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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 4:00 PM

The NFC East championship and a #4 seed will be on the line Sunday Night when the Dallas Cowboys visit the Washington Redskins in a game that’s been time-changed for national TV coverage on NBC. Amidst all the “who needs what” stuff Sunday for playoff seeding and qualification, this is as simple as it gets.

WIN AND YOU’RE IN!

If Dallas loses, they have no shot at the postseason with what would be an 8-8 record. Should Washington lose, they could still win a Wildcard spot if both Chicago and Minnesota lose their games to Detroit and Green Bay respectively. Of course, because this is the last game played Sunday, Washington will know whether or not they have insurance. That being said, you’d rather be a #4 seed playing at home rather than a #6 seed playing on the road…even if the “reward” for a #4 seed is hosting red hot Seattle.

With that backdrop, let’s run through the key indicator stats in this game that all sports bettors will be actively involved in. A great game…on national TV…and the regular season finale for 2012!

DALLAS COWBOYS at WASHINGTON REDSKINS (8:25 p.m. on NBC)

Las Vegas Spread: Washington by 3, total of 48.5

Through the course of the week, the line has hopped between Washington -3 and Washington -3.5. Sharps aren’t yet confident that a rookie quarterback and a questionable defense can win comfortably in a high pressure game. They’ve been taking the dog with the hook. Those who think Washington and RGIII are for real are fine laying the field goal. Likely to be the storyline up until kickoff. Remember that home field advantage by itself is worth three points in the NFL. The market is showing us the debate about whether or not these are even teams on a neutral field.

WON-LOST RECORDS (schedule strength according to USA Today)

Dallas: 8-7 (9th ranked schedule)

Washington: 9-6 (14th ranked schedule)

You can see why there’s some debate. Dallas is only one game behind in the standings, and they’ve played the tougher schedule. If they had flopped schedules, would they have flopped records? Many will point out that Washington has played the extra road game so far…and that extra road game was the Thanksgiving Day victory in Dallas over the Cowboys.

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL

Dallas: -10

Washington: +14

Huge difference here. And, one that’s a bit of a surprise because you would expect the team with the rookie quarterback to be minus, and the team with the veteran quarterback to be plus. The fact that Washington is so far in the positive range is a GREAT sign for RGIII’s future. Though, some of that is due to the fact that coach Mike Shanahan is running a very conservative offense for his rookie signal caller. Tony Romo has an aggressively gambling mentality that tends to blow up in his face at the worst possible times. Handicappers who believe turnovers are random will like Dallas because of the due theory. Those who believe turnovers reflect talent and mindset will be looking at the host at a very cheap line.

OFFENSIVE STATS

Dallas: 379.9 yards-per-game on 5.8 yards-per-play

Washington: 384.7 yards-per-game on 6.2 yards-per-play

Washington grades out as the better offense, though strength of schedule will put those teams virtually in a lockstep. Anything around six yards-per-play is strong in the NFL this year. It’s a real credit to Washington that they’ve been able to produce at that level while also winning the turnover category. They may end up missing the playoffs with a bad game here. Even so, the team played way above preseason expectations in the standings and on offense. You must mentally adjust the Cowboys numbers down a bit because those yards come with a high risk of turnovers.

DEFENSIVE STATS

Dallas: 355.1 yards-per-game on 5.8 yards-per-play

Washington: 383.3 yards-per-game on 5.9 yards-per-play

Dallas gets the nod here, as most defenses do when being compared to Washington. The Redskins have struggled badly this season on this side of the ball. Dallas has been a big disappointment considering they had a Ryan on the sidelines. It’s hard to see either team shining in the playoffs given those numbers. Do you trust tonight’s winning defense next week against the Seattle juggernaut? Whoever you pick Sunday Night, you’ll likely be sweating your defense if the game goes down to the wire.

MOST RECENT BOXES

NEW ORLEANS 34, DALLAS 31 (in overtime)

Total Yardage: New Orleans 562, Dallas 446

Rushing Yards: New Orleans 116, Dallas 40

Passing Stats: New Orleans 37-53-0-446, Dallas 26-43-0-406

Turnovers: New Orleans 0, Dallas 1

Third Downs: New Orleans 58%, Dallas 20%

Vegas Line: Dallas by 3, total of 52

Speaking of sweating a defense! New Orleans rolled up well over 500 yards last week thanks to extra time. The Cowboys defense didn’t manage to force a single turnover either. Yes, Drew Brees can be a handful to deal with. Dallas couldn’t do anything to slow him down. Maybe they were saving their best effort for the “must-win” game in Washington. The Cowboys offense showed an extreme lack of balance, which is at the heart of their turnover worries. If you can’t run the ball, all that’s left is the high risk/high reward approach. New Orleans isn’t a playoff team. Based on that boxscore, Dallas isn’t a playoff team either.

WASHINGTON 27, PHILADELPHIA 20

Total Yardage: Washington 313, Philadelphia 411

Rushing Yards: Washington 128, Philadelphia 90

Passing Stats: Washington 16-24-1-185, Philadelphia 32-48-1-321

Turnovers: Washington 1, Philadelphia 2

Third Downs: Washington 50%, Philadelphia 33%

Vegas Line: Washington by 6.5, total of 45

The Redskins weren’t very impressive considering what was at stake against a lame duck opponent. It took awhile for Washington to get things rolling. Even when they did, they allowed too many yards to the shaky Eagles offense. Philadelphia had a chance to tie late but couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone. It’s telling, though that Washington won rushing yardage and third downs in a way that Dallas couldn’t. This Redskins offense has been fundamentally clean down the stretch.

 

BEST EXPECTATION

The indicator stats have painted the picture very accurately. Washington will be balanced, conservative, and smart as they ask their young phenom to recognize openings and make plays. Dallas will be aggressive, reckless, and will hope they can avoid turnovers with a gambling approach that MUST play clean to have any chance to win. Dallas can win this. Romo’s won big games before. They probably can’t win while committing turnovers.

JIM HURLEY has been studying this game closely, along with the other Sunday matchups that mean a lot in the playoff chase. You can purchase the final word on top plays right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call our office at 1-800-323-4453. Sign up for the rest of football through the Super Bowl, and use today’s winnings to pay for your package!

Back with you tomorrow to preview Monday’s New Year’s Eve GRAND SLAM:

Music City Bowl: NC State vs. Vanderbilt

Sun Bowl: USC vs. Georgia Tech

Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. Tulsa

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: LSU vs. Clemson

Then, late Monday we’ll post the NOTEBOOK previews for the annual January 1st bowl bonanza:

Ticket City Bowl: Purdue vs. Oklahoma State

Gator Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Northwestern

Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Michigan

Capital One Bowl: Georgia vs. Nebraska

Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Stanford

Orange Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Florida State

Stunners…shockers…blowouts… and GAMES OF THE YEAR are coming up in a matter of hours! You’re going to be parked in front of the TV, just like every year. Watch and win with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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