Just a few weeks ago, the concept of a pick’em point spread between the L.A. Chargers and home-standing Dallas Cowboys would have seemed ridiculous.
The Cowboys were in midst of a 3-game winning streak, capped off with a 28-17 whipping of powerful Kansas City. The Bolts were losing to every quality team they played, only good enough to handle struggling opponents like Denver and the New York Giants.
Sunday changed all that. The Cowboys lost their 2nd in a row without suspended tailback Ezekiel Elliott, falling 37-9 at home to the Eagles after a dreadful 2nd half. Los Angeles, on the other hand, put up 50+ on a formerly 5-4 Buffalo team, Philip Rivers handing to Melvin Gordon and throwing to Keenan Allen while the defense intercepted Nathan Peterman 5 times.
Big ‘D is being hit with multiple problems at once. Jerry Jones’ political overtures, carefully-worded as they are, can’t help but be a distraction. A former Cowboy WR passed away on Monday. Elliott’s suspension will last another month.
Can the ‘Boys pull it together and honor Turkey Day tradition with a win? Or will a rejuvenated Rivers find the mark again and spoil the D-Town celebration? Odds-makers clearly don’t want to guess.
Who: Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas Cowboys
When: Thursday, November 23rd, 4:30 PM EST
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Lines: Pick’em / O/U Total: (47.5)
Every loss by America’s Team ushers in a bout of national hand-wringing. But this time feels different. An ailing offensive line no longer has a star RB to block for, and the Cowboys looked over-matched against Philly.
Dak Prescott had what is being called his worst game as a pro, throwing 3 interceptions and taking 4 sacks. The defense gave up 6.5 yards per carry, including an unlikely 71-yard sprint for Jay Ajayi from the shadow of the Philadelphia endzone. Carson Wentz was allowed to turn several QB hurries into big plays.
But for all the consternation in Jerry Jones’ office, we don’t really know how an Elliott-less Dallas team will fare against an average AFC squad. They’ve beaten the best in the conference (KC) and lost to one of the worst (Denver).
The Cowboys’ least talked-about weakness is a thin front-7, which gets worn down when losing the TOP battle. With only 4 days’ rest, the unit is ripe to be taken-apart by a physical team who can run and set up play-action passes. However, there’s a question as to whether L.A. is that team.
Even while taking a gigantic lead into halftime against Buffalo, the Chargers ran more passing plays than running plays. Rivers is carrying the team on his back. The aging Pro Bowl quarterback has only 17 touchdown passes to 7 interceptions this season, and the L.A. defense is more spectacular than effective. Joey Bosa is a great pass-rusher and Tre Boston has 4 picks, but rank-and-file strength on the LOS is a concern.
The Cowboys will surely go with a simple, power-football game plan on the short week. If the Chargers load the box to try to stop it, that could finally open up a few WRs for Prescott.
In the NFL, pomp and circumstance mean little in the end. Plenty of teams could march into Dallas and whip the Silver Star on Thanksgiving right now. The Chargers just probably aren’t one of them.
Dallas will plunge off-tackle for modest gains most of the afternoon, with Prescott getting improved protection. Rivers will make some throws, but it won’t be enough as the Chargers get out-rushed and out-muscled as usual.
Take the Cowboys in the pick’em or on the money line.