NFL Betting Preview For Sunday Night: Cowboys vs. Eagles

Jason Lake

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 12:22 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014 12:22 PM UTC

Two weeks ago, we saw the Philadelphia Eagles tear up the Dallas Cowboys in Big D. Now the NFL odds have opened the Eagles as small home favorites for Sunday night’s rematch. What’s going on here?

Jason’s record after Week 13: 34-46-1 ATS, 17-20-1 Totals

There’s something to be said for having a short memory. But its usefulness is limited when you’re making your NFL picks. For example, this Sunday night (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC), the Philadelphia Eagles are hosting the Dallas Cowboys, with first place in the NFC East up for grabs. What can we expect to see happen? Maybe something like what happened when they met two weeks ago in Dallas, where the Eagles easily won 33-10 as 3-point road dogs.

Or do we throw that result out the window and start from scratch? That’s the long view behind the Week 15 NFL odds, where Philadelphia has opened as a 3-point home favorite; that means the betting market still values these two teams about equally on neutral ground. Even our consensus reports show a close split among bettors, with Dallas slightly ahead at 53 percent. So is it truly a coin flip?

Playhouse 80
Firstly, we need to acknowledge that the Eagles actually had their limited NFL odds opening at –3 (–120), and are priced at –3.5 as we go to press. That’s the most important half-point there is when you’re considering your football picks for the week. But we’re still looking at two closely-valued teams in the marketplace. Which makes some sense, given that the Eagles (9-4 SU, 8-5 ATS) and the Cowboys (9-4 SU, 7-6 ATS) have virtually identical records.

This is where the comparison starts to fall apart. Even if you gloss over what happened specifically in Week 12, Philadelphia has played demonstrably better football than Dallas this season. You don’t even need advanced stats to tell you this – the Eagles have outscored their opponents by a combined 80 points, while Dallas has a point differential of plus-42.

Medium D
But of course we’re going to hit you with some advanced stats anyway. Including last week’s games, Football Reference has the Eagles pegged at plus-4.9 on the Simple Rating System, well ahead of the Cowboys at plus-0.6 SRS. That suggests Philadelphia “should” be favored by about seven points at home, if you ignored market conditions and recent performance and other things you’d better not ignore.

We’ll soon see what the Week 14 DVOA charts at Football Outsiders have to say, but through Week 13, the Eagles were ranked No. 7 overall (No. 15 offense, No. 8 defense, No. 1 special teams). The Cowboys were No. 15 (No. 8 offense, No. 24 defense, No. 13 special teams), which is reasonably congruent with what the Simple Rating System has to say. They’re saying Dallas is an average team.

Working Big Blue
That’s a damning statement for a club that’s already guaranteed it won’t finish 8-8 for the fourth year in a row. But one of the reasons the Cowboys are competing for at least a Wild Card is their strength of schedule thus far. Football Reference gives it a minus-2.6, which is to say, the Cowboys played a collection of teams that were 2.6 points worse than average. They got to play the NFC South this year, plus two games against the New York Giants, and once so far against Washington.

The Eagles have enjoyed the same luxury, of course; their strength of schedule rates at minus-1.2, since they still have games against New York and Washington after this. Also, Philadelphia had to play the Green Bay Packers, while Dallas got to play the Chicago Bears instead – and beat them up pretty good last week, 41-28 as a 4-point road fave. So much for the Cowboys choking in December, huh? Which brings us back to our original point: Do we focus on the results of Week 12, or do we not? We’ll let you know when we bring you our NFL picks on the spread and total.

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