The battle for NFC East supremacy is on! Okay, the division is awful, but the football betting world will be watching intently when the Philadelphia Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys.
Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to October 13 inclusive:
1-1 ML (+0.71 units)
Bless this mess. There are no winning teams in the NFC East after Week 6, but we do have two of the most valuable teams in the NFL betting world going at it in Week 7. The Dallas Cowboys are 3-3 SU and 5-1 ATS, while the Philadelphia Eagles (3-3 SU and ATS) have the right mix of great offense and lousy defense to drive the OVER to 5-1. Can’t complain about that.
Now we just have to figure out the NFL odds for this matchup. The very first online sportsbooks on the scene had Sunday’s matchup (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX) as a pick ‘em, but that lasted for about three minutes before coming off the board and reappearing as Philadelphia –2.5. Our very early NFL betting consensus reports show Dallas getting about 60 percent support at that price. And deservedly so.
Whether or not you believe that home-field advantage is worth 2.5 or three points, our NFL point spread for this matchup suggests that the marketplace views the 3-3 Eagles as being rougly equal in value to the 3-3 Cowboys. But that’s ridiculous at first blush. Dallas has clearly been performing at a higher level; according to the efficiency stats at Football Outsiders, the Cowboys ranked No. 12 overall (No. 7 offense, No. 23 defense, No. 17 special teams) going into Week 6, while the Eagles ranked No. 21 overall (No. 5 offense, No. 29 defense, No. 29 special teams).
The events of this past Sunday shouldn’t change things all that much. The Cowboys are coming off a 31-16 victory over Washington (+5.5 away), while the Eagles took advantage of the sinking Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2.5 at home) in a 31-20 final. So what would compel people to back Philly with their sports picks in this situation?
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It’s the Injuries
Oh, yeah. Dallas took it on the chin twice last week; RB DeMarco Murray (4.7 yards per carry, 24 catches) sprained his knee against Washington and is expected to miss at least one game, perhaps two. And LB DeMarcus Ware (four sacks and an INT) is looking at 3-4 weeks after straining, perhaps even tearing, his right quad muscle.
Yikes. Losing Ware after already losing Anthony Spencer (knee) for the season could be devastating for the Dallas pass rush – such as it is. The Cowboys ranked No. 24 in pass defense efficiency after Week 5, compared to No. 7 against the run. Still, not a good development with the Eagles and their blur offense lying in wait.
We’ve never seen Ware miss a game before, so we’re already in uncharted waters with this matchup. Murray, on the other hand, has been so fragile that the Cowboys should make his uniform out of bubble wrap. He missed six games in 2012, during which Dallas went 3-3 SU and 2-4 ATS. His back-up last year, Felix Jones (now with the Pittsburgh Steelers), was also playing hurt and was only good for 3.6 yards per carry.
Aside from the yardage, Murray is also very capable as a blocking back, which is something QB Tony Romo missed desperately last year. The Dallas offensive line is much better in 2013, so Murray’s absence might not be so deadly this time. It looks like it’ll be up to rookie RB Joseph Randle, a fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma State who led the Big 12 in rushing last year (1,417 yards, 5.2 yards per carry) and earned positive grades for his pass protection.
Things could we worse for Dallas. The Eagles have serious issues on defense, and QB Michael Vick (hamstring) appears to be out for at least another week, meaning Nick Foles will get another start. Foles was fine against Tampa Bay, but how will he do against a team that isn’t torn apart by palace intrigue and a nasty staph infection? We’ll find out on Sunday.NFL Pick: Take the Cowboys +2.5 (+105) at Sportbet