first game. The Cowboys and Redskins are not as comparable as Detroit and Minnesota are, as the Cowboys are an obviously better team, but that trend is still somewhat relevant here, especially since the Cowboys haven’t had much homefield advantage in recent years.

The Cowboys are 31-21 ATS on the road since 2010, which is impressive, but just 19-34 ATS at home over the same time period, including 11-26 ATS as home favorites. Over that time period, they’ve been outscored opponents by 0.02 points per game on the road and outscored opponents by an average of 1.13 points per game at home, meaning home field advantage hasn’t even been worth a point for them in recent years. That makes sense, as the Cowboys have fans throughout the country and get great support on the road.

They’re 4-1 ATS at home this year, but that’s because they’ve been underrated all season. Besides, their covers against Baltimore and Philadelphia could have gone either way, as both games were closer than the final score suggested. The Cowboys aren’t underrated anymore and might actually be a little bit overrated here, as much of their success can be attributed to how much support they get from road crowds. The Redskins are a quality opponent that the Cowboys only beat by 3 in Washington earlier this year. They might not win by much more here this week. There’s not enough here for me to put any money on it, but I like the points in what should be a close divisional matchup.

Dallas Cowboys 31 Washington Redskins 27

Pick against the spread: Washington +6.5

Confidence: Low

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