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

Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys: 2018 Week 6 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) at Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

This line was Jacksonville -2 last week on the early line, but bizarrely it has since shifted to Jacksonville -3.5 and it’s not clear why. The Cowboys narrowly lost in Houston last week, while the Jaguars lost pretty easily in Kansas City, so nothing from last week’s results would seem to justify a significant movement like that. A point and a half might not seem like much, but about a sixth of games are decided by exactly 3 points, so this line moved across a very key number for seemingly no good reason other than heavy action on Jacksonville.

This line is the equivalent of Dallas being -9.5 in Jacksonville, which is what the Jets were a couple weeks back and the Cowboys are definitely more talented than the Jets. The Jaguars were also just -3 week 1 in New York against a Giants team that the Cowboys beat the following week fairly easily and have outplayed since that game. Even if this line was still at -2, we’d still be getting some line value with the Cowboys, as I have this line calculated at even.

A lot is made about the Cowboys’ offensive struggles, but they’ve had a top-10 defense this year and continue to play well despite the loss of linebacker Sean Lee due to injury. Ex-safety Byron Jones has broken out since being moved to cornerback, while the Cowboys’ young linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have played more than well enough to hold down the fort in Lee’s absence. The Jaguars have offensive issues without Leonard Fournette and down to their 3rd string left tackle, so the Cowboys can definitely keep this one close and even possibly pull off the upset. The Cowboys have not been a good home team in recent years (24-43-1 ATS since 2010), which is why this isn’t a bigger bet, but the Cowboys are worth a bet at +3.5.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Dallas Cowboys 19

Pick against the spread: Dallas +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans: 2018 Week 5 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at Houston Texans (1-3)

The Texans picked up their first win of the season last win in Indianapolis, but they’ve still gotten off to a disappointing start to their season. Expected to be Super Bowl contenders, the Texans are just 1-3 with their only win coming in overtime against a team that’s 1-4. The Texans have been better than their record and Deshaun Watson has continued to play at a high level in his 2nd season in the league, but the Texans have struggled to pass protect and to run the ball and their defense has been underwhelming.

This line suggests the Texans are a little bit better than the Cowboys, but I think that’s backwards. The Cowboys probably aren’t going to make the playoffs in the loaded NFC, but they’re not a bad team either. They’re without Sean Lee with injury, but young linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have played well in his absence and they get their top interior pass rusher David Irving back from suspension this week.

The Cowboys have also been a good road team in recent years, going 36-30 on the road since 2010 (+0.09 points per game), while going just 34-34 at home (+1.19 points per game). The Cowboys have a national fanbase that typically fills road stadiums pretty well and I would expect a lot of Cowboys fans at this game in Houston. I would only give the Texans about a 1-1.5 points for homefield advantage this week rather than the typical 3, so I have this line calculated at even. The Cowboys are worth a play at +3.5 and have a good chance to win straight up.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Houston Texans 23 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: Dallas +3.5

Confidence: Medium