Monday Night Football: Is TO the best bet?

Dallas wideout Terrell Owens has been running his mouth all week in advance of the Cowboys hosting the Eagles tonight. Will Eagles QB Donovan McNabb now have the last laugh as the underdog?

The last two times the Philadelphia Eagles visited Texas Stadium, they beat the betting odds and came out as winners. So who does the public like this year?

The Dallas Cowboys, of course. They’re 7-point favorites for their Monday Night Football matchup, with a total of 46½ points.

The betting polls earlier in the week had about two-thirds of the action coming in on the Eagles, fresh off their 38-3 dismantling of the St. Louis Rams (+9½) in their season opener. But the action started to shift toward Dallas on Friday – the end of the conventional workweek, when the public traditionally starts jumping in. And you won’t find many teams more public than the Dallas Cowboys. They’re the new Super Bowl favorites following the Tom Brady injury, moving from 6-1 to 7-2. The Eagles are priced at a more modest 18-1, up from a bargain-basement 45-1 at the open.

The public’s fascination with this matchup revolves around Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens, and how many touchdowns he will catch against his former employers. Owens and the Eagles left on bad terms after the 2005 season; in four games against Philadelphia since, Owens has only had one monster performance, catching 10 passes for 174 yards with a TD in Week 9 of the 2007 campaign. That’s also the only game of the four Dallas managed to win.

While Owens gets praise (and deservedly so) for elevating his career in Dallas, Donovan McNabb has thrown 40 TDs and just 13 picks since the less than amicable split with Owens. Health is still a concern for the 10-year veteran, who made 14 starts last year after watching Jeff Garcia lead the 2006 Eagles into the playoffs. But McNabb is healthy for now.

McNabb is also proving how replaceable a wide receiver can be. Despite losing Reggie Brown (hamstring) and Kevin Curtis (hernia), the Eagles racked up 414 passing yards against the woeful Rams. DeSean Jackson, Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett each went over 100 yards catching on the day. The Cowboys will be a tougher assignment, although there is a chance Brown will be available for Monday night. He was officially listed as questionable after seeing limited practice on Friday.

Pass defense was one of the few so-so spots for the Cowboys last year, which prompted the Adam Jones trade. He was useful in the season-opening 28-10 win over the Cleveland Browns (+6). That game, however, was more a showcase for the Dallas offense, which blew out the Browns for 487 yards. Owens had five catches for 87 yards and a TD. It’s highly unlikely Philadelphia will be as generous.

The Eagles defense has kept this team competitive for most of the past decade under coach Andy Reid and co-ordinator Jim Johnson. Philadelphia had 342 sacks between 2000 and 2007, more than any other team in the league. This year’s pass defense welcomes Asante Samuel, the free-agent cornerback and two-time champion with the Patriots who is also coming off a Pro Bowl campaign. Samuel joins Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown at cornerback for the Eagles. That should be enough to contain Owens while getting into Tony Romo’s grill all night long – Philly sacked him four times in their last meeting.

The Cowboys were available at -6½ at some books early Monday. The total was also slumming around as low as 46 points, after opening at 48. The under cashed in for both Philadelphia and Dallas in Week 1. Kickoff for this contest is at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPN.