The Eagles return off their bye week on Sunday night in front of a national audience at Lincoln Financial Field with the chance to deliver a knockout blow to the Cowboys’ season and also make a statement that they have officially returned after a tumultuous first eight games. That’s quite a backdrop for Golden Tate’s Philadelphia debut. The Eagles seemingly enter this game with all the momentum in the NFC East after watching Washington suffer a disastrous home blowout loss to Atlanta in which its offensive line was decimated by season-ending injuries to Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff. Of course, there was also this:
Titans go into AT&T Stadium and hand the Cowboys their first home loss of the season 28-14.
Marcus Mariota: 240 YDS, 2 TDS
Dak Prescott: 243 YDS, 2 TDS, 1 INT
— NFL News (@NFLFBGAMETIME) November 6, 2018
Tremendous. Just tremendous.
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Cowboys at Eagles (-7.5), Over/Under 43
At first glance, even despite their early-season struggles, the Eagles look like they should roll in this game. It’s been a rough go for the Cowboys this season away from Jerry World. They are 0-4 and averaging only 13.5 points per game on the road. The Eagles, meanwhile, were 9-1 in games played at Lincoln Financial Field a season ago, but are only 2-2 this year after frustrating losses to the Vikings and Panthers in recent weeks. Dallas is 3-5, and with a brutal schedule ahead finds itself in a “must-win” situation. But the Eagles should also feel a sense of urgency after an underwhelming start and an extremely difficult game at New Orleans looming next week. Given right tackle Lane Johnson expects to play on Sunday night only two weeks after suffering a Grade 2 MCL sprain is a pretty good indicator that the Eagles mean business in this one. Jason Peters sounds ready:
Jason Peters explains why he doesn’t like the Cowboys. pic.twitter.com/a8nnTlYLXO
— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) November 7, 2018
When the Cowboys Have the Ball
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has been facing a ton of criticism lately, and he’ll have his work cut out for him if he hopes to silence his detractors this week. The Cowboys come in with the NFL’s No. 26 scoring offense at 19.2 points per game and will have to deal with the league’s No. 5 scoring defense that’s allowing only 19.5 points per game. As for Prescott criticism? It’s justified. He is no better than 24th in the league in completion percentage, yards per pass, and yards per game. This mistake was a total killer a week ago:
The Dak Prescott checklist:
Fail to see the entire field ✔️
Throw off balance ✔️
Poor ball placement ✔️ pic.twitter.com/POdexZj75Q
— Thiago Scabbia (@TScabbia) November 6, 2018
Making matters worse for Prescott, he has been sacked on a league-high 10.53% of his pass drop backs this season. It’s not hard to figure out why the Cowboys are 28th in converting third downs, which also happens to be a strength of Jim Schwartz’s defense. Only two teams have prevented third down conversions at a better rate through nine weeks (fourth down is a different story). The Eagles’ defense would also seem to have a distinct advantage in the red zone. It has held opponents to a 41.38% red zone touchdown rate, which is the league’s third-best mark. Dallas, meanwhile, has the NFL’s No. 23 red zone scoring offense, converting exactly 50% of its opportunities into touchdowns.
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott remains one of the game’s best, and despite its general offensive struggles, Dallas has run the ball effectively. Cowboys running backs are averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 128.8 yards per game through eight games, but they will have their work cut out for them against the Eagles who have limited opponents to only 83.8 rushing yards per game.
When the Eagles Have the Ball
One of the biggest storylines coming into this one is the anticipated impact of wide receiver Golden Tate, who just so happened to torch the Cowboys for eight catches on eight targets, 132 yards and two scores back in Detroit’s Week 4 loss at Dallas. That’s a lofty standard to meet, but Tate should help an Eagles offense that has struggled to score points this season. Despite the excellent play of quarterback Carson Wentz, the Eagles are 21st in points per game, scoring only 22.2 points per contest.
Marcus Mariota torched the Cowboys a week ago, but the Dallas defense is top-five in opponents’ points per game, points per play, yards per game, yards per play, yards per rush, and pass yards per game. They are much better than they get credit for. They will, however, be without linebacker Sean Lee, whose absence typically kills the Cowboys defense, but this is a much better unit than it’s been in recent years.
The Eagles opened at most sportsbooks as a six-point favorite, but as of Sunday morning are a 7.5-point favorite at most locations. The money is overwhelmingly on the Eagles with 77% of point-spread bets and 88% of the money backing Philadelphia.
Things to know
There are a few trends in this game backing the Eagles that I absolutely love. The Cowboys are 1-7-1 against-the-spread under Jason Garrett with only six days between games, 2-14-1 ATS under him in all games played on a short week, and 0-4 ATS in this same spot against NFC East teams. Moreover, the Cowboys are 0-6 both straight-up and ATS under Garrett when their previous game was on a Monday night. In fact, Dallas has lost nine consecutive games following a Monday Night Football appearance.
The Eagles are 12-3 straight-up and 9-6 ATS off the bye since 2003 and are 1-1 off the bye under Doug Pederson, but that win came last season at Dallas in a 37-9 Eagles romp. Pederson is 3-1 ATS at home when favored by seven or more points and is 6-2 ATS in his last eight games in prime time. Meanwhile, Garrett is 20-14 ATS as a road underdog, but the Cowboys are 1-4 ATS in their last five games and 1-2 ATS this season as road dogs.
The UNDER is 16-6 in games coached by Doug Pederson at Lincoln Financial Field, including 4-0 this season. What’s more, the UNDER has hit in eight of the past nine Eagles home games dating back to last November and teams have combined for only 31.89 points per game in those contests.
Those UNDER trends are pretty damn convincing, but I’m not going to make a play on the game total. Instead, I’m going to take what I believe to be the far better team that also happens to have the far better coach and quarterback. The Cowboys have been a mess under Garrett on short weeks and the Eagles are well rested and should be plenty motivated to get back on track at home. I’m not thrilled about the lopsided money backing the Eagles, but it won’t deter me from rolling with the home team.
Eagles 27, Dallas 16
Redskins at Buccaneers (-3)
The Redskins will play this game down at least three starters along their offensive line, and perhaps four with the status of tackle Morgan Moses still up in the air as of Friday afternoon. The point-spread bet volume is nearly split, but 78% of the money backs Tampa Bay. Typically, this would indicate sharp bettors are backing the home team in this one. The Bucs have lost five of their last six, but have put up a good fight in several of those contests and are better than their 3-5 record indicates. Can Alex Smith and his decimated offensive line keep up on the road with a Bucs team that’s scoring 28.6 points per game? History says no. Smith has struggled historically to keep up with high octane offenses, going 5-8-1 ATS in his career when facing teams scoring 28 points per game or more. I think Tampa Bay is due for a win, and I’m going with them here.
Buccaneers 31, Redskins 26
Saints at Bengals (+5.5)
The Saints are darlings of the NFL at 7-1 and coming off their big win over the previously undefeated Rams a week ago. The Bengals, meanwhile, enter this contest at 5-3 and looking to keep pace with the surging Steelers in the AFC North race. The Saints have won five-straight games and have covered the spread in each of those contests, but there has to be a let down at some point…right? Drew Brees broke the all-time passing yards record against the Redskins on Monday night football, which was followed by a dramatic, last-second road win over the Ravens. Then there was the revenge game win over the Vikings, and, finally, their conquest of the Rams. Now they have to go on the road against a decent Bengals team for an out of conference game. Keep in mind they also have a date at home against the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles next week. If there was ever a spot for the Saints to fall asleep at the wheel, it’s this one, and there’s a trend to back up my theory. Road favorites playing out of conference the week after beating an undefeated opponent are 12-19-2 ATS since 2003.
The public is backing the Saints with 69% of bets and 61% of the money rolling in on New Orleans, and I like the idea of going against the public in what is as of early Sunday morning the second-most heavily bet game of the week. While I’m not going to pick Andy Dalton to beat Brees outright, I’ll grab the 5.5 points and hold my breath. And drink. Drink a lot.
Saints 27, Bengals 23
Off the record
Don’t count it against me if these teams fail to cover, but absolutely give me credit if they do:
Lions, Colts, Browns, Seahawks, Giants