Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 3, 2015 at 7:00 PM
This year’s bye teams in the NFC are very well positioned for Super Bowl runs. Both the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers are healthy, playing great, and will now enjoy the benefit of a bye week and home field advantage. The best chance for a conference spoiler will come from the winner of Sunday afternoon’s Detroit Lions/Dallas Cowboys Wildcard showdown. Both are potential Cinderella’s.
*Dallas because of its explosive offense and new attitude
*Denver because of its dangerous defense and new, cleaner offense
Both teams look, for now at least, to have fixed what had ailed them. The Cowboys finished 12-4, and own a ROAD victory over top seed Seattle. Detroit had a shot at 12-4 themselves, and stopped turning the ball over willy-nilly after a coaching change brought in Jim Caldwell’s much more conservative approach.
Let’s see if JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats shed any more light on those storylines, and hint at a potential storybook hero in the NFC brackets…
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Detroit: 11-5 (#23 schedule in USA Today)
Dallas: 12-4 (#31 schedule in USA Today)
The first strike against both is that they padded their records against soft schedules. Yes, Dallas at its PEAK is capable of beating Seattle (still reeling at the time from a Super Bowl hangover). But, much of what they accomplished came against the second softest schedule in pro football. Dallas would be 11-5 or 10-6 in a tougher division most likely. Detroit also played a below average schedule in terms of toughness. Once you adjust for Jeff Sagarin’s schedule data in USA Today, these teams look about even in the standings.
Detroit: 5.2 on offense, 4.9 on defense
Dallas: 6.1 on offense, 5.8 on defense
And, they’re even in yards-per-play differential as well. Both were only +0.3 per play despite playing subpar schedules. Yes, some of that for Dallas is because Tony Romo missed action. But, a 5.8 defense isn’t playoff caliber. Detroit does have a playoff caliber defense, possibly a championship caliber defense even after you adjust for schedule. To this point, we’re not seeing why Dallas is such a big favorite.
And, we’re still not! This confirms the early storyline. Detroit stopped making dumb turnovers because they stopped running a high-risk approach that invited disaster. Tony Romo and Dallas cleaned up their offense as well, thanks to a ground game that lessens the pressure on Romo to do everything himself. This is why the teams outperformed their yards-per-play projections.
This, perhaps, is part of why Dallas is getting more respect in the line this week. The market has been chasing them this season…and still hasn’t caught up. Normally the Cowboys have high hurdles to clear because they’re a “public” team. Those hurdles weren’t high enough once the team stopped giving the ball away and started moving the chains consistently. Detroit struggled to play to expectations because “conservative” makes it harder to cover as favorites in grinders.
A look at the Over/Under marks helps provide context for the team’s styles. Detroit was 5-11 to the Under this season because of their new approach. Dallas was 9-6-1 to the Over because the offense was productive while the defense was vulnerable. This suggests that whoever will be able to enforce their preferred style on the game will have an advantage Sunday.
Current Line: Dallas by 7, total of 48
Some stores are showing Dallas by 6.5 rather than 7. You should be able to get your preferred side at the right number if you shop around. The stats we’ve looked at really don’t justify the full seven, and may not justify 6.5 either. The market looks to have added in some air in anticipation of public betting on the high profile favorite in the most marquee matchup of the weekend. Of course, if Dallas plays to peak form…this is a number they won’t have to sweat. Dallas at its best wins by at least 10. Detroit will have to keep them from playing at their best.
JIM HURLEY has been crunching all the numbers and reading all his reports to make sure he has the WINNERS Sunday in this game and Cincinnati/Indianapolis for his clients. You can purchase the final word for Sunday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office Sunday morning at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about combination packages that include the rest of football (including Oregon/Ohio State in the college championship game) and January basketball (with conference action catching fire this week).
Our next NFL preview will run Thursday, when we begin four straight days of Divisional Round coverage. Between now and then, some college basketball blockbusters matching ranked teams.
Monday: College Hoops Preview…Notre Dame at North Carolina
Tuesday: College Hoops Preview…Villanova at St. John’s
Wednesday: College Hoops Preview…Kansas at Baylor
Thursday-Sunday: NFL Divisional Round Previews
Either Detroit or Dallas could be destiny’s darling. Find your destiny as a winning Las Vegas sports bettor by linking up with the all-time greatest winner in the industry. BIG JUICY WINNERS are always just a few clicks away at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!
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