Ezekiel Elliott was telling the truth. This week is a must-win for the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas put itself in a bad spot with a rough loss at home to the Tennessee Titans on Monday night. Instead of being 4-4 and having some real optimism, they’re 3-5. That’s not dead in the NFL, but it is desperate as they head into a Sunday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cowboys didn’t feel that way about this season, even before the Titans game when they sent off a first-round pick for Amari Cooper. Owner Jerry Jones says that was a move for now and the future, but it had clear implications. The Cowboys thought they were still contenders to make the NFC playoffs.
The Cowboys defense has been fine, its running game has been pretty good, but they’re getting nothing out of the passing game. Apparently nobody told Jones the NFL had turned into a passing league when he ignored the receiver and tight end positions in the offseason. According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA per-play metric, they have the 28th-ranked pass offense in the NFL. The only teams worse are the Jets, Browns, Cardinals and Bills, the four teams that are playing first-round rookie quarterbacks. It’s no secret why the Cowboys are in the spot they’re in.
The Cowboys likely need to win this week, and it’s a tough matchup. The Eagles have a little momentum, and they’re coming off a bye against a team that played Monday night (the NFL did Dallas no favors with the schedule in that way). The Eagles have urgency, too, because at 4-4 they need to get on a roll themselves.
I think you’ll get the Cowboys’ best effort this week. This is a game they need. I’m not sure they can pull off the upset, but despite how bad they looked on Monday night and how mediocre they’ve been on the road all season, I’ll take Dallas as 7-point underdogs. If the Cowboys lay an egg here, that means their season is practically over. And they don’t even have their first-round pick to look forward to.
Here are the the against-the-spread picks for Week 10:
Falcons (-4) over Browns: The Browns always look enticing, don’t they? They’ve failed to cover the spread in three of their last four games, according to OddsShark, and haven’t been particularly close to covering in any of them. Despite the talent we know they have, it’s a bad team and it’s hard to see it getting a lot better this season. (The spread is Falcons -4.5 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Jaguars (+3) over Colts: I can’t quit the Jaguars. Talk about a team in a now-or-never spot. There’s too much talent for them to basically get themselves eliminated in Week 10. (The spread is Jaguars +2.5 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Jets (-6.5) over Bills: Sam Darnold is going to be fine and he should absolutely have been playing since Week 1 for the Jets, but I can’t be the only one who thinks the Jets are better in the short term with Josh McCown playing quarterback due to Darnold’s foot injury. (The spread is Jets -8.5 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Buccaneers (-3) over Redskins: Washington is a solid team, but if you’re picking them you’re basically taking a team without an offensive line. Injuries have hit the Redskins hard. (The spread is Buccaneers -2.5 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Seahawks (+9.5) over Rams: I assume this will be a popular play. The Seahawks came very close to beating the Rams in their first meeting. Seattle has always been a different team on the road, but they weren’t overmatched by the Rams or intimidated by them. I’ll take it a step further and say if we’re going to get one big upset Sunday, this might be it. (The spread is Seahawks +11 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
And here are the rest of the picks …
Panthers (+4) over Steelers (picked Thursday): I thought we’d get a good Thursday game, but nope. The Steelers are playing really well. That’s a good Panthers team they demolished.
Lions (+7) over Bears: We all know that in the NFL, many teams look bad one week and fine the next. It’s fairly rare to be terrible each week, or great every week either. The Lions are a fine example. We’ve seen them play poorly, then good, then poorly again. I think this is too many points against a Bears offense that is similarly up and down.
Bengals (+5) over Saints: It’s tough to pick the Bengals without A.J. Green, but this is a tricky spot for the Saints. They’re flying high after wins against the Vikings and Rams. Next week is a big game against the defending champion Eagles and then after that comes a date against their rivals, the Falcons. This is the letdown spot in the schedule. We’ll see if they can overcome it.
Patriots (-7) over Titans: I’d rather not take road favorites, but the Patriots are never a bad bet. Some numbers from OddsShark: The Patriots are 14-5 against the spread in their last 19 road games (16-3 straight up), they’re averaging 35.5 points over their last six games, and in their last nine games before their bye they’re 9-0 with an average scoring margin of 22.3. You can find many reasons to talk yourself into the Titans, but you’ll be right more times than not blindly picking the Patriots every week.
Cardinals (+17) over Chiefs: This is a weird week in the NFL. Eight of the 14 games have a spread of a touchdown or more. There are four double-digit spreads. If all those spreads were 28 or more, it would feel like a college football week. And the problem with large spreads in the NFL is you’re asking a favorite to cover a lot of points against a bunch of professionals, or you’re taking what is almost certainly an ugly underdog.
Chargers (-11) over Raiders: I wouldn’t touch this game normally, but we pick every one here. I just can’t pick a Raiders team that looked like it quit against the 49ers.
Dolphins (+10.5) over Packers: I just haven’t seen enough from the Packers to lay double digits against anyone.
Giants (+3) over 49ers: This pick is based on my belief that Nick Mullens caught a phenomenal matchup for his NFL debut, against a horrendous Raiders defense that gave zero effort. Not that the Giants aren’t also capable of rolling over, but I need to see Mullens do it again.
Last week: 8-5
Season to date: 69-60-6
SuperContest: 4-1 last week, 21-22-2
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