Vince Lombardi wrote that every team’s offense comes down to a single play, a trademark play that had to work or else the entire game plan would collapse. Maybe that’s still true for some well-known playbooks in the NFL and FBS – heck, about 50 college coaches would have lost their jobs in the 2000s if Bubble Screens were illegal – but in the modern National Football League a better version of Lombardi’s maxim involves ingredients of a successful team, or rather a single ingredient rather than a single type of play.
For the L.A. Rams, for instance, the key ingredient to last season’s run at the grail was a dynamic running game. Now that Todd Gurley may have announced his return as a dangerous RB, L.A. is looking pretty decent for a 6-win team. Maybe not as a futures pick – the Rams probably can’t win the NFC West – but as a week-to-week moneyline.
For the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots, the crucial ingredients of note right now are the defenses. New England has quietly rebuilt its D into a unit that gives aging Tom Brady time to adjust and nurse wounds before smiting opponents with 1 or 2 timely TD drives. Dak Prescott can shine as much as the Cowboys need him to, but coach Jason Garrett’s lasting commitment to the ground game and to plain-vanilla tactics mean that Dallas cannot prevail in the NFC without solid defense. When the D plays up to its potential, Prescott converts on most chances to win.
Obviously the Pats have been a little more consistent than the ‘Boys on all 3 units this season and own a far-superior W/L record. Yet the gambling public is still leaning in the Silver Star’s direction with point-spread action on Sunday’s late afternoon showdown between the teams in Foxboro.
Who: Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots
When: Sunday, November 24th, 4:25 PM EST
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
Lines: DAL (+6) at NE (-6) / O/U Total: (44.5)
There’s no shortage of good news in Texas for the time being. Prescott became the league’s top-rated passer following the Cowboys’ 35-27 win at Ford Field with a near 450-yard performance. It’s clear that the Dallas receiving corps is no longer Amari Cooper and a bunch of role-players – Dak is developing a rapport with some other guys too.
Randall Cobb has stepped up recently and given Prescott another option. The former Green Bay Packer has eclipsed 100 yards and found the end zone in back-to-back games. Meanwhile, Michael Gallup was targeted 13 times against the Lions, capitalizing on friendly indoor conditions to catch 9 passes for 148 yards. The trio of Cooper, Cobb, and Gallup has accounted for just over 2,000 of Prescott’s 3,221 passing yards.
But I still think defense will be the key for Big D, and it’s worth asking whether the media is giving Dallas too much benefit of the doubt right now…or at least when it comes to the match-up in frigid Foxboro. Cowboy defensive backs still allowed Jeff Driskel to have an efficient outing for Detroit for the most part – give a HOF’er the same throwing lanes and the Patriots will control the contest in the 2nd half.
New England returns home after a 17-10 victory in Philadelphia. The Brady Bunch has won a moneyball-esque 20 straight games in Foxboro including games played in the postseason. Tom Brady is 4-0 in his career against America’s Team. Not that these are golden days for Brady, who completed just 55% of his passes in the win last week, with only 216 yards and 0 TD’s against what had been a struggling Eagles secondary.
Those are all solid angles for betting vs the public on Dal/NE however, because the conditions won’t abide some kind of 51-50 shoot-out between young and old generations at QB. The only solid reason for taking Cowboys against the spread? Boston’s a little banged and bruised at important spots among Brady’s supporting cast.
Brady completed just 55% of his passes last week, with only 216 yards and 0 TD’s against what had been a struggling Eagles secondary. However, those numbers aren’t merely a product of age, since the WR position has been a revolving door all season long. Julian Edelman is a constant question mark. Newly-acquired Mohamed Sanu left the Philadelphia game early with an ankle injury, and it is being reported that he could miss multiple games.
Philip Dorsett may be cleared by Sunday and rookie N’Keal Henry could see more work from the Pats in Sanu’s absence.
My wager ATS is a pure “number”-based speculation, since it’s hard to resist a line that drops inside a touchdown and an XP on a nearly-unbeaten team at home. Yep – I’m taking the Pats at (+6).
But it’s less about legacy and more about bare facts – we can conclude that the Cowboys have been unlucky, or else the Patriots have been a much-better team in 2019. The Foxboro setting may also be worth a TD+ by itself.