NFL Picks: Bet the Total in Cowboys vs. Eagles

Jason Lake

Thursday, December 11, 2014 1:21 PM GMT

Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 1:21 PM GMT

We’ll have the biggest total on the Week 15 NFL odds board when the Philadelphia Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. It doesn’t look like the weather will slow anyone down, either.

Jason’s record after Week 14: 35-48-1 ATS, 18-22-1 Totals

Stupid history. It tells us not to bet on the Dallas Cowboys in December – then they go and beat the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Not just beat them, but humiliate them 41-28 (OVER 50.5) on a cold Thursday night. Ooooh, don’t talk to us about cold-weather games in December. Stupid history.

All right, we have to talk about it. The Cowboys visit the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday night (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) with first place in the NFC East on the line; the forecast calls for clear skies and temperatures around the freezing point, which is actually good news for OVER bettors. The bad news: Sunday’s NFL odds have the total pegged at 55 points. That’s only a shade down from 56 points when these same two teams met in Big D, where the Eagles prevailed 33-10.

Double Nickels
It’s a toughie. According to our consensus reports at press time, we have 55 percent of bettors taking the UNDER, just as we did at the open. The sharps are no longer auto-betting the OVER right out of the gate – last week’s 6-10 performance might have something to do with it. But traditionally, Week 15 is the time of year to jump on the UNDER bandwagon, such as it is.

The hope for OVER bettors is that Tony Romo (108.8 passer rating) will play much better against the Eagles this week, having the benefit of a few extra days to rest his bad back. Romo wasn’t exactly in full flight against the Bears, but he did deliver three TD passes on a very efficiency 21-of-26 performance. RB DeMarco Murray did most of the heavy lifting with 179 yards rushing on 32 carries.

Mind the Gap
Not bad. But Chicago’s defense had already been reduced to rubble. Look at what the Eagles defense has accomplished while everyone’s been talking about Chip Kelly and the offense: The fresh DVOA stats at Football Outsiders have Philly ranked No. 7 in the league (No. 11 pass, No. 8 rush) in defensive efficiency. However, Pro Football Reference is much more skeptical, giving the Eagles a minus-1.6 DSRS, which is even worse than Dallas (No. 28 in defensive DVOA) at minus-1.5 DSRS.

How do we account for this gap? We can’t necessarily blame the randomness of takeaways or defensive scores – the Philly D leads the NFL with 14 fumble recoveries, while adding four return TDs for good measure. But the Eagles also have just 10 interceptions thus far, which is tied for No. 21 overall. Break it down on a per-drive basis, and that ranking falls to No. 24. Interceptions aren’t as random as fumble recoveries, but they are rare events than can dramatically alter the shape of a game. Philadelphia just hasn’t provided as much drama as other teams.

New York Minute
And yet… two of those 10 NFL picks were against the Cowboys in Week 13. Perhaps the Eagles were indeed fortunate to get Romo on a bad day; Thursday would normally be his first practice day before a game, not the game itself. The buzz coming out of Big D is that Romo will be in much better shape this time. For comparison, as ESPN’s Todd Archer notes, we can look at the 31-28 victory against the New York Giants (OVER 48) in Week 12, after Dallas took the bye in Week 11.

Then again, New York also owns one of the poorer defenses in the league at No. 22 on the DVOA charts and minus-2.5 in DSRS. We do expect Romo to play somewhat better this week, but that 55-point total still leaves plenty of room for improvement without going OVER. We’ll make the boring choice with the UNDER, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.

Free NFL Pick: Take the UNDER at 5Dimes

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