Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 1:00 PM
The Dallas Cowboys hadn’t planned on playing spoiler in the 2015 season. They began the year expecting to compete very seriously for the NFC East title. A strong start had them as a legitimate favorite after a road win at Philadelphia. But…that’s the game where Tony Romo was lost to an injury. The Cowboys STILL haven’t won a game not started by Romo…and now he’s officially out for the season because of a cracked collarbone.
The Washington Redskins think that’s GREAT news, because they still get to face Dallas TWICE as they try to finish atop the weak NFC East. Though Washington is just 5-6…that’s good enough for first place right now because of a tie-breaker advantage over the NY Giants. Washington has the softer schedule the rest of the way…so this Monday Nighter looms very large. Win to reach .500, and the playoffs are within relatively easy reach. Lose…and accept the fact that your franchise still isn’t good enough to matter!
Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats to see what they have to say about this Monday Night matchup you’ll be watching on ESPN…
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Dallas: 3-8 (#18 schedule according to Sagarin)
Washington: 5-6 (#23 schedule according to Sagarin)
Dallas is worse than that without Romo…since he won early and then won in his return at Tampa Bay. Dallas isn’t as helpless as the record makes it seem…but they don’t know how to win without Romo…and that’s happened against a league average schedule. They haven’t yet learned how to finish drives with touchdowns, nor finish games with leads. Washington is below .500 against a soft schedule…and would probably be 4-7 (possibly worse) if they had played a league average slate.
Dallas: 5.3 on offense, 5.5 on defense
Washington: 5.4 on offense, 5.8 on defense
Nothing to be impressed with there…though the Dallas defense probably grades out better than you had been thinking. They just can’t move the ball consistently without Romo…at least in a way that finds the end zone. Maybe that will be easier against the soft Washington defense. Really bad that Washington is -0.4 yards-per-play while facing such a soft schedule. They may make the playoffs, but they won’t do so as a playoff caliber team. The media is starting to hype head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins. YOU need to remember this is basically a 6-10 caliber team catching some breaks.
You can see why Dallas is floundering so badly without Romo. They don’t move the ball per-play, AND they give it away far too often. Also, the defense isn’t particularly adept at forcing miscues. So…there has been defensive improvement up front…but not in terms of meaningful aggressiveness. Washington’s negative is another strike against the Skins. Nothing about Washington suggests they’ll scare anybody in January if they qualify for the NFC brackets.
Dallas: 3-8 ATS
Washington: 5-6 ATS
Both have been overrated by marketplace…with Dallas particularly getting way overpriced with their backup quarterbacks. That’s 8-14 ATS combined without any head-to-head meetings yet. Tricky challenge for oddsmakers first, then bettors. Which BAD team do you want to show respect to?
Current Line: Washington by 4, total of 42
Given that Dallas is among the dregs of the league without Romo, a line of Washington -4 at home means the Redskins are just ONE point better than that on a neutral field! The market doesn’t think much of either of these teams and more…and isn’t giving Washington much of a boost for being in a “must win” spot in the playoff race.
Who you going to take? The bad visitor who may not get much on the scoreboard? Or, the unreliable home favorite who can’t be trusted to get the job done on command?
JIM HURLEY has been studying this game from all angles all week long. His focus is on the matchup of the Dallas offense vs. the vulnerable Washington defense…and the focus of his sources is on the mindset of the Cowboys behind the scenes. If Dallas no-shows this game mentally…then it’s not going to be a ball game. But, if the Cowboys do bring some fire against a hated rival, they can win the game outright.
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No college football on the schedule for awhile. Back with you midweek to talk about that HUGE Vikings/Cardinals game on Thursday Night. Coming up…
Midweek: NFL TV Preview…Minnesota at Arizona
Sunday: NFL TV Preview…New England at Houston
Coming Soon: Marquee Bowl Previews!
The schedule will get a big harried later in the month when marquee bowl attractions join the stretch run of the NFL regular season. Always look for handicapping tips and analysis here in the NOTEBOOK, then hook up with JIM HURLEYS NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!
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