Breaking Down Sunday’s NFL Divisional Playoff Games

Romo
Romo

As vulnerable as Aaron Rodgers is, Tony Romo could be in the same position with his bad back.

On Thursday I gave you the breakdown of today’s games while right now I’m giving you an up close look at tomorrow’s game. Let’s get to it.

Dallas (+6) at Green Bay - If the forecast holds, it’s going to be extremely chilly in Green Bay and that will favor the hometown Packers unless the Cowboys resist the temptation to throw it too much and stick the ground game. DeMarco Murray can in fact lead the Cowboys to victory if that offensive line gets rolling.

The Packers will hope that Aaron Rodgers’ bad calf has had enough time to heal but we’re hearing he hasn’t practiced and the calf is “strained.” This means there are definitely tears in the calf muscle. Either way, I expect them to stay as balanced as they can be behind Eddie Lacy. Of all the games this weekend I think turnovers will dictate more about the outcome than the others. This could favor Green Bay because Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception at home since Bill Clinton was in office.

OK, that’s an exaggeration but you get the point. One thing we can’t forget here is that Tony Romo has been playing a bad back for most of the second half of the season. One hit in the frigid cold and Romo could be out.

Trends: Dallas is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at Green Bay… The total has gone OVER in five of the Packers last seven games at home against the Cowboys… The Cowboys is 8-0 on the road in 2014… Green Bay is 8-0 at home in 2014.

Key Injuries: Dallas T Doug Free DOUBT/Knee, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers PROB/Calf

The Pick: I like Dallas getting the points but Green Bay wins a tight one.

Luck

If Luck gets time to throw, he could be all smiles by game's end.

Indianapolis (+7) at Denver - Don’t be a bit surprised if the Colts come into Denver and pull off the upset. Yes the running game is pathetic and the defense is susceptible to getting beat either on the ground or through the air but if any game has the feel of an upset it’s this one. The Broncos have relied heavily on C.J Anderson in the second half of the season and I’m guessing the Colts will look to take him away first.

That will more than likely give us a passing duel between Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. While I believe Luck will turn the ball over once or twice, I’m also not convinced that Manning is 100% especially with regards to his arm strength. If the Colts can bottle up Anderson enough to force the Broncos into second and third and long situations then that will test my theory about Manning’s arm strength.

The Denver defense could make any of my thoughts useless because if they can force the Colts into sacks and early turnovers then things could ugly early and often but I see a competitive game in this one.

Trends: The Colts are 6-1 straight up in their last seven games against Denver… The Broncos are 0-5 against the spread in their last five games against Indianapolis… The total has gone OVER in four of Indy’s last six games at Denver… Denver is 5-0 SU in their  last five games at home.

Key Injuries: Indianapolis LB Jerrell Freeman PROB/Abdomen, Denver LB Brandon Marshall QUEST/Foot

The Pick: The Colts have had pretty good success against the Broncos in recent years and despite leaking oil into the playoffs I like the Colts and the OVER.

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NFC Division Winner Odds for 2014

Romo
Romo

In my eyes this is a make or break year for Tony Romo who has to produce the playoffs for the Cowboys.

As I told you on Friday, National Football League Training Camps open in less than two weeks so our time to start breaking down the favorites and long-shots is running short.

Today my focus is NFC Division odds.

NFC East

Philadelphia +125 – The Eagles enter 2014 with De’Sean Jackson in Washington but Coach Chip Kelly feels like the addition of Darren Sproles will help ease some of the burden of Jackson’s loss. Nick Foles proved last season that he is more than capable of being an NFL QB and I expect him to have a similar season.

NY Giants +300 – The G-Men look to bounce back from a disastrous where Eli Manning was nothing short of a turnover machine. Tom Coughlin has brought the Giants two Super Bowl wins but another poor season will send him packing. The offensive and defensive lines both need improvement.

Dallas +375 – The Cowboys’ historically bad defense got another blow when Sean Lee went down with a season-ending injury in OTAs. Despite his monster contract, I think Tony Romo is getting down to his final chances in Big D. If he can’t produce a playoff win then Jerry Jones patience will run even shorter.

Washington +450 – The NFL is more than curious to see how new coach Jay Gruden handles Robert Griffin III. RGIII has to prove he can stay healthy and that means being more of a pocket passer and running when it’s necessary. The defense must get more pressure  to help out the secondary.

PICK: Philadelphia

NFC North

Green Bay -110 – This could be a big year for Green Bay. Clay Matthews has to stay healthy as he has started to lose favor with the fans who are tired of seeing him on the sidelines. With Eddie Lacy in the backfield, I expect Aaron Rodgers to have a monster year.

Chicago +250 – The Bears will go only as far as Jay Cutler can take them. The offense is loaded with weapons so there are no excuses not to be great. With the offensive firepower, the defense doesn’t have to be great, they just need to be consistent.

Detroit +400 – New coach Jim Caldwell has one major goal for Matthew Stafford; make better decisions with the football. Like the Bears, offense shouldn’t be a problem. The defense has to create more consistent pressure because the secondary really hasn’t improved.

Minnesota +1000 – As I said Friday, I think Teddy Bridgewater will be the starting QB on day one. Whether that means success is unclear.

PICK: Green Bay

Smith

I think Lovie Smith will do wonders for the Buccaneers in year one.

NFC South

New Orleans EVEN – The defense improved greatly under Rob Ryan but how does Sean Payton replace Darren Sproles?

Atlanta +325 – Yes the Falcons had a lot of injuries last year but I didn’t think this team recovered from their NFC Title game loss the year before either. I don’t see a bounce back year.

Carolina +325 – The Panthers have lost Steve Smith to the Ravens but a good defense remains. Wide receiving experience is lacking and I think they take a step back.

Tampa Bay +550 – With new coach Lovie Smith aboard, I believe the only thing keeping this team from challenging for the division will be QB play. Luke McCown showed in Chicago he could be successful and I think he will be in Tampa as well.

PICK: Tampa Bay

NFC West

Seattle +130 – The only question is will the hunger remain?

San Francisco +140 – Speaking of hunger, will the 49ers ride it enough to overthrow the Seahawks?

Arizona +700 – Everything appears to be in place in the desert following a 10-win season. If Carson Palmer can stay healthy and avoid turnovers then I like their chances.

St. Louis +700 – 2014 will be a huge year for Sam Bradford. Yes, the division is the toughest in pro football, but he has to get the Rams to the playoffs or questions about his future will pile up.

PICK: Seattle

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Analyzing NFL Team Win-Totals for the NFC

Tony Romo
Tony Romo

The Cowboys need an improved running game and more consistency from Tony Romo in 2013.

Two days ago I broke down the over/under win totals for each team in the American Football Conference and today my attention shifts to the National Football Conference. In the 47-year history of the Super Bowl, the NFC holds a 25-22 advantage in the win column and has won four of the last six including two by the New York Giants.

Will an NFC team help them continue their dominance? Let’s see who might have a chance at getting there at the very least.

NFC EAST

Dallas 8.5 (-105 over/-125 under) The Cowboys draw the NFC North and AFC West in divisional crossovers. That looks positive but I’m not so sure. Dallas was 31st in the league in rushing last year and the defense needs to improve significantly. This is the toughest call of the NFC because of Tony Romo’s ups and downs. I’ll go the over but just barely at nine.

New York 9 (-115 over/-115 under) The Giants will move forward without Ahmad Bradshaw who is in Indy now but the defense is where the focus is. They ranked 28th against the pass and 25th against the run. This is a situation where they will go as far as Eli Manning can take them. I say it’s a step back. Take the under.

Philadelphia 7.5 (-105 over/-125 under) Chip Kelly brings his up-tempo offense to the NFL and I can see it catching teams off guard early in the season but I have concerns about it long-term. The other concern is Michael Vick’s health. This offense will be great for him but he’s going to get hit a lot too. I like the under.

Washington 8.5 (+105 over/-135 under) The offense built around Robert Griffin III is effective as long as he is healthy, but don’t forget Kirk Cousins is a talented back-up. If Alfred Morris picks up where he left off and the pass defense improves, I like the over in D.C.

NFC NORTH

Cutler

I expect more efficient play from Jay Cutler under new coach Marc Trestman.

Chicago 8.5 (-120 over/-110 under) The Bears enter the Marc Trestman Era which should help Jay Cutler be more efficient and take less hits. The defense will miss Brian Urlacher’s leadership but I still think it’s good. The problem is the schedule. Besides the North, they have the NFC East and AFC North in crossovers. I can’t see them getting the over.

Detroit 8 (-105 over/-125 under) The Lions lost a ton of close games last year and this is clearly the make or break year for Jim Schwartz. Reggie Bush will help the running game and four of the last six games are at home. I like the push here though as I see them winning eight.

Green Bay 10.5 (-115 over/-115 under) The Packers should benefit from the addition of Eddy Lacy to the running game. They will also like the fact they have no back-to-back road games this season. The defense will be tested after their poor showing against San Francisco in the playoffs but I like the Pack to get to the over here anyway.

Minnesota 7.5 (-105 over/-125 under) Adrian Peterson is not going to rush for 2,000 yards again so the pressure falls to Christian Ponder to make throws. Greg Jennings was a nice signing but how healthy is he? I see a step back for the Vikes this season. Take the under.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta 10 (Even over/-110 over) The Falcons Super Bowl hopes died at the doorstep of the end zone last year. Can they rebound behind Matt Ryan and the addition of Steven Jackson? I say, “yes.” Take the over.

Carolina 7 (-135 over/+105 under) The Panthers get the AFC East and the NFC West in crossovers and have to deal with Atlanta and New Orleans twice each. I expect Cam Newton to be better but still like the under against that schedule.

New Orleans 9 (-145 over/+115 under) This is the Sean Payton-Revenge Tour that will go only as far as the defense can take it as they ranked near the bottom in 2012. I like the over here with improvement on defense.

Tampa Bay 7.5 (-130 over/Even under) This is the defining moment for QB Josh Freeman who in four seasons hasn’t gotten the Bucs to the playoffs. Four of the last six on the road is a concern, but I like the balance on offense and better pass defense. Take the over.

NFC WEST

Arizona 5.5 (Even over/-130 under) New coach Bruce Arians will work well with Carson Palmer and that means more receptions for Larry Fitzgerald. They also get the NFC South and AFC South which will pose challenges, but I love the over here.

San Francisco 11 (-120 over/-110 under) The Niners will log a ton of miles this year with trips to Washington, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and New Orleans. I love their draft but history is not kind to Super Bowl losers in follow-up seasons. Take the under.

Seattle 10.5 (-135 over/+105 under) The Seahawks are already everyone’s darlings heading into the season despite long trips to NYG, Carolina and Atlanta where their season ended last year. I fear the lack of maturity in this club will be their downfall. Playoffs? Yes. Over? No.

St. Louis 7.5 (-130 over/Even under) The Rams final five games are all against NFC heavyweights. I really like Jeff Fisher but I’m concerned about the lack of running game even though I think this offense goes pass-heavy anyway. Take the over, but just barely.

 

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Winner Takes All as Dallas Visits Washington

Robert Griffin III and Tony Romo will each look to lead his team to not just a victory but a playoff berth as the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys meet on Sunday Night Football.

Robert Griffin III and Tony Romo will each look to lead his team to not just a victory but a playoff berth as the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys meet on Sunday Night Football.

The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins clash on Sunday night in a winner takes all game that will decide the NFC East champion.

The two sides meet at FedExField in Landover, Md., on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET) in a game that has serious playoff implications. If Washington wins, Dallas will be eliminated from postseason contention. If Dallas wins, Washington will need (a lot of) help from elsewhere.

Were the Redskins to lose, Mike Shanahan’s side would need Minnesota, Chicago, and the New York Giants to lose also, allowing the team to secure the final Wild Card berth. With Green Bay, Detroit, and Philadelphia respectively on the schedule for those sides, Washington would do best to win this one outright.

Win, lose, or draw, Washington (9-6, 4-3 home) has had its best season since 2007, a year in which the side went 9-7 and the last time a postseason trip was made. A win on Sunday would give the Redskins 10 wins for the first time since 2005 and only the third time in 21 years.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III has led the side by example, often playing beyond his years. He is the current favorite (10/11) to be handed the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, ahead of Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck (6/5) and Seattle’s Russell Wilson (13/4), both of whom have led their respective teams to the postseason. Griffin III will be hoping for a similar result this weekend.

The Redskins arrive in Week 17 with a six-game winning streak, the franchise’s longest such streak since a seven-game jaunt in 1997.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys (8-7, 4-3 away) arrive in Maryland on the back of last weekend’s nail-biting 34-31 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints. As they seem to have done for much of the season, the Cowboys mounted a comeback late. This time however, the Saints squeaked a victory in the extra frame.

Prior to that loss, Jason Garrett’s side had won five of six, transforming from 3-5 underachievers to 8-6 playoff contenders. A win this weekend will cap that turnaround, and have the Cowboys hosting Seattle in next week’s Wild Card round.

With Minnesota, Chicago, and the Giants all taking to the field earlier in the day, Washington will enter the game knowing exactly what is needed. It’ll also arrive at kickoff confident of a win, thanks in part to a 38-31 win over the Cowboys in Texas on Thanksgiving.

That game saw the Redskins take a 28-3 lead into halftime, only for the Cowboys to claw back into the game. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw a staggering 62 pass attempts in that game while his counterpart, Griffin, tallied 304 yards passing with four touchdowns and one interception. In a rare instance this season, the rookie was limited to just 29 yards on the ground.

The Cowboys will need to limit Griffin again this week as well as running back Alfred Morris. The two have combined to give Washington the best running game in football, averaging 162.3 yards per game. Morris ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,413 yards on the season.

If Dallas needs to worry about Washington’s running game, then the Redskins need to worry about Dallas’s passing game. The Cowboys are third in the league in passing this year, averaging 302.2 yards per game. Only Detroit and New Orleans have dialed-up more yards through the air.

Tony Romo is a big part of that number. The nine-year veteran is third in the league – behind Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford – having tallied 4,685 passing yards on 611 attempts, with a 66.3 completion percentage (6th), and 26 touchdowns (6th).

Romo’s biggest problem came early in the season when he was prone to giving up the football. His 16 interceptions are tied for fifth most on the season, but things are vastly improved at this point in the season. Having thrown 13 picks in the first seven games, including four in one game against the Giants on Oct. 28, he has thrown just three since, and only one over the past four weeks. Romo threw two interceptions against the Redskins on Thanksgiving.

Washington’s defense – which allows 287.7 passing yards per game – could well struggle against this new, focused Dallas aerial attack. But then again, this is a Dallas side that went into New York on the final day of the season last year needing to win, but failing to get the job done.

Washington opened as 3½-point favorites, a spread that hasn’t changed with most online bookmakers. The Redskins have been terrific against the spread this season, compiling a 10-5-0 ATS record. Dallas meanwhile has struggled in covering, tallying a 6-9-0 ATS record. The Cowboys will need to upset the Redskins and the spread this week if they’re to make it to the postseason.

The over/under opened at 50, and has fallen to 49½ with most bookmakers. The total has gone over eight time for the Cowboys this year and nine times for the Redskins. The Thanksgiving game between these sides saw a 46-point total eclipsed by a 69-point game. The over certainly looks the smarter choice this weekend.

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Philadelphia Visits Dallas on Sunday Night Football

Dallas and Philadelphia meets for the second time in four weeks, with both sides in search of a much-needed win.

Dallas and Philadelphia meets for the second time in four weeks, each in search of a much-needed win.

Just six days after failing miserably under the lights, Philadelphia (3-8, 1-4 road) returns to primetime to take on Dallas (5-6, 2-3 home) on Sunday Night Football.

The Eagles’ well-reported nosedive took another turn for the worse as the Carolina Panthers sauntered home with a 30-22 victory, leaving Philadelphia staring blankly at a seven-game losing streak.

The Cowboys meanwhile have had their own struggles – not least last week’s division loss to Washington – but remain within touching distance of the Wild Card chasing pack.

Division Foes Square Off

Dallas will be looking to defeat Philadelphia for the second time this season, keeping its postseason hopes alive in the process.

The Eagles should be fighting for respect and their figurative lives, but whether the team shows up remains to be seen. Plenty believe that head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Michael Vick will both be goners by the end of the seas, while Bovada has Philadelphia as 5/1 to lose its remaining five games of the season, conjuring up a 12-game losing streak.

Whilst this will not be the big time division rivalry we’ve come to expect over the years, there is plenty at stake as the two sides take the field in Cowboys Stadium this Sunday night.

Home Sweet Home?

When Jerry Jones built the modern spectacle that is Cowboys Stadium, he expected its residents to win. For one season, he got his wish. The Cowboys posted a 6-2 home record in 2009, the $1.3 billion stadium’s inaugural season. The team even went on to defeat Philadelphia 34-13 in the playoffs that season.

Since the 2009 season, the Cowboys have been anything but dominant at home. 2010’s 2-6 home record was a woeful low point, and part of a 9-12 record at the stadium that has seen the Cowboys almost succumb to irrelevancy.

The Cowboys are 16-14 at Cowboys Stadium all time, and host a Philadelphia Eagles side that has so far posted a 2-2 record at the venue.

Looking for an Edge

Dallas leads the all-time head-to-head 60-47 but it has been Philadelphia that has gotten the better of recent matchups. Since Andy Reid took over coaching duties in 1999, the Eagles have posted a 17-11 record against the Cowboys, including an 8-6 record in Dallas.

Dallas has not won a home game against the Eagles since Jan. 9, 2010, the side’s sole playoff victory since 1997. That win actually came six days after the Cowboys defeated the Eagles at Cowboys Stadium in Week 17 of the regular season.

The Cowboys defeated the Eagles 38-28 in Week 10, a game that saw Texas side come back from a 17-10 deficit late in the first half. Prior to the victory, Dallas had lost three of five against the Eagles.

Whilst the Eagles have fared well against the Cowboys in recent years, bookmakers like Dallas at home, in this game at least. The Cowboys opened as nine-point favorites, a figure that has risen to 10½ ahead of kickoff.

The Eagles have been horrific when it comes to covering the spread. The team’s 1-9-1 ATS record is the worst in the league. Dallas hasn’t fared much better (4-7-0 ATS), but compared to the Eagles, the Cowboys look like a safe bet.

The over/under is set at 43. Both teams have seen the total go over in five games and under in six games this season. The game earlier this season saw a massive 66 points put up on the board, which would suggest taking the over was sensible, but in reality that was the first time the two teams had combined for more than 43 points in four games. The last ten games between the sides have split evenly in going over and under the 43-point marker.

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Early Thanksgiving Football Betting Tips

The Cowboys and Redskins collide Thursday in a true Thanksgiving tradition.

The Cowboys and Redskins collide Thursday in a true Thanksgiving tradition.

Thanksgiving is upon us which means it’s time for some real Thursday night football, and not those hapless games that parade under the Thursday Night Football banner the rest of the year.

Let’s face it, there’s no way you’re going to get to sit down tomorrow and work your way through the NFL’s Thanksgiving schedule looking for those all-important tips that will ultimately help you make the right pick. There’s always someone, or some task, that gets in the way. So take the opportunity today to get on top of things and pick your teams early.

Here’re a few tips from CasinoReview that may well help you with the three-game slate.

 

Houston Texans @ Detroit Lions

12:30 PM ET

In keeping with tradition, Detroit (4-6, 2-2 home) hosts the Thanksgiving Classic opening, this year welcoming the best team (record-wise) in all of football, Houston (9-1, 4-0 road).

The Lions have had a rough season so far, coming across as a one-dimensional passing team with just one receiving threat (Calvin Johnson). A porous defense hasn’t helped matter, with the team conceding 24.6 points per game, 23rd in the league.

The Texans meanwhile have been the toast of the AFC, serving up nine wins from 10. The team’s only loss – a 42-24 beat down at the hands of Green Bay – alongside close wins over the Jets, Broncos, Bears, and this past weekend against Jacksonville, have proved the side is fallible though, and Detroit will look to make the most of home field advantage.

These two sides have met just twice before (2004, 2008), splitting the pair between them.

Odds: Despite its superior record, Houston opens as just three-point favorites. The over/under is 49.

Take: Houston – With a defense that ranks in the top 10 in passing (7), rushing (2) and scoring (4), it’s hard to imagine the Lions putting many points on the board in this one – despite passing for more yards per game than any other team in the league. Detroit’s defense has been relatively sharp itself, until you consider points conceded, a category in which the Lions rank 23rd across the league. That means Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster may have a typical Texans game. On top of all of this, Detroit has not won a Thanksgiving Day game since beating the Green Bay Packers 22-14 in 2003. Take the Texans to cover the spread and the total to go over.

 

Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys

4:15 PM ET

In the second of Thursday’s traditional Thanksgiving games, Dallas (5-5, 2-2 home) hosts division rivals Washington (4-6, 2-3 road) in what may prove to be the most competitive game on the schedule.

The Cowboys’ spluttering season has almost evened out over the past two weeks, with wins over Philadelphia and Cleveland (just). That being said, that isn’t exactly the most sterling of opposition.

Washington routed Philadelphia 31-16 this past weekend, halting a three-game skid in the process. Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has impressed for much of the season, and the Redskins at least seem pointed in the right direction. A win over the Cowboys will put the side back in contention for the NFC East, which the Giants seem determined to lose.

Washington’s pass defense – which is ranked 29th in the league – could be up against the wall as Tony Romo and the Cowboys passing game – ranked seventh in the league – looks to lead an almost rushing-less offense.

Odds: Dallas is favored but the opening spread of six points has dwindled to three ahead of kickoff. The over/under is 46.

Take: Dallas – In many ways it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Redskins take this game, which is more a commentary on the Cowboys’ lack of consistency than it is Washington’s prowess. However, Dallas has owned Washington in the recent past, taking three straight and six of the last seven. Add to that the fact that the Redskins have never beaten the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day (in six attempts) and Tony Romo’s impressive November record (21-3) and you have all the ingredients for history to repeat itself, however uninteresting that might seem to those rooting against America’s Team.

 

New England Patriots @ New York Jets

8:20 PM ET

The third game on Thursday’s schedule is the non-tradition, NFL-makes-some-money game between New England (7-3, 3-2 road) and the New York Jets (4-6, 2-3 home).

A win in this AFC East divisional match-up could well be enough for the Patriots – already three games ahead of the Jets, Bills and Dolphins, who are all tied up – to all but be awarded the division title. The Jets therefore need a win and even that might not be enough to bring back any credibility to what has been an incredulous season.

The bad news for the Jets is that not only was New England victorious earlier in the season, and not only have the Patriots won three straight, but the Massachusetts side has also won 18 of the last 24. The Jets, to put it abruptly, are up against it.

Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and Co. will need to remember that the Patriots’ victory earlier this year was achieved only in overtime. There might be some hope yet.

Odds: New England is a one-touchdown favorite heading into this one. The over/under is 51.

Take: New England – Okay, so we’re going with all three Thanksgiving favorites, but that’s just the way this schedule is shaping up. Few people expect the hapless Jets to get anything from the Patriots, a team that has averaged 47 points per contest over the last three games. Compare that to a paltry 14.3 being put up by the Jets in that same period. Take the Patriots to cover/obliterate the spread and take the total to go over, as it has in eight New England games this season, especially as the Patriots covered the total alone last weekend.

 

Remaining Week 12 Schedule

Sunday: (1 PM ET) Minnesota @ Chicago | Oakland @ Cincinnati | Pittsburgh @ Cleveland | Buffalo @ Indianapolis |Tennessee @ Jacksonville | Denver @ Kansas City | Seattle @ Miami | Atlanta @ Tampa Bay; (4:05 PM ET) Baltimore @ San Diego; (4:25 PM ET) St. Louis @ Arizona | San Francisco @ New Orleans; (8:20 PM ET) Green Bay @ NY Giants

Monday: (8:30 PM ET) Carolina @ Philadelphia

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Atlanta Hosts Dallas on Sunday Night Football

Tony Romo's 13 interceptions have been a huge problem for the Cowboys this season, but his 19-2 record in November will give the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons something to think about on Sunday Night Football.

Tony Romo's 13 interceptions have been a huge problem for the Cowboys this season, but his 19-2 record in November will give the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons something to think about on Sunday Night Football.

As Sunday Night Football rolls around again this week, viewers will get their chance to see the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons host the reeling Dallas Cowboys.

This marquee match-up between the team with the only perfect record in the league and America’s favorite team will have bettors on the edge of their seats. It’s highly likely that they’ll remain on the edge of their seats until the very end as well.

If you’re unsure who to pick in this one and need a few pointers, read on to find a few nuggets of truth that may sway you one way or another.

 

Unbeaten Falcons Looking for More

There’s still an air of criticism surrounding the Atlanta Falcons (7-0, 3-0 home), and rightfully so.

The Georgia side may well be perfect but that is a record achieved against a very soft schedule. Atlanta has faced just one team (Denver) that currently has a winning record. The team’s opponents have gone a combined 19-33 (.365), hardly a record that is going to be imposing to any semi-decent side. But, as the old adage goes, you are what your record says.

Atlanta will look to ride this unbeaten streak further towards the playoffs. And ride the Falcons can. At this point in time, the schedule going forward is almost as soft as that which has passed. Future opponents have a record of 27-38 (.415), and only one team with a winning record (NY Giants) lies in wait.

Of course there’s a big difference between what happens on paper and what happens on the gridiron. With five games remaining against divisional rivals, Atlanta can expect the run to the postseason to be tougher than it appears. And it might not take until next week’s showdown with New Orleans for the Falcons to chalk one up in the loss column.

 

Dire Times in Big D

Anyway you slice it up, Dallas (3-4, 2-2 road) has had a bizarre season so far. It’s not that the Cowboys’ 3-4 record is that strange. The team has certainly played like a 3-4 team for much of the year. It’s not even that there is a huge imbalance between the almost non-existent running game and the passing game. It’s the fact that this is a team with obvious talent, but nothing to show for it.

Dallas has the number three passing offense in the league in terms of yards per game (297.3). It also has the number three pass defense in the league (187.7 YPG). Those two statistics should translate to a high-scoring offense akin to New England or New Orleans. It doesn’t.

Dallas scores just 19.6 PPG (25th). Part of this is down to a weak rushing game that has seen neither DeMarco Murray nor Felix Jones put in any kind of consistent play. Murray (foot) will be missing for the third straight game Sunday. Part of it is down to Tony Romo.

Romo has thrown a completion rate of 65 percent this season with nine touchdowns. He’s even ran one in, putting him one behind Murray for the team lead in rushing touchdowns. But he’s thrown 13 interceptions! Far too many drives have finished with Romo giving the ball to the other side.

If the Cowboys are to achieve anything against the Falcons on Sunday night it starts with looking after the football. In an ideal world, Romo would hand the ball off and let the Cowboys’ running game punish a weak Atlanta rush defense. That perfect world wouldn’t include Murray out and Jones trying to cope with a niggling injury. Come kickoff time, the Cowboys may have no option but to put all of their eggs in the basket that is Romo’s inaccurate arm.

But then again, Tony Romo is 19-2 in the month of November!

 

Looking for an Edge

Dallas leads the all-time head-to-head 16-8 and has been dominant in recent years. The Cowboys have won seven of the last 10 meetings, including the last time the two sides met, a 37-21 victory in October 2009. Dallas is 7-5 all-time when playing the Falcons in Atlanta.

Atlanta is favorite heading into this one. A three-point advantage has risen to four points as kickoff approaches.

Dallas has gone 3-4 ATS this season while Atlanta is 5-2 ATS. The two games dropped by Atlanta came in close wins over Oakland and Carolina, and go some way to suggesting that the Falcons are not as dominant as their record might suggest.

The over/under is 47½. The last two times the sides met, the total exceeded that number, but neither has rewarded bettors taking the over this season. Both sides have seen the total go under four times in seven games. Dallas has also seen the total go under in seven of its last 10 games and six of seven on the road. All signs point to taking the under this Sunday in Georgia.

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