Saints-Cowboys TNF Betting Preview: Is This Spread Too High?

Saints-Cowboys TNF Betting Preview: Is This Spread Too High? article feature image

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara

Betting odds: New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys

  • Spread: Saints -7.5
  • Over/Under: 52.5
  • Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime

>> All odds as of Wednesday evening. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets

Betting market: At the time of writing this game has the classic 70/30 betting split, with the majority on the Saints (see live data here).

Though the public is all over red hot New Orleans, sharp bettors have been eating up the Cowboys plus the hook at home. We've tracked seven bet signals on Dallas at +7.5, but they are still available at +7.5 or +8 at many books.

The over/under, which opened at 54.5, has dropped two points despite just 20% of the bets on the under. —Mark Gallant

Trends to know: This is the first time the Cowboys have been listed as underdogs of seven or more points since Week 5 of the 2015 season (+8 vs. Patriots). And it's the fifth time since 2003 that Dallas has been a home dog of seven or more points. In the previous four games the Cowboys went 0-4 straight up and 2-2 against the spread. — John Ewing

Under Jason Garrett, the Cowboys have struggled as favorites, going 31-45-2 ATS, but have been good to bettors as underdogs: 33-22-1 ATS, per our Bet Labs data.

As dogs of more than a field goal under Garrett the Cowboys are 20-9 ATS. — John Ewing

Home teams on Thursday Night Football have been a great bet over the past few seasons.

They are 30-17-2 ATS (63.8%), covering the spread by 2.8 points per game.

But over that span, home underdogs are just 9-10-1 ATS, while home favorites are 21-7-1 ATS.

The Cowboys opened as a 7.5-point home dog against the streaking Saints. Since 1990, no team over .500 for the season has closed as a touchdown underdog on Thursday Night Football. — Evan Abrams

Biggest mismatch: Cowboys Running Game vs. Saints Run Defense

Do we really believe in the Saints run defense? I don’t. This is the same Saints team that allowed 4.3 yards per rush (26th in the NFL last year). Now they are that much better because of the addition of Demario Davis, a player who lost his job on the Jets?

In reality, the Saints are jumping out to huge leads and teams have to abandon the run. Teams have only run the ball 20.4 times per game against the Saints — the lowest average in the NFL.

Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dallas Cowboys

I think Dallas will stay committed to the run and expose a Saints run defense that is nowhere near as good as their numbers indicate this year. Could they be improved? Yes, but not best-in-the-league good.

It's also worth noting that both teams could be without their starting left tackles on Thursday night. Interestingly enough, those are two of the three tackles in football who have taken at least 300 snaps and not allowed a single sack.

Tyron Smith’s backup is a much more solid run blocker, which is another reason (besides keeping the ball out of Drew Brees’ hands) that the Cowboys should stay committed to the run.

The two biggest matchups to watch when the Cowboys have the ball:

  • Ezekiel Elliott out of the backfield. He has been targeted a ton in recent weeks (has already surpassed his career high in targets) and the Saints rank 28th in the NFL against running backs in the passing game, per Football Outsiders.
  • I also think this could be a huge game for Cole Beasley. With defenses likely shading toward Amari Cooper after seeing tape of the Cowboys the past few weeks, Beasley could have a big day in a very exploitable matchup against slot corner P.J. Williams, who has a 40.1 cover grade (per PFF) — which ranks 186th out of 193 graded cornerbacks in 2018. — Stuckey

Which team is healthier? Saints

The Saints won’t have starting left tackle Terron Armstead (pec) again this week, but stud rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith (toe) wasn’t listed on the final injury report and will suit up Thursday night.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tyron Smith, Dak Prescott

The Cowboys aren’t quite as healthy. Linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring), defensive tackle David Irving (ankle), wide receiver Tavon Austin (groin) and tight end Geoff Swaim (wrist) have already been ruled out.

Left tackle Tyron Smith (neck) will be a game-time decision, and the likes of right guard Zack Martin (knee), left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo (ankle) and defensive tackle Maliek Collins (knee) are tentatively expected to play through their questionable tags. — Ian Hartitz

Did you know? The Saints have won and covered nine consecutive games. Since 2003, they are just the third team to accomplish that feat.

The other two (2016 Cowboys, 2003 Eagles) failed to cover in their 10th game. — Evan Abrams

The Cowboys are allowing 19.4 PPG this season, the third-lowest mark in the NFL. As a member of the Saints, Brees is 35-25 ATS (58.3%) when facing a defense allowing fewer than 20 PPG, and over the last five seasons, he is 14-3 ATS (82.4%) and beating the spread by 8.1 PPG. — Evan Abrams

DFS edge:  Arguably the most-impressive member of the Cowboys’ improved defense is No. 1 cornerback Byron Jones. PFF’s No. 1 overall cornerback has been charged with just 261-scoreless yards all season, but the Cowboys have asked Jones to line up as the defense’s right cornerback on 88% of his snaps this season.

This has allowed the likes of DeAndre Hopkins (9-151-0), Julio Jones (6-118-1) and Golden Tate (8-132-2) to rack up big plays away from Jones’ coverage against Chidobe Awuzie and Anthony Brown — PFF’s No. 63 and No. 65-ranked cornerbacks this season.

Michael Thomas hasn’t seen ridiculous volume in recent weeks with the Saints embracing a run-first offense, but he’s managed to make nearly every target count with an absurd league-high catch rate of 88.7%.

Thomas, Adam Thielen and Mike Evans are the only wide receivers with a projected ceiling of at least 30 points in our FantasyLabs Models this week. — Ian Hartitz

Bet to watch: Cowboys +7.5

Last week, I exposed the Steelers' good fortune on the year and how the market was overreacting to how good Pittsburgh really was. Well, we took advantage by fading them on the road in Denver, and I think it’s time to do so again with the Saints.

New Orleans is really good and a bonafide Super Bowl contender, but it has also been very fortunate and isn't as good as the market is pricing them right now.

Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Drew Brees

Let’s take a closer look at the results of the hottest team in football, winners of nine straight against the spread:

They started the year 1-1 by splitting home games against the Bucs and Browns, but if it weren't for horrible kicking by Cleveland, the Saints would've been 0-2.

New Orleans then needed a comeback against Atlanta to eventually win in overtime. The Saints were very close to starting 0-3, but now sit at 10-1 and on top of the world.

The Saints then followed that ugly three game stretch to open the season with convincing wins against the Giants and Redskins. Yawn.

Now, their only really convincing stretch of the season came against three teams currently in the playoffs: Ravens, Vikings and Rams.

And while I’m not saying they didn’t deserve to win, they got every break imaginable and could’ve easily lost all three.

  • at Baltimore, Week 7: Won 28-27 as a result of a Justin Tucker missed XP — the only one Tucker has missed in 255 career attempts (99.6%). Yards per play differential: Ravens 5.5; Saints 4.8
  • at Minnesota, Week 8: Won 30-20, despite getting outgained 423-270. Brees went 18-23 for 120 yards and the Saints ran the ball for only 106 yards on 29 carries. More good fortune. YPP differential: Vikings 6.3; Saints 5.1
  • vs. Rams, Week 9: Won 45-35 in another game that could’ve gone either way. Yardage in this game was 487-483. And once again, they lost the YPP battle 8.2 to 7.0.

(Speaking of yards per play, both of New Orleans and Dallas have a net 0.1 YPP differential, meaning they each gain 0.1 more per play than they allow.)

And the Saints' most recent three-game stretch included wins against a trio of sub-.500 corpses in Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Atlanta. Two of three at home and the most recent one with the help of numerous red zone turnovers.

Color me not as impressed as most.

Look, the Saints are elite, no doubt, but they aren’t 10-1 elite. If they had been unlucky this season, they realistically could be 5-6 and this line wouldn’t be in the same stratosphere as it is now.

They simply can’t keep up this pace, but even if they do, those performances have helped get us a line with significant value here.

We are really at the point where the Saints are implied double digit favorites on a neutral field over the Cowboys? Without their starting left tackle and potentially missing a few key weapons on offense?

Come on now.

The Cowboys have had some good fortune, as well, but getting the key number of 7 on a confident Dallas team at home is enormous.

The Saints' voodoo won’t last forever. — Stuckey

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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