NFL Odds, Predictions For Cowboys vs. WFT: An Expert’s Guide To Betting Sunday Night Football
Getty Images. Pictured: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and WFT QB Taylor Heinicke (left to right)
NFL Odds: Washington vs. Cowboys
|Time||8:20 p.m. ET|
Despite an ill-advised fourth-quarter pick by Dak Prescott, the Dallas Cowboys were able to hold off the Washington Football Team two weeks ago in the first meeting between these teams.
Dallas barely covered the 6.5-point spread while the 48-point total went under in the 27-20 victory. Will the Cowboys and the under cash again this time around? I’m betting on one of the two outcomes, let’s dig into which.
Click the arrow to expand injury reports
Washington vs. Cowboys Injury Report
- CB William Jackson III (calf): Out
- DT Daniel Wise (knee): Out
- S Landon Collins (foot): Out
- RB Antonio Gibson (toe): Questionable
- WR Curtis Samuel (hamstring): Questionable
- OT Tyron Smith (ankle): Out
- S Israel Mukuamu (illness): Questionable
Washington vs. Cowboys Matchup
|Washington Offense||DVOA Rank||Cowboys Defense|
|Washington 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.|
Cowboys Offense, Prescott Have Regressed
You may not have noticed it with Micah Parsons being everywhere and Trevon Diggs catching more passes than half of the opponent’s wide receivers most weeks, but Dallas’ offense is in free fall, with Prescott’s return from a one-game absence due to a calf injury as the clear line of demarcation.
- Cowboys offense in Weeks 1-6 (pre-injury Prescott): 34.2 points, 460.8 total yards, 27.3 first downs in six games
- Cowboys offense in Weeks 9-15 (post-injury Prescott): 25.1 points, 351.7 total yards, 19.1 first downs in seven games
I’m not suggesting the injury is still bothering Prescott — although sometimes we don’t know until the season is over and players cop to everything they were playing through — but it’s clear the offense hasn’t been in rhythm since he returned.
The more likely culprit is injuries to various of key members of Prescott’s supporting cast. Tyron Smith missed four games. CeeDee Lamb missed a game and has been in and out in nearly all of the others. Amari Cooper missed two games and was in and out of three others. Michael Gallup didn’t return to a full-time role until Week 11. Ezekiel Elliott’s knee hasn’t been right and won’t be until the season is over. Ditto for the foot of Tony Pollard, who also missed a game.
All of those guys are expected to play against Washington, save for Smith, whose absence looms the largest.
Here are the Cowboys’ numbers against the spread (ATS) with and without Smith since Prescott was drafted in 2016:
- With Smith: 38-24-2 ATS (61%), +2.7 ATS margin
- Without Smith: 14-16 (47%) ATS, -1.1 ATS margin
Over the past six seasons, a Smith absence has resulted in a 3.8-point swing on average, which is massive. That’s not to say the Cowboys can’t cover with Smith — they’re 2-2 with a +1/0 cover margin in the four games he has missed this year — but it goes to show how pivotal he is to this team’s success.
While Washington lost Chase Young for the year, its defensive line is still fierce with a healthy Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, who have combined for 121 pressures this season (9.8 per game), according to PFF. Prescott drops from a 74.5% completion rate and 7.7 yards per attempt in a clean pocket to a 51.2% completion rate and 6.1 YPA under pressure, per PFF, so I wouldn’t sleep on this Washington pass defense despite its lowly 27th-place ranking in DVOA.
This is a defense that has been steadily improving against opposing aerial attacks: Over the first six games, it allowed 309.5 net passing yards per game, but that figure has dipped to 224.0 over the past eight.
While Pollard (54%) and Elliott (53%) have nearly identical success rates, Pollard is averaging 5.7 yards per carry to Elliott’s 4.3. In an ideal world, the Cowboys would probably like to reduce Elliott’s carries from his average of 14.4 per game and give some more to Pollard, who is averaging 9.2 totes per game, but Pollard’s lingering plantar fascia injury will likely work to maintain the status quo.
Nevertheless, Dallas should still be able to move the ball up and down the field, as Washington ranks 31st in third-down conversion rate allowed (49.2%), though that should improve somewhat as the defensive line gets healthier. However, we could see the Cowboys stall out in the red zone, as they rank 25th in conversion rate on offense (53.8%), while Washington ranks 11th on defense (54.0%).
Expect Washington to Utilize the Run
Washington is facing the league’s top pass defense by DVOA and has only one dangerous pass catcher (Terry McLaurin), so the run game will be crucial. That’s why it was so concerning that Antonio Gibson was held to only 36 yards on 10 carries when these teams met two weeks ago.
Gibson is listed questionable after not practicing all week, and it looks as though his workload is beginning to take a toll on him. After hitting 4.0 yards per carry in five of his first eight games, he’s cracked that mark in only one of six games since. And over the past four games, his average yards after contact have dropped from 3.14 to 2.78 to 2.20 to 1.67, per PFF.
Gibson was a much more effective runner last season on fewer carries, averaging 4.7 yards per carry on 12.1 carries per game compared to 3.7 yards per carry on 16.5 carries per game this season.
The Cowboys are slightly below-average in run defense, so I fully expect that to be the game plan, but we might see more of preseason star Jaret Patterson and practice-squad journeyman Jonathan Williams. This is where the loss of J.D. McKissic (IR-concussion) hurts, as he was averaging 4.4 yards per carry this season compared to 3.8 for Patterson and 4.2 for Williams (on only five carries; though that is also his career average on 85 attempts).
Taylor Heinicke could have trouble hooking up with McLaurin in this game. Largely thanks to Diggs, the Cowboys rank first in DVOA against the pass and third in schedule-adjusted receiving yards allowed (49.6) to opposing No. 1 wide receivers. When these teams met two weeks ago, McLaurin was held without a catch on three targets.
NFL Pick: Washington vs. Cowboys
Whether the Cowboys cover the big number will likely come down to how many turnovers they can force, which is unreliable, so I feel the under is the best bet, as we could see it hit even in a relatively mistake-free game by both teams.
And if you think it’s wild that Smith’s absences over the years have resulted in nearly a four-point swing on the point spread, wait until you see how he has affected Cowboys totals this year.
- With Smith: 6-4 over, +3.8 margin
- Without Smith: 0-4 over, -14.4 margin
The Cowboys offense is averaging 22.3 points per game in four games without Smith, topping 21 only once. Six of the Cowboys’ last eight games have landed on 46 or below, while six of Washington’s last nine landed on 44 or below.
There are also three strong trends supporting the under (data via Action Labs):
- Unders since 2017 where the visiting team is on its second straight road game are 186-128-3 (59%)
- Unders in games refereed by Bill Vinovich are 71-48-1 (60%)
- Unders since 2003 in divisional primetime games from Week 10-on with a total of 45 or more are 53-20-2 (73%)
Pick: Under 47 | Bet to: 46
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