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San Diego Chargers vs. Dallas Cowboys Preview and Pick

San Diego Chargers (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Dallas Cowboys (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS), Week 14 NFL, 4:15 p.m. EST, Sunday, December 13, 2009, Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas TV: CBS
by Badger of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Chargers +3/Cowboys -3
Over/Under: 48.5

Make sure you save enough refreshments and get the catnap in early too, because the afternoon game of the NFL doubleheader this Sunday on CBS is a potential shootout between the red-hot San Diego Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys in Cowboys Stadium.

The Chargers, winners of seven straight games including a 30-23 victory over Cleveland last weekend, have suddenly become the team in the AFC everyone thinks can knock of the undefeated Colts. Quarterback Philip Rivers added 373 yards and two more scores to his MVP-type numbers on the season in the victory over the Browns, as the Chargers continue their quest toward another AFC West title.

Dallas had their two-game win streak snapped and also suffered the embarrassment of getting swept in their season series against NFC East rival New York Giants last week, 31-24. Tony Romo nearly threw for 400 yards against the Giants, but it still mattered little as the defense and special teams didnít hold up their end in the loss.

Sundayís game should be entertaining because the Cowboys cannot afford to lose a big game like this at home. Theyíve already allowed the Eagles and Giants creep back into the NFC East Division race and another loss, even to the red-hot Chargers, will spark the questions about Romo and the Cowboys fading down the stretch once again.

Oddsmakers opened the game with Dallas as standard 3-point favorites at home and the line has yet to move much, although there are a few Cowboys minus -2.5-points at a few of the offshore sportsbook.

The over/under total has seen similar line movement up from where it opened at 47.5, moving up a point to 48.5 at a majority of the books in Las Vegas and on the Internet.

So far this season both Romo (3,325 yards, 20 TD) and Rivers (3,311 yards, 21 TD) have done nothing but throw the ball all over the gridiron, so the fact these two are matched up against each other makes the offensive potential of this game so exciting.

The Chargers are 6th in the league in passing (266.8 ypg), while the Cowboys are 7th (264.5 ypg). And all of that passing has led to quick strikes and big points as both teams, with the Chargers (28.5 ppg) 3rd in the NFL and the Cowboys 11th (23.2 ppg).

But both teams are also fighting offensive line issues, as the Chargers are already down right tackle Jeromey Clary and could be without center Nick Hardwick this week (doubtful). Meanwhile, the Cowboys have dealt with the Flozell Adams cheap shot all week and are also missing right tackle Marc Colombo.

Normally both defenses are fully capable of taking advantage of this weakness at tackle and could turn this potential shootout into a sack- a-thon, but the Chargers are battling the injury bug on defense big time. Safety Eric Weddle is out and both Luis Castillo and Shawne Merriman are nursing injuries (listed as questionable), so the Bolts may only be playing at half-capacity on Sunday.

The Cowboys defense has been average all year (14th Ė 328.4 ypg), but they do a great job of holding teams to field goals in the red zone and have one of the best scoring defenses in the league (17.8 ppg Ė 5th). However, the Cowboys are also banged up (safeties Ken Hamlin and Michael Hamlin both questionable) in what was already a sketchy secondary, so Rivers could slice-n-dice his way to another big afternoon.

The Cowboys won this same matchup the last time these two teams met back in 2005 by a 28-24 score, but Drew Bledsoe and Drew Brees are long gone from these teams so it really apples and oranges.

For the record the Cowboys own a 4-1 SU record against the Chargers (dating back to 1986), as well as a 3-2 ATS record in the five-game series. For what itís worth, the Chargers beat the Cowboys in the preseason 31-17 in Qualcomm.

With a small sample of betting trends to par rouse itís hard to find much for this game. Youíre going to have to go with gut-trends like the Chargers do seem to play well down the stretch (8-2 ATS in December, 4-1 ATS in last five overall), and the Cowboys have been tough to beat in their new home (4-1 ATS in last five games at Cowboys Stadium).

Badgerís Pick: I like the way the Chargers are playing right now, and I still think this game turns into a 38-35 shootout with Rivers and Romo both chucking it over 50 times. If that does become the case, Iíll take Rivers and the points. Take San Diego plus the 3-points.

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