Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (8-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)

The Eagles have the #1 seed in the NFC locked up and are a prime candidate to rest starters in week 17. The oddsmakers seem to think they will, listing them as 3-point home underdogs here at home against the Cowboys, but I am not so sure. Nick Foles has only made 2 starts in relief of Carson Wentz so far and looked pretty shaky in the last one, so it makes sense that they would want him to get more live reps with the first team offense before the playoffs, especially since they have next week off anyway. Foles has already said he is preparing to start this week. They may rest some stars on defense, but they still need to have 46 players active on gameday, so they can’t rest everyone.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, are pretty banged up and will be without left tackle Tyron Smith, defensive tackle David Irving, and possibly wide receiver Dez Bryant in a game that’s also meaningless for them, after they were eliminated from playoff contention in last week’s home loss to the Seahawks. All that being said, I would not recommend betting on the Eagles because they could pull their starters after a couple series and turn the team over to 3rd string quarterback Nate Sudfeld, a 2016 6th round pick who has never thrown a pass in a game. If I knew they wouldn’t, this would be an easy bet, but I can’t be confident with the uncertainty.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Philadelphia Eagles 23

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3

Confidence: Low

Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys: 2017 Week 16 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (8-6) at Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

The Seahawks were embarrassed at home last week by the Rams 42-7 in a big divisional game. As a result, this line has shifted from Dallas -3 to Dallas -5. It’s understandable, but I think it’s an overreaction, considering the Seahawks were without their stud linebackers KJ Wright and Bobby Wagner for most of that game. Both of them are not listed on the injury report this week, a huge boost for this team as they try to bounce back in a pivotal game.

Teams tend to bounce back off of blowout losses anyway, going 54-31 ATS since 2002 after a loss by 35 or more. It’s counterintuitive, but it makes sense, as teams tend to be overlooked, underrated, and embarrassed after getting blown out. The Seahawks might not necessarily be overlooked, but they are definitely underrated as 5-point underdogs and the they have done especially well off of a loss in the Pete Carroll era, going 23-13 ATS, including 5-1 ATS off of a double digit loss.

Even if this line was still 3, I would still take the Seahawks. They are without cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor for the season, but their secondary has held up pretty well, as guys like Byron Maxwell, Justin Coleman, Shaq Griffin, and Bradley McDougald have stepped up. Remember, this team is only a few weeks away from beating the Carson Wentz led Eagles, even without Sherman and Chancellor. With Wright and Wagner back in the lineup, they should have a strong defensive performance this week.

The Cowboys get Ezekiel Elliott back this week, but they could be without left tackle Tyron Smith, who was very limited in practice this week after leaving last week’s game with a knee injury. The media will likely focus on Elliott’s return, but the absence of Smith could be even bigger, given how much quarterback Dak Prescott struggled without his talented blind side protector when he missed time earlier in the season. The Cowboys actually ran the ball pretty well in Elliott’s absence, but they don’t have anyone that comes close to replacing Smith at left tackle. Even if Smith plays, it’ll likely be at less than 100%.

Given that, I have these two teams about even, at best, so the Cowboys shouldn’t be favored by anymore than a field goal. I actually have this line at Dallas -2 because of their lack of homefield advantage in recent years.  They are 35-28 on the road since 2010 (36-27 ATS), with a scoring differential of +0.30 points per game, as opposed to 32-33 at home (23-42 ATS), with a scoring differential of +1.26 points per game. The Cowboys have a national fan base and tend to draw fans wherever they go, so they are at less of an advantage when they play at home. I like the Seahawks a lot this week.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Dallas Cowboys 23 Upset Pick +190

Pick against the spread: Seattle +5

Confidence: High

Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (7-6) at Oakland Raiders (6-7)

I typically bet on the Cowboys on the road, as they have a nationwide fanbase and have fared well away from Dallas in recent years as a result. They are 34-28 on the road since 2010 (35-26 ATS), with a scoring differential of +0.26 points per game, as opposed to 32-33 at home (23-42 ATS), with a scoring differential of +1.26 points per game. However, even with that taken into account, I still don’t understand why the Cowboys are favored by 3 points here. I have these two teams about even, so the Raiders should be favored about 2 points. That’s what they were on the early line last week, but that line shifted with the Cowboys winning 30-10 in New York against the Giants and the Raiders losing 26-15 in Kansas City against the Chiefs.

Usually significant week-to-week line movement like that is the result of an overreaction to a single week of play and that appears to be the case here. Two weeks ago, everyone thought the sky was falling for the Cowboys when they lost their first 3 games with Ezekiel Elliott, as the public bet on the Redskins in Dallas as road favorites, but now they’ve won two games against the Redskins and the Giants and suddenly everyone thinks they’re back? Despite the line movement, Dallas is one of the most heavily bet sides of the week.

That heavy public heavy is unwarranted. The Cowboys were tied with the Giants in the 4th quarter last week before they took advantage of some missed assignments and got long touchdowns to pull ahead. Stud linebacker Sean Lee, who returned last week, had a back injury pop up at practice on Friday and is now questionable while talented interior pass rusher David Irving will miss his 2nd straight game with a concussion. There’s too much line value to pass on with Oakland this week. The money line is also a smart play.

Oakland Raiders 31 Dallas Cowboys 30 Upset Pick +145

Pick against the spread: Oakland +3

Confidence: High

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (6-6) at New York Giants (2-10)

Earlier this week, when I saw talented linebacker Sean Lee would be returning for the Cowboys this week, I considering placing a bet on them in this game in New York against the Giants. The Cowboys still obviously miss Ezekiel Elliott, but they got Tyron Smith back two weeks ago and now get Sean Lee back, so they are rounding back into form. Given how well backup running back Alfred Morris has performed in Elliott’s absence, the loss of Smith and Lee were possibly even more harmful to this team than the loss of Elliott, even though Elliott’s absence has gotten the most media attention.

Lee’s absence was particularly harmful, as their defense struggled mightily without him. Unfortunately, the Cowboys will not be at full strength defensively, with talented interior pass rusher David Irving being ruled out with a concussion, so they are no longer as attractive of a bet as they were earlier in the week. Losing Irving doesn’t hurt as much as losing Lee did, but his absence is still big, especially since they lack a clear replacement. When he returned to the lineup following a 4-game suspension to start the season, it had a notice impact on the interior of the Cowboys’ defensive line.

There are still a couple reasons why the Cowboys are a smart pick though. For one, they typically play pretty well on the road, because they have a national fanbase.  They are 33-28 on the road since 2010 (35-26 ATS), with a scoring differential of -0.07 points per game, as opposed to 32-33 at home (23-42 ATS), with a scoring differential of +1.26 points per game. On top of that, the Giants are in a tough spot because they have an even tougher game on deck with the Eagles coming to town. Teams are 25-46 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 7+, which the Giants almost definitely will be next week. If they get down early in this one, they could quit with another tough game on deck. This is just a low confidence pick at 3.5, but if this line drops down to 3 before game time, I’d consider a bet on Dallas.

Dallas Cowboys 23 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: Dallas -3.5

Confidence: Low

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

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

After a convincing win on Sunday Night Football over the Kansas City Chiefs in week 9, the Cowboys were 5-3 and appeared to be back as a legitimate contender. However, the sky has completely fallen for them in the 3 weeks since then. Running back Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension was reinstated just a few days after the win over Kansas City. Left tackle Tyron Smith then injured his groin in practice. And then they lost linebacker Sean Lee in the first half against Atlanta. The Cowboys ended up losing that game by 20 after jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and they’ve lost all 3 games overall since that Kansas City game, by a combined 70 points. Making matters even worse, that win over Kansas City no longer looks impressive because the Chiefs have now lost 5 of 6, including losses to the Giants and Bills.

The good news for the Cowboys is that teams tend to bounce back after consecutive blowout losses. Teams are 46-32 ATS since 2002 off of 2+ straight losses by 21 or more. It’s counter-intuitive, but it makes sense, as teams tend to be overlooked, underrated, and embarrassed after getting blown out in back-to-back weeks. I don’t know for sure that Washington will overlook them or that Dallas will play better after being embarassed, but you could definitely argue that they are underrated, as they are coming off of 3 games against teams with top-10 rosters, the Falcons, Eagles, and Chargers. Last week’s loss to the Chargers led to a significant line movement in this game, as the Cowboys have gone from being 3 point favorites on the early line last week to 2 point underdogs this week. That seems like an overreaction, given how talented the Chargers are.

The problem is the Redskins are a little underrated too, as they too have had a tough schedule. Prior to last week’s game against the Giants, the Redskins had the highest opponent win percentage in the league. Their record isn’t great at 5-6, but they beat the Rams (in LA), Raiders, and Seahawks (in Seattle) and came close against the Saints (in New Orleans) and the early season Chiefs (in Kansas City). They were underwhelming against the Giants, but that’s to be expected, as they were on a short week, coming off of a tough overtime loss in New Orleans the week before.

The Redskins also didn’t have left tackle Trent Williams in the lineup and they might have overlooked the Giants a little bit, given that it was their first easy game in weeks. Despite that, the Redskins still covered, winning by 10 as 7.5 point favorites. Now they get Williams back and they should be fresher and more focused on normal rest. Tyron Smith returned for the Cowboys last week, but Elliott still has 3 more games left on his suspension and Sean Lee remains out indefinitely, so I have the Redskins about 1.5 points better in my roster rankings.

The Cowboys also haven’t had much homefield advantage in recent years. Because they tend to attract fans throughout the country, their advantage at home is significantly less and that’s noticeable in the numbers. They are 33-28 on the road since 2010 (35-26 ATS), with a scoring differential of -0.07 per game, as opposed to 31-33 at home (22-42 ATS), with a scoring differential of +0.91 per game. Homefield advantage hasn’t even counted for a half point for them over the past 7 seasons. If the Cowboys were 6 or 7 point underdogs in Washington instead of 2 point underdogs at home, I’d like them a lot more this week.

Given the Cowboys’ lack of homefield advantage and that the Redskins are a more talented team on paper right now, I have this line calculated at even, so we’re getting some line value with the Cowboys, but not enough to be confident in them. I’d need the full field goal to place a bet on Dallas against the spread and I don’t think we’re going to get it. Unless that happens, this is a low confidence pick, though I will place a small bet on Dallas’ moneyline at +110. At the very least, this is a toss up game, probably more like 52/48 Dallas, so we’re getting some value with +110.

Also, by request, I’m going to be posting lines I lock in early in the week during my Thursday Night writeups this season, so readers can lock them in before they move. These are not all my picks for the week, just picks where I think the line may move in an unfavorable direction (usually underdogs). The rest of the writeups will continue to be posted over the weekend as normal.

NYJ +4 vs. KC (I would also take +3.5 and +3)

Dallas Cowboys 24 Washington Redskins 23 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Dallas +2

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas Cowboys: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) at Dallas Cowboys (5-5)

When I saw the Chargers were 4-point underdogs last week on the early line in Dallas in this Thanksgiving game, I liked them a lot. However, in the past week, the Cowboys were blown out at home by the Eagles, their second straight big loss without suspended feature back Ezekiel Elliott, and the Chargers blew out the Bills, who started overwhelmed 5th round rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman. I can’t complain too much about those outcomes because I picked both the Chargers and the Eagles last week, but, as a result, we’ve lost a ton of line value with the Chargers, who now enter now as 1 point favorites.

The public has completely soured on the Cowboys after back-to-back big blowout losses in nationally televised games, but the Cowboys will likely get talented left tackle Tyron Smith back from injury this week. The common thinking is that the Cowboys’ struggles in the last two weeks are primarily as a result of the loss of Elliott, but, considering how bad Smith’s backups have been, I think Smith was a bigger loss for this offense. Even if he’s not at 100%, his return is huge for this offense. Dak Prescott is a much better quarterback when he isn’t under pressure all game and Alfred Morris has done a decent job as the lead runner in Elliott’s absence.

The Chargers are still the better team even with Smith healthy though, as they rank 6th in first down rate on the season +3.66%, despite an underwhelming 4-6 record. Four of their 6 losses have come by 3 points or less, including two games in which they missed makeable field goals. Overall, they’re actually pretty impressive, considering their lack of homefield advantage in their new home in Los Angeles. With better luck in close games and an actual home field advantage, they could easily be 6-4 or 7-3 right now. Away from Los Angeles, they are 4-1 ATS this season, with their one non-cover coming in an 8-point loss as 7.5 point underdogs. That’s been a trend for them since their San Diego days, as they are 14-7 ATS on the road since 2015.

The Cowboys also have had no homefield advantage in recent years, but for different reasons. Because they tend to attract fans throughout the country, their advantage at home significantly less and that’s noticeable in the numbers. They are 33-28 on the road since 2010 (35-26 ATS), with a scoring differential of -0.07 per game, as opposed to 31-32 at home (22-41 ATS), with a scoring differential of +1.27 per game. Homefield advantage hasn’t even counted for a full point for them over the past 7 seasons. They’ll also still be without linebacker Sean Lee, who is arguably their most important defensive player. Given all of that, I have the Chargers about 3 points better than the Cowboys and I have this line calculated at about -2 or -2.5. We aren’t getting much line value with the Chargers, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em pool purposes.

Los Angeles Chargers 23 Dallas Cowboys 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -1

Confidence: Low

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) at Dallas Cowboys (5-4)

The Cowboys have had an up and down season. They started the season 2-3, with losses against the Broncos, Rams, and Packers, but came out of the bye with 3 wins by double digits, including a convincing home victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, and everything looked right again for this team. However, since then, they’ve lost Ezekiel Elliott for 6 games with a suspension, left tackle Tyron Smith indefinitely with a groin injury, and linebacker Sean Lee indefinitely with a hamstring injury. The Cowboys’ pass protection was embarrassed against the Falcons without Smith, while their defense took a huge step back after Lee left the game.

All three of those players will miss this game, which is a huge loss because they are three of their best players. Their schedule doesn’t get any easier either, with the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles next on the schedule. The game is at home in Cowboy Stadium, but the Cowboys have such a national fanbase that they have barely had any homefield advantage in recent years. They are 33-28 on the road since 2010 (35-26 ATS), with a scoring differential of -0.07 per game, as opposed to 31-31 at home (22-40 ATS), with a scoring differential of +1.74 per game. Homefield advantage hasn’t even counted for a full point for them over the past 7 seasons.

The Eagles are relatively healthy and in a great spot coming out of the bye, as road favorites of 3.5+ are 42-17 ATS since 1989 off of a regular season bye when their opponent is not coming off of a bye. Teams are 5-1 ATS in that spot this season, but I haven’t bet on any of those 6 because I didn’t like the line value. This week, we’re getting great line value with the Eagles as 4.5 point road favorites. Given the Cowboys’ lack of homefield advantage and the Eagles considerable talent advantage, I have this line calculated at 7.5 in favor of Philadelphia.

This line was 3.5 earlier in the week, but I didn’t lock it in because I thought it might go to 3. It hasn’t, rising to 4.5, 5, and in some places 5.5. Not locking it in doesn’t hurt me too much because only 5% of games are decided by 4 points and only 3% are decided by 5 points and it was worth the risk given that about 15% percent of games are decided by 3 points. The line movement is as a result of heavy public action on the Eagles and no sharp action on the Cowboys. It may keep rising as high as 6 or 6.5, so lock this one in as soon as possible. It seems like the oddsmakers just posted a bad with this one. This is my Pick of the Week.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 Dallas Cowboys 17

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week