Before Wednesday, the Dallas Cowboys seemed like a safe pick in what amounts to an NFC East championship game on Sunday afternoon.
It has been a long time since the Philadelphia Eagles looked like a playoff-worthy team. Since their bye, they have lost to the Patriots (not too bad), lost to the Seahawks (fine, though scoring 19 total points in those two home losses was troubling), lost to the Dolphins (oh no), needed overtime to beat the Giants at home (ugh) and barely beat the Redskins (yuck). That’s five straight unimpressive performances. The Eagles are not good.
The Cowboys aren’t good either — this is the 2019 NFC East after all — but they at least have been slightly better than the Eagles. Then quarterback Dak Prescott’s injury was announced on Wednesday.
When you’re facing a game with your playoff future on the line, you don’t want to see headlines like “Prescott having trouble functioning,” “Prescott may not throw until Saturday” or “Cooper Rush takes first-team reps in practice.”
Prescott says he’ll be fine by Sunday but that seems tremendously hard to know for sure. If you’re picking the Cowboys, you might be taking a team with a quarterback who is throwing at far less than 100 percent. If you’re taking the Eagles, you’re taking a team whose biggest highlight over the last five weeks is barely beating the Giants and Redskins.
I’ll tenuously trust Prescott and take the Cowboys as a 1.5-point favorite. If Prescott is anywhere close to 100 percent, I trust the Cowboys way more than the Eagles. And if the Eagles can’t even slow down Dwayne Haskins, maybe they can’t slow down Rush or a significantly impacted Prescott either.
Here are the rest of the against-the-spread picks in Week 16, with lines from BetMGM:
Texans (-3) over Buccaneers: Saturday games! Tampa Bay has been solid lately. They’re 3-0-1 against the spread the last four weeks. But being without Mike Evans and Chris Godwin makes for a tough challenge. Houston can clinch the AFC South with a win, and I think that’ll happen.
Bills (+6.5) over Patriots: I assume there will be a lot of Bills money, with all the skepticism about the Patriots offense and the Bills coming off a high-profile Sunday night win. It feels this game will be close.
49ers (-6.5) over Rams: The Rams just aren’t good. The 49ers are the clearly superior team, woken up with an upset loss last week and they need to win to stay in the mix for a No. 1 seed. Easy pick.
Broncos (-7) over Lions: The Lions are really bad, and I don’t see them being more motivated to play well. Matt Patricia is already apparently guaranteed to come back next season, for some reason, so no reason for the Lions to have a surprisingly good performance here.
Raiders (+6.5) over Chargers: It’s possible the Raiders mail it in — last week was a crushing loss, blowing their final game in Oakland — but I also don’t trust the Chargers.
Jaguars (+7.5) over Falcons: Same concept as above: I don’t like the underdog much, but how can you take the Falcons laying this many points?
Saints (-2.5) over Titans: New Orleans had a really impressive win on Monday. It looked like maybe the Saints are starting to peak for the postseason. The Saints have also been good on the road, so I don’t think the Titans will sneak up on them.
Redskins (-2) over Giants: How do you handicap a game in which both teams should be trying their best to lose?
Steelers (-3) over Jets: The Steelers didn’t look good on Sunday night, but this is still Mike Tomlin vs. Adam Gase.
Dolphins (pick ’em) over Bengals: Strangely, I could actually see this game being entertaining.
Colts (-7) over Panthers: The Colts are putting off the vibe that they’re going to take the final two games seriously. The Panthers seem ready for the offseason, and doubt rookie quarterback Will Grier turns that around.
Ravens (-10) over Browns: I can’t imagine you’ll feel good if you’re holding a Browns ticket on Sunday. They are an absolute mess.
Cardinals (+9.5) over Seahawks: The Seahawks have a great record, but they don’t blow anyone out. Somehow they’re 10-1 in one-score games. That will regress, and perhaps before the end of this season.
Bears (+6) over Chiefs: If a team out of the playoff race is going to get up for a game, it might be for a Sunday night home game against a marquee opponent.
Packers (+5.5) over Vikings: Normally, I’d take the Vikings. The Packers understand that all they need to do to win the NFC North is beat the horrendous Lions in Week 17. But Dalvin Cook’s injury can’t be underestimated here. That evens things out a bit.
Last week: 7-9
Season to date: 104-117-3
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