Broncos-Cowboys Odds, NFL Picks, Betting Preview: Bet On Denver Keeping Things Close Against Dallas
Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images. Pictured: Teddy Bridgewater.
- The Broncos plays slow, limit possessions and don't make mistakes with Teddy Bridgewater under center. Will that be enough to stay within the number in Dallas?
- After analyzing the Cowboys-Broncos odds and matchup, our analyst argues it's worth betting on Denver to cover its Week 9 spread as a road underdog.
|Time||1 p.m. ET|
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The last time Denver traveled to Dallas, it was 2013 and Peyton Manning out-dueled Tony Romo in a 51-48 barnburner. The game featured over 1,000 total yards, wild lead changes and a backbreaking Romo interception to give Denver a game-winning field goal.
Teddy Bridgewater vs. Dak Prescott doesn’t quite have the same allure. But a Broncos team that was once 3-0 and filled with optimism just traded Von Miller. Denver now sits at 4-4 and is out to 12-1 to win the AFC West.
Life doesn’t get any easier for the Broncos this weekend in Dallas. But if past results are predictive of future events, the Cowboys may be in for a surprisingly difficult test — we do call him Teddy Covers for a reason. Why should you back the Broncos to stay inside the number? Here is one case.
Click the arrow to expand injury reports
Broncos vs. Cowboys Injury Report
- LT Garett Boles (ankle): Out
- TE Albert Okwuegbunam (knee): Questionable
- S Caden Sterns (shoulder): Questionable
- DT Mike Purcell (thumb): Questionable
- G Graham Glasgow (hip): Questionable
- LB Malik Reed (hip): Questionable
- LT Tyron Smith (ankle): Out
- TE Blake Jarwin (hip): Out
- WR Amari Cooper (hamstring): Questionable
- WR Ceedee Lamb (ankle): Questionable
Broncos vs. Cowboys Matchup
|Broncos Offense||DVOA Rank||Cowboys Defense|
|Broncos Defense||DVOA Rank||Cowboys Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
The Broncos Offense Has Gotten Healthier
It’s no secret that Denver’s offense has struggled since the twilight days of Peyton Manning.
Since Manning retired, the Broncos have started Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum, Drew Lock, Brandon Allen and Jeff Driskel. Yeesh.
Enter Teddy Bridgewater for the 2021 season. I won’t pretend Bridgewater is elite, but he’s having yet another solid season. Bridgewater is currently 17th in Expected Points Added (EPA) per dropback, ranking near Justin Herbert and Kirk Cousins. When Bridgewater has been on the field, Denver is 13th in passing success rate, above Joe Burrow and Derek Carr. Bridgewater is accurate and gets the ball out on time, providing immense value for this Denver offense.
Bridgewater has done this despite key injuries to Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler. Having speed at the WR position is key to opening up the deep passing game, and both Jeudy and Hamler have been injured for most of the season. Jeudy was back last weekend, catching four passes for 39 yards. As he works his way back into the offense, I expect the passing game to improve. Jeudy and Courtland Sutton should give an overrated Dallas secondary some trouble.
One concern for Denver this weekend is the injuries on the offensive line. Garett Boles, an all-pro left tackle, will miss the game. The Broncos have decent depth at tackle, and Bridgewater is very good at getting the ball out quick, so Denver can probably game plan around it.
Is the Cowboys Offense Healthy Enough?
The Cowboys are a legitimate title contender this year, and it starts with one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL.
Dak Prescott has played his way into the MVP conversation, ranking top 10 in EPA/play and moving the ball with ruthless efficiency (third in success rate). The counting stats — 16 touchdowns to four interceptions, 115 passer rating — are just as exemplary.
How has Dallas done it? Death by a million paper cuts. Prescott is currently 25th in Air Yards, ranking just above Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa. Dallas has an extremely creative offense, made easier by elite weapons in the passing game. We all know what Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard can do, and the Cowboys are getting elite production from their TE Dalton Schultz as well. It’s even more impressive when you consider the fact that Michael Gallup got injured in Week 1 — he may very well return this weekend.
One of my preseason concerns with the Cowboys was the health of their veteran tackles. La’rl Collins and Tyron Smith are both excellent players, but both were coming off major surgeries. Collins was suspended after Week 1, but he is back and will start again this weekend. Unfortunately, Smith was hurt against Minnesota last weekend and will miss the game against Denver. Dallas is moving second-year tackle Terence Steele over to the left side.
This Cowboys offense is extremely dynamic, but it needs all the pieces there, and the injury report is not inspiring. I expect all three of the wide receivers to play, but Amari Cooper having a hamstring injury and Lamb having an ankle injury is particularly concerning.
Denver has struggled defending down the field this season, and those two are Dallas’ best downfield weapons — being a step slow on making plays beyond 20 yards will help level the playing field for the Broncos defense. As of the time of writing, there’s no real news about Michael Gallup, but given how the Cowboys have managed Prescott and other injuries this season, it would be surprising if he played a major role on Sunday.
On the whole, Dallas’ offensive structure — quick passing, efficient on early downs, getting the ball in playmakers’ hands — will make it a hair easier for the Denver defense to keep up. This is potentially more true with the injuries to the Dallas receiving corps, and I expect a Denver defense that is eighth in passing success rate to have at least a chance of slowing them down.
And Just How Good is Dallas’ Defense?
Dallas’ defensive metrics this season have been extremely solid for a unit that was absolutely awful last season.
The Cowboys are fourth in EPA/dropback allowed and seventh in passing success rate. They are one of five teams that allows negative EPA/play on dropbacks, meaning opponents are losing win probability each time they pass, an incredible stat in the modern NFL. They share that honor with Buffalo, Arizona, Carolina and Minnesota.
Dallas did not need an elite defense to compete this season given how strong its offense is. But so far, the production speaks for itself, and Dallas has had some breakout performers that are driving the bus. CB Trevon Diggs has seven interceptions, meanwhile Randy Gregory has become a force off the edge. The Cowboys are even getting great pass-rushing production from rookie LB Micah Parsons, who arguably won them a game in Los Angeles earlier this year.
Dan Quinn has led a defensive turnaround in Dallas, but is it sustainable? I have my doubts.
For one, Dallas is fourth in third down EPA/play allowed defensively. Third down success on defense is extremely noisy, and while better defenses do better on third down, some regression to the mean is expected. Dallas has allowed 7% fewer third down conversions than expected this season — some of which is due to the explosive pass rush, but at some point, regression will likely come.
The Cowboys are also third in the NFL in turnovers forced at 14, and a lot of their defensive statistics are bolstered by that. If Dallas forces two turnovers a game and Prescott stays healthy, the Cowboys will win the Super Bowl. Turnovers are noisy and tend not to persist for a defense — there’s likely some regression coming for this unit too.
NFL Pick: Broncos vs. Cowboys
Denver traded Von Miller a few days ago, and the optics aren’t great. The Broncos have lost four of five and have an obviously lame duck coach in Vic Fangio. Dallas is a juggernaut and just beat a borderline playoff team on the road with a backup.
So why bet the Broncos? Because the nature of this football team is to play conservative and keep the game close.
Fangio is coaching for his job, and what better way of helping his case than playing a competitive game in Dallas? The Broncos are 28th in pace and 31st in first-half pace. They play slow, limit possessions, don’t make mistakes, and try to give themselves a chance at the end of games.
This defense is suspect, but the Cowboys are banged up, and we’ve seen no line movement for the Dallas WR injuries. While all three will likely play for the Cowboys, these type of injuries typically slow down skill players. This may give Denver’s embattled secondary a better chance of keeping Dallas in check.
Bridgewater is a capable quarterback — there’s a reason he’s covered 70% of his games — and if Denver is down big, he certainly has the weaponry to bring the Broncos back and get into the backdoor. I price this game closer to Dallas -7.5, and at a -110 price, I’d happily take the 10 points.
Pick: Denver +10 | Bet to: +10 (-110)
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