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

Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (5-3) at Atlanta Falcons (4-4)

Early in the week, I locked in the Cowboys at +3.5 and I was considering them as a Pick of the Week. They’ve played much better since getting top linebacker Sean Lee back from injury and they always play well on the road, going 35-25 ATS since 2010 away from Cowboy Stadium, as a result of the Cowboys’ nationwide fanbase. I had these two teams about comparable in my roster rankings, so getting more than a field goal with a good road team was very appealing to me and I didn’t think 3.5 would stay around long.

I was correct about that, as the line had shifted to 3 by mid-week, but then Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension went back on and left tackle Tyron Smith missed practice all week, so I don’t like the Cowboys nearly as much as I did earlier in the week. Despite that, this line has stayed at 3 so I would not recommend a bet on the current line. Because I did lock in Dallas +3.5 early in the week, this will count as a medium confidence pick. Atlanta has not been playing that well lately, so the Cowboys still have a decent chance to pull out the victory or at least keep it within a field goal. At +3, this is a no confidence pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Update: This line has moved back to 3.5 with Tyron Smith being ruled out. This could easily be a field goal game and the Cowboys are still a good road team, so grabbing +3.5 makes some sense if you can get it.

Atlanta Falcons 30 Dallas Cowboys 27

Pick against the spread: Dallas +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Kansas City Chiefs at Dallas Cowboys: 2017 Week 9 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) at Dallas Cowboys (4-3)

After souring on the Cowboys after their 2-3 start, the public seems back on board with the Cowboys following back-to-back road wins, as they are now 2.5 point home favorites against the Kansas City Chiefs, who enter at 6-2. The Cowboys have always played well on the road though and they were playing the 49ers and a banged up Redskins team, so their level of competition wasn’t that high. Now they return home to face a much better opponent.

The Cowboys are 33-27 on the road since 2010 (35-25 ATS), outscoring opponents by an average of 0.27 points per game, as opposed to 30-31 at home (21-29 ATS), outscoring opponents by an average of 1.59 points per game. Because of their nationwide fanbase, they tend to draw support wherever they travel, so their homefield advantage hasn’t even been worth a full point in recent years. Given that, this line suggests the Cowboys are about 1.5-2 points better than the Chiefs.

I don’t think the Chiefs are quite as good as their record because of their defensive problems, but I think they’re still a little bit better than Dallas, who also have significant problems on defense. I have this line calculated at even. I’d need a full field goal to put money on the spread, but the money line is a smart bet at +120 because this game is a toss up at best. If this line creeps up to a field goal before game time, I’ll consider upgrading this to a medium confidence pick. About 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, so getting protection against a field goal win by Dallas is key.

Kansas City Chiefs 31 Dallas Cowboys 30 Upset Pick +120

Pick against the spread: Kansas City +2.5

Confidence: Low

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

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

When both are at full strength, these two teams are pretty evenly matched, but the Redskins are dealing with a number of injuries going into this game, while the Cowboys are as healthy as they’ve been all season. The Redskins get Josh Norman back from a 2-game absence this week, but will be without center Spencer Long, while left tackle Trent Williams, right guard Brandon Scherff, and right tackle Morgan Moses are all considered truly questionable. Williams hasn’t practiced in weeks and has not been playing at 100% because he needs knee surgery. Scherff didn’t practice all week after injuring his knee on Monday against the Eagles and is likely on the doubtful side of questionable. Moses is the only one who practiced this week, but he is far from a lock to play after injuring both of his ankles on Monday night.

When healthy, the Redskins’ offensive line is the strength of this team and on par with the Cowboys’ strong offensive line, so those are huge injuries to be dealing with. On top of that, the Cowboys are a great road team because they have fans across the country. They are 32-27 on the road since 2010 (30-21 ATS), outscoring opponents by an average of 0.03 points per game, as opposed to 30-31 at home (21-29 ATS), outscoring opponents by an average of 1.59 points per game. Going on the road only hurts them about a point or so and they’re about 2 points better than the Redskins in my roster rankings right now. Unfortunately, this line isn’t great at Dallas -2. The Cowboys have a good chance to win this game by a field goal or so, but there isn’t enough here to be confident in them at all.

Dallas Cowboys 27 Washington Redskins 24

Pick against the spread: Dallas -2

Confidence: None