Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (Fox)
Free Majority Pick: Cowboys -2.5 Opening Line
Best Line Offered: BetOnline
This one will be all about which team wins the ground battle. In starting 0-2, Seattle rushed for a combined 138 yards. The Seahawks turned their season around with a Week 3 24-13 win over visiting Dallas. Seattle has rushed for at least 154 yards on the ground in all but two games since that 0-2 start. Yet despite the focus on the run, Russell Wilson set a career high with 35 touchdown passes. I do give the edge to Seattle at quarterback with Wilson over Dak Prescott, but just about everywhere else to the Cowboys.
Dallas had just one home loss this season, Prescott comes off his best game of the year and Ezekiel Elliott will be well-rested after getting Week 17 off. He still managed to win the rushing title and the Cowboys are 6-1 this year when he rushed for at least 100 yards — that loss was in Seattle largely due to two Prescott interceptions. Keep in mind that the Cowboys hadn’t yet gotten Prescott Amari Cooper back then. The Seahawks are 2-4 in road playoff games under Pete Carroll. The team also finished 2-4 against the rest of the 2018 playoff field this year, including 0-2 on the road. Cowboys are 6-1 ATS in their past seven vs. the NFC and we simply like them here because they are at home.
The Seahawks come into this game winning six of their last seven but their 27-24 win over Arizona should be cause for concern as they never even whiffed a cover as 14-point home favorites over the listless Cardinals. More to the point, it wasn’t until the final play of the game when Sebastian Janikowski drilled a 33-yard field goal to seal the deal for Seattle to cop the No. 5 seed in the NFC which got their postseason ticket punched for a date in Dallas. The Cowboys didn’t have to win their final game of the season against the Giants and head coach Jason Garrett rested two of his top offensive linemen and didn’t even allow superstar tailback Ezekiel Elliott to dress for the game. Nevertheless, Dak Prescott was not taking anything for granted and fired four touchdowns en route to a 36-35 win over an inspired Giants’ team.
As these teams head for a collision course in Dallas this Saturday it should be noted that not only will Elliott be fresh as a daisy after sitting out Week 17 but the Cowboys also got back wide receiver Tavon Austin after being sidelined with a groin injury for most of the season. It’s all good news for Dallas as they delivered an inspired win against a plucky Giants team and will see Prescott buoyed by a phenomenal game coupled with a major weapon in Elliott that will be champing at the bit to run the rock and avenge a 24-13 loss to Seattle early in the season. Seattle is 1-4 ATS in their last five games in January and 1-5 ATS in their last six playoff games while Dallas clocks in with a 7-0 ATS mark in their last seven contests after allowing more than 250 yards passing in their previous game and is 6-1 ATS in their last seven after scoring more than 30 points in the game prior. Home field advantage, a herculean performance by Prescott and a well-rested Elliott all adds up to a big win and cover over what was a lethargic Week 17 effort by the Seahawks.
My initial thought was to take Seattle when it looked like this was going to be the 4 vs. 5 matchup in the NFC. Upon further review, I have changed course. As compared to other Dallas teams of the past that have made the playoffs, this defense is better and stronger at all three levels. Granted, they have had a couple of off games in recent weeks, but there was nothing on the line, not like there will be this time. While Seattle had a remarkably good season and based on preseason thoughts they were not considered a playoff team, the Seahawks have turned into more of an offensive team more than a defensive crew of prior years, ranked 16th in total defense.
This is where Dallas will have the edge, being able to limit Seattle at various points of the game. This is also where Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott expose the Seahawks. The Boys are 6-0 ATS versus teams allowing 350 or more yards a game this season. Seattle did have the No. 1 running offense, but Dallas was No.5 in stopping the rush and being at home, that will add to their intensity. This will be tight, but the Cowboys will prevail.
Dallas Coach Jason Garrett knows that heavy doses of Ezekiel Elliott translates to Wins, especially when the former Ohio State star eclipses the 150-yard mark, so expect America’s Team’s to employ that battering ram strategy against a team that likes to run the ball as much as they do. With Amari Cooper in the fold, Dak has one more toy to play with and the Site and expectations from Uncle Jerry actually carry much handicapping weight in this particular spot: If anyone is going to get the breaks, bounces and calls, it will be the Cowboys, whose fans, like the Bears, will be expecting impending doom in Big D despite the smiles on their faces.
Seattle’s played much better at Home (6-2 SU) than on the Road (4-4) this year while the Cowgirls have only lost once at AT&T Stadium (Matrix RealGrass AT), to the Titans in Week 7. Points should come at a premium and expect the Dallas Offensive Line to rise to the occasion and for this Blake Jarwin dude (TE, 3 TDs on Sunday), Michael Gallup and the tough-as-nails Cole Beasley to provide points. Another potentially low-scoring game with Dallas deserving to play one more round.
These teams met in Week 3, with Seattle winning at home 24-13, covering as one-point favorite. A lot has changed since then. Dallas has acquired receiver Amari Cooper. In Prescott’s first two months without Cooper, his passer rating and yardage total were significantly lower than in November and December with Cooper. Seattle’s defense is injury-ridden. It misses safety Earl Thomas, for example, who had two picks in Week 3. Its pass defense ranks 15th overall and 28th against number-one receivers, meaning that Cooper should have a big day. Even more importantly, Seattle ranks dead-last in opposing YPC. Dallas runs with the fifth-highest frequency, led by Zeke Elliot’s 5.1 YPC. Dallas will run and pass all over the Seahawks, especially at home, where it averages 25 points per game and Seattle’s legendary 12th man is absent.
On the flip side, Dallas has the second-best run defense in terms of YPC. Help has come from linebacker Sean Lee, who is healthy and played in Week 17, although the Cowboys developed depth at the position. Dallas therefore matches up well with Seattle’s offense, that ranks first in run-play frequency.