Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (6-6) at Dallas Cowboys (7-5)

The Cowboys got a huge win last week, pulling the upset as 7.5-point favorites against the Saints, a win that helps them as they try to win the NFC East. However, they have another huge game this week against the Eagles, who are their biggest competition for the division title. If the Cowboys win this game, they’ll have a two game lead and the tiebreaker over the Eagles with 3 games to play, but if the Eagles win they’ll pull into a tie and have control of the tiebreaker, due to their superior divisional record.

The Cowboys’ win last week was impressive, but it doesn’t necessarily bode well for their chances of covering this week, as teams are 38-51 ATS since 2002 after winning as 6+ point home underdogs. The Cowboys played last week like it was their Super Bowl and might find it hard to play like that for two weeks in a row. The Cowboys also have already beaten the Eagles this season, pulling the 27-20 upset back in week 10, but that doesn’t necessarily bode well for their chances of covering this week either. Divisional home favorites are just 41-68 ATS since 2002 against teams they’ve previously beaten that season as divisional road underdogs. In rematches like this, the loser of the previous game wins about 45% of the time over that same time period, despite being underdogs.

The Eagles could have easily won that week 10 game anyway, as they won the first down rate battle by 2.09%, but failed on two 4th downs and threw an interception, while the Cowboys’ picked up a 4th down and played turnover free football. That’s one of two games the Eagles have lost this season despite winning the first down rate battle, with the other coming in a 2-point loss to the Vikings in which they allowed a long defensive touchdown. The Eagles obviously haven’t been as good as they were last season, but they still rank 9th in first down rate differential at +3.19%.

On the season, they are -8 in point differential, but that’s despite a 41-point loss in New Orleans and a -8 turnover margin. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and, if the Eagles can play turnover neutral football the rest of the way, that should be noticeable on the scoreboard. Despite that, the Eagles are underdogs of more than a field goal here in Dallas, suggesting the Cowboys are the better of these two teams right now. I have this line calculated at closer to even and I like the Eagles’ chances of pulling the straight up upset in a revenge spot against a team that might be a little overconfident after a huge win. At +3.5, this is my Pick of the Week.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Dallas Cowboys 23 Upset Pick +155

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (10-1) at Dallas Cowboys (6-5)

Going into their week 8 bye, the Cowboys were a 3-4 team with a strong defense, but an underwhelming offense. They ranked 4th in first down rate allowed at 31.47%, but just 23rd in first down rate at 33.81%. In order to remedy this, the Cowboys made an aggressive move to acquire slumping former Pro-Bowl receiver Amari Cooper from the Raiders for a 2019 1st round pick, potentially giving this offense #1 receiver it sorely lacked.

It was a risky move, but it’s gone well so far, as Cooper has 22 catches for 349 yards and already leads the team with 3 receiving touchdowns, despite being with the team for just 4 games. In addition, his 19 receiving first downs are 2nd on the team. The offense hasn’t been great or anything since he arrived, but they have moved the chains at a 35.94% rate in his 4 games, about league average, which is noticeably better than before the bye.

However, the Cowboys’ defense has gone in the opposite direction, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 38.06% rate in 4 games since the bye. They are 3-1 in those 4 games, but they have just a +4 point differential and have lost the first down rate battle in every game except last week’s home game against a backup quarterback. Injuries are the biggest reason for their defensive decline, particularly the injury to linebacker Sean Lee, who went down early in the Cowboys’ first game out of the bye against the Titans, coinciding with their defensive decline.

Lee is one of the most injury prone players in the league and the Cowboys have always been significantly worse defensively with him out of the lineup. They are better prepared for his absence this season, with young linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith capable of playing every down, but this team is noticeably better when they have all three linebackers together. In the 4 healthy games that Lee has played this season (not including the game against the Titans which he left early in the first half), the Cowboys have allowed a 30.43% first down rate, as opposed to 35.93% in their other 7 games. Starting defensive end Taco Charlton, who also went down in their first game after the bye, is expected to return this week, but their offense could be without stud left tackle Tyron Smith, which would be a big blow.

The Saints are obviously a dominant team, but we’re not getting line value with them like we were earlier in the season, as they are -7.5 in Dallas this week (remember when they were +3 in Baltimore and -3 in New York against the Giants). In fact, if Smith ends up playing and this line doesn’t move, we’re getting a little bit of line value with the Cowboys. Unfortunately, Smith is a gametime decision, so we might not know until inactives are announced. For now, I’m taking the Cowboys for a no confidence pick, but I’ll almost definitely have an update before gametime.

Thursday Update: Smith looks unlikely to play, after not practicing all week. With him out, we aren’t getting any line value with the Cowboys, so I’m switching this pick to the Saints. This remains a no confidence pick as this line is about right.

New Orleans Saints 24 Dallas Cowboys 16

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -7.5

Confidence: None

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (6-4) at Dallas Cowboys (5-5)

A week ago, the Redskins were 5-point underdogs in Dallas on the early line, but the line has since shifted to a full touchdown. The obvious reason for that is the Redskins losing quarterback Alex Smith for the season with a broken leg, but backup Colt McCoy might not be much of a downgrade. Smith was not exactly lighting it up, ranking 22nd among quarterbacks on Pro Football Focus, and backup Colt McCoy is a veteran with years of experience in the system. He also has similar skill set to Smith, as an accurate underneath thrower with mobility to escape the pass rush, but limited deep throwing ability.

The bigger concern for the Redskins’ offense is their lack of talent on the offensive line in the receiving corps. Even with Smith healthy up until the second half of last week’s loss at home to the Texans, the Redskins have only gotten a first down or touchdown on 34.06% of offensive snaps this season, good for 24th in the NFL. On top of that, the supporting cast has recently gotten worse with season ending injuries suffered by de facto #1 receiver Paul Richardson and stud right guard Brandon Scherff.

The Redskins do get talented left tackle Trent Williams back from a 3-game absence this week though and an already solid defense is expected to get starting cornerback Quinton Dunbar back from a 2-game absence as well, so it’s not all bad news on the injury front for the Redskins, even with Smith going down. Given that, this line has shifted a little bit too much, giving us a little bit of line value with the Redskins. The Cowboys are the better team and should win this game at home, but they’re also offensively changed and have just one win by more than a touchdown on the season. There’s not enough here to confidently take the Redskins, but I like their chances of keeping this close.

Dallas Cowboys 23 Washington Redskins 17

Pick against the spread: Washington +7

Confidence: Low

Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (4-5) at Atlanta Falcons (4-5)

Both of these teams are pretty banged up. The Falcons are missing starting safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen for the season, while recently activated linebacker Deion Jones is at least a week from returning for the first time since week 1. Without those three, the Falcons have ranked dead last in first down rate allowed at 44.04%. On offense, they are without starting guards Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco and starting running back Devonta Freeman, which has led to an inconsistent running game. Another MVP caliber year from Matt Ryan has kept this offense among the better in the league, ranking 7th in first down rate at 40.58%, but this passing game can’t carry this team to the playoffs by itself.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, could be without both starting guards Connor Williams and Zack Martin, though the latter is expected to continue playing through his knee injury. Already without center Travis Frederick since the pre-season, this offensive line is not nearly what it once was, leading to an offense that ranks just 21st in first down rate at 34.55%. Their defense has been what’s kept them respectable, ranking 8th in first down rate allowed at 33.57%, and they are coming off of a strong performance in Philadelphia, despite their defensive injuries. They have a great #1 cornerback in Byron Jones, #1 edge rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence, and two great every down linebackers in Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, so they’re still one of the better defenses in the league even with a few starters missing.

On paper, I have the Cowboys a couple spots ahead of the Falcons, so we’re getting some line value with the Cowboys as road favorites of more than a field goal. It’s only a half point, but about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less, including 1 in 6 by exactly a field goal, so it’s a very significant half point. The Cowboys are also in a slightly better spot. Both of these teams have to play again in 4 days on Thanksgiving, but the Cowboys get to host the Redskins, while the Falcons have to go to New Orleans, which is much more difficult.

Favorites typically don’t cover before being underdogs if their opponent will next be favorites, going 53-89 ATS since 2014, and that’s especially true before being double digit underdogs, which the Falcons are on the early line (+11) in New Orleans. You have to go back 30 years to get a good sample size, but teams are just 21-52 ATS in that spot. The Cowboys should be able to keep this close and have a good chance to pull the upset and steal one on the road.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Atlanta Falcons 23 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: Dallas +3.5

Confidence: High

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (3-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)

The Eagles have been on my underrated list for a few weeks, as I don’t think they’re really that much worse than last season. They are 4-4, but their 4 losses have come by a combined 15 points and they rank 3rd in first down rate differential at 5.19%. They are legitimately a few plays away from being 6-2 right now and being talked about as one of the NFC’s contenders. This team will likely make the playoffs because no one is running away with the NFC East and no one in the NFC should want that, as they could easily contend to go back to the Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting a good line with them this week, as this line has shifted from 6 to 7.5 in the past week, crossing the key number of 7. That’s as a result of the Cowboys’ home loss to the Titans and the Cowboys’ loss of linebacker Sean Lee to injury, but the Titans are an underrated team with Marcus Mariota healthy and the Cowboys didn’t miss Lee that much early in the season when he was injured because of the presence of talented young linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.

I have this line calculated at Philadelphia -10, so we’re still getting some line value with the Eagles, but they’re also not in a great spot with a trip to New Orleans on deck. Favorites of 6+ are just 19-31 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6+ and the Eagles are 6.5-point underdogs in New Orleans on the early line. The Cowboys, meanwhile, only have a game against the Falcons on deck, so they should be much more focused for this game. The Eagles obviously aren’t going to look past a key divisional game against a hated rival, but they may have some split focus this week, with a game that is much more of a measuring stick for them on deck.

The Cowboys have also played pretty well away from home in recent years, as a result of their national fanbase, going 37-29 ATS since 2010, including 23-17 ATS as road underdogs and 9-6 ATS as divisional road underdogs. They have yet to win away from home this season and could easily lose by double digits in this one, but we’re not getting a good line or a good spot with the Eagles. I’d need this line at least to drop down to an even touchdown to consider betting it.

Philadelphia Eagles 23 Dallas Cowboys 13

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -7.5

Confidence: Low

Tennessee Titans at Dallas Cowboys: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (3-4)

These two teams are pretty similar, both with strong defenses and weak offenses. The Cowboys rank 25th in first down rate at 33.81% and 4th in first down rate allowed at 31.47%, while the Titans rank 29th in first down rate at 30.17% and 7th in first down rate allowed at 33.10%. The Cowboys get a bit of a boost coming out of the bye from their trade for ex-Raider wide receiver Amari Cooper, but Cooper has been pretty underwhelming the past couple of seasons and has only been with the organization for a week and a half, so there could definitely be growing pains in his first game.

The Cowboys are a little better and this line is appropriate at Dallas -5, but I prefer the underdogs in what should be a close, low scoring game. The Titans have a tough upcoming home game against the Patriots next week, but the Cowboys are also in a tough spot with a trip to Philadelphia on deck. This is a no confidence pick because there really isn’t much here, but I like the points for pick ‘em purposes.

Dallas Cowboys 17 Tennessee Titans 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +5

Confidence: None

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (3-3) at Washington Redskins (3-2)

There has been a lot of talk about the Cowboys’ offensive struggles, but they showed last week that they can still be a tough opponent because of their strong defense, pulling an upset at home over the Jaguars in blowout fashion by a final score of 40-7. Former safety Byron Jones has thrived since moving back to cornerback. Their linebacking corps has played at a high level even without the injured Sean Lee, thanks to strong play by young linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. And their defensive line has been solid and will likely continue to get better with top interior pass rusher David Irving now in his 2nd game back after returning from suspension.

Their strong defense gets another boost this week, with Lee expected to return from a 3-game absence. Lee was not missed as much as he normally is, as the Cowboys are much better on that side of the ball than normal, but he’ll still be a welcome re-addition for this team. On the other side, the Redskins have some major injury problems with their offensive skill position talent. Their top-2 wide receivers Paul Richardson and Jamison Crowder are both out with injury, while passing down back Chris Thompson, who would likely pick up a lot of the slack with Richardson and Crowder out, is highly questionable after missing last week with injury and not getting in a full practice all week.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost all line value with the Cowboys, as this line has shifted from -3 on the early line to even this week. It’s only 3 points, but about 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer, so it’s a significant line movement. I have this line calculated at Washington -1, so we’re actually getting a little bit of line value with the host, although not nearly enough to bet on it. The Cowboys have also been a strong road team in recent years, going 36-31 (38-29 ATS) on the road since 2010, as opposed to 35-34 at home, though they haven’t looked good yet on the road this year. I’m taking the Redskins for pick ‘em purposes, but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Washington Redskins 17 Dallas Cowboys 16

Pick against the spread: Washington PK

Confidence: None