The National Football League almost seems set up to frustrate prognosticators. Trends build momentum for 2, or 3 weeks at a time, only to see a sudden “correction” as if the NFL is a stock market. The most dangerous “over” bets are when both offenses seem unstoppable coming-in, for instance. And remember, if a heavy favorite comes out flat in the 1st half, they’ll get punished the same as everyone else.
There are many reasons for parity in the NFL, but the most-overlooked is coaching. Sometimes, it takes 2 or 3 weeks for skippers and position coaches to adjust to a major change, resulting in big losses followed by a surprise.
The Dallas Cowboys have lost Ezekiel Elliott for 6 games, and their first outing without him was not a good one. Without a constant home-run threat up the middle to bother them, the Atlanta Falcons brought heavy pocket-pressure in the Georgia Dome. Dak Prescott was helpless, sacked 8 times during the contest. His stat line of 20-of-30 passing is a credit to Prescott’s arm and resiliency, almost a miracle given the overwhelming rush.
Can the Eagles follow suit when they see the Cowboys this Sunday night? Odds-makers aren’t so sure. Philly won’t be at home, but they’ve got a DL to rival that of any defense in the league.
Who: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
When: Sunday, November 19th, 8:30 PM EST
Where: AT&T Stadium, Dallas, TX
Lines: Philly (-5.5) at Dallas (+5.5) / O/U Total: (48.5)
The ‘Boys were playing pretty well before visiting Georgia, having won consecutive road games over San Francisco and Washington followed by a potential signature-moment 28-17 triumph over Kansas City.
But if they’re going to make any noise against the Eagles on Sunday night, the Dallas defense had better make plays of its own and help get an offensive backfield-by-committee plenty of downhill carries. Jason Garrett does not want his squad behind at halftime against a great pass defense.
Dallas wasn’t lousy on defense against Atlanta, defending the long pass well and holding the Dirty Birds to less than 4 yards per carry. But the front-7 only sacked Matt Ryan once and only reached him 4 times. Also, Garrett only got 65 yards of production from his running backs.
The Philadelphia Eagle defensive line is not exceptionally quick around the edge, with the team netting a healthy-but-unremarkable 25 sacks so far in 2017. But they’re fantastic run-stoppers and play-makers, disrupting opposing backfields and serving their DBs up with softballs to prey on 3rd and long.
Opposing teams have gained less than 600 yards rushing in total against Philadelphia in 9 games. The offense has rushed for over 1200, giving the Eagles more than a 2-1 advantage in game control and field position.
Throw out the most recent Philly wins – they’ve been playing a soft schedule, but you don’t get to 8-1 by accident. The defense was fabulous on the road in Carolina, intercepting Cam Newton 3 times and holding the Cats to less than 90 yards on the ground. Dak Prescott brings a similar skill-set to the field as Newton.
As usual, the fine defensive play has been allowing QB Carson Wentz plenty of opportunities to cash in. The 2nd year pro has thrown for 23 TDs with limited overall attempts, has proven to be a tough and wily scrambler, and has averaged 10+ yards per pass attempt – not per completion – in multiple games in ’17.
A terrible betting error is to assume what type of game it will be. There are possible quirky outcomes in which the Cowboys could win, but the Eagles have the tools to win by a TD or more in several different ways, even if the ball doesn’t bounce their way.
Philadelphia could mount scoring drives right away, take a lead and watch Dak Prescott struggle in obvious passing situations. Or, they could hang tight until a turnover in the 3rd quarter gives Wentz a Red Zone opportunity. The Eagles could win a shoot-out by 7+ or grind out a low-scoring 7-point win.
That makes Philly a near-lock to cover at (-5.5).