It will be a battle for NFC SUPREMACY when the first-place Cowboys (I hate everything) and Saints kick off tonight in Dallas. Eh, supremacy is probably an oversell on the Cowboys, but this game carries significant playoff implications for both teams as New Orleans tries to strengthen its grip on the conference’s top seed, while Dallas looks to further distance itself from Philadelphia and Washington in a weak NFC East. They can do so by knocking off what appears to be the NFL’s most dangerous team.

Eagles fans will be locked in on this one, rooting hard for a Dallas loss that would open the door for a three-way tie atop the division should the Eagles beat the Redskins at home on Monday night. While that subplot alone creates plenty of intrigue, this much-hyped prime time game featuring two public betting darlings figures to draw a ton of action, so let’s take a look at some need-to-know information ahead of it.


The matchup

Here’s a quick trivia question: Can you name the NFL teams that have covered 10 consecutive games against the spread dating back to 2003? You can’t—because there are none. Only two teams since that season have covered nine in a row, and both teams failed to cover its next game. The Saints, a squad that has bulldozed opponents and the bank accounts of those bold enough to bet against them since Week 3, will attempt tonight to breakthrough and extend their ATS streak to double-digits.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys find themselves in unfamiliar territory as a 7-point home underdog. The last time Dallas was a touchdown or more underdog at home came back in Week 8 of the 2015 season when they hosted the Patriots. That one didn’t go so well for the home team, as the Cowboys were steamrolled in a 30-6 loss. In fact, this spot has historically been unkind to Dallas. The last four times the Cowboys were an underdog of seven or more at home they lost the game outright.

If Dallas is to reverse that trend, its defense, which is allowing a stingy 19.4 points per game, will need to slow down a Saints offense that has eclipsed 40 points on six different occasions and 30 points nine times through 11 games, so they’ll have a tall order in front of them tonight. Despite its stellar overall play, the Cowboys defense has allowed opposing offenses to complete 44% of third down conversions (29th in the league), while opposing quarterbacks have completed 69.1% of their pass attempts (28th). That’s a recipe for disaster against a Saints offense that is converting 47% of their third down opportunities (6th) and completing a league-best 76% of their pass attempts. Just how good has this team been? Relatively speaking, the Falcons did a respectable job keeping the Saints in check on Thanksgiving night…and still surrendered 31 points and, frankly, were never really in the game.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Cowboys hold the Saints under 30 points, so they will need a big night on offense. Ezekiel Elliott has been hot recently, rushing for a combined 394 yards over the past three weeks, but he faces a difficult test against a Saints defense allowing a league-best 73.2 yards per game on the ground. The Falcons didn’t even try to run the ball a week ago, totaling only 26 yards on 16 attempts. If Dallas is to hang around, Dak Prescott must make explosive plays in the passing game. The New Orleans defense is among the game’s worst in DVOA against both opponents’ No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers, and it ranks 29th in DVOA against passes that travel 16 or more yards downfield. The addition of Amari Cooper gives Prescott a fighting chance to exploit this weakness, but he’s struggled thus far in 2018 on passes traveling at least 20 yards, completing only 36.4% of his attempts (26th in the NFL).

It is, however, worth noting that while those vulnerabilities exist in the secondary, the Saints have gotten much better play from their defense overall, particularly over the past three weeks in which it has surrendered only 38 total points.

The money

The Saints are commanding 68% of point-spread bets, but only 59% of the money, so there’s some big dollars on the Cowboys. Meanwhile, 78% of the action is on the over, but only 69% of the money. Despite the money backing the over, the game total has dropped from 53 down to 51.5 at many major books, including DraftKings and FanDuel. Fishy, fishy.

The trends

Everybody wants to bet on the Saints pinball offense. Explosive! Like a video game! While true, the over has hit in only 5 of 11 Saints games, while each of their last seven Thursday night games have stayed under the total.

The Saints are 5-0 against the spread away from home, winning by an average margin of 14 points per game. Even if you exclude their 51-14 massacre of the Bengals back in Week 10, they’re still winning by an average of eight points per game. The Saints are hot, too, totaling a +92 point-differential over the past three weeks. Here’s another trend backing New Orleans: the favorite has won each of the past eight Thursday night games between teams from the same conference.

As for the Cowboys, they have gone a respectable 10-8-1 ATS as a home underdog under Jason Garrett, but they have been a categorical disaster against elite teams during his tenure. Against opponents with a winning percentage between 80-100%, the Cowboys are 6-9-1 ATS, but they have been brutal at home, going 1-7 ATS against elite opponents.


So where’s the value at tonight? In New Jersey, of course. [insert drum sound] As of 3:30 pm, those looking to take the underdog should head to SugarHouse Sportsbook where you can get Dallas at +7 (+100). Those backing the Saints can grab them at FanDuel -7 (-110). Totals bettors on the over should go SugarHouse, where they can get 51.5 (-107), while those on the under can get 52 with BetStars NJ.





Also be sure to check out DraftKings’ special Odds Boosts tonight. Here’s the menu:

Over at BetStars, users can take advantage of a Saints Stars Stack and Odds Boost:



I absolutely see the value in taking the improved Cowboys at home against a team that has to have a letdown at some point. After all, there’s a reason no team has covered 10 straight games in well over 15 years, but betting against New Orleans feels insane right now. Sean Payton, a former Cowboys assistant, is a master motivator, and the Saints can potentially clinch a division title this weekend and are still playing for the NFC’s top spot. Payton has done a great job of getting a team that could have been fat and happy to get up week after week, and something tells me this didn’t go unmentioned during team meetings this week:

Truthfully, I’m not crazy about either side, nor do I feel strongly about the total. When you do the math, 52 points seems like a reachable total, but the trends, along with the fact that the total has dropped despite action on the over, suggest the under is the sharp play. Dallas also feels like the sharp play, too, but I don’t trust Jason Garrett or Dak Prescott, and I refuse to bet against the Saints right now. For these reasons, and although I’m typically hesitant about teasers, it feels like a good spot to grab 6 points and take the Saints to -1 and the total down to 45.5. And so that’s what I’m going to do.

Saints 34, Cowboys 27