Detroit Lions (9-5 SU, 8-6 ATS) vs. Dallas Cowboys (12-2 SU, 9-5 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Monday, December 26, 2016, 8:30 PM EST
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
TV: ESPN, DirecTV 206
by Badger, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: DET +7/DAL -7
Over/Under Total: 44.5
The Detroit Lions are desperately trying to hold off the red hot Green Bay Packers in the NFC North, but they will have a large task in front of them trying to do so this week when they travel down to the JerryDome of AT&T Stadium to take on the NFL’s best team of 2016 the Dallas Cowboys on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
The Lions five game winning streak that propelled them to the top of the North division was snapped last week in New Jersey when the New York Giants frustrated Matthew Stafford and the offense in a defensive showdown, 17-6. The Lions defense held its own and limited the Giants to just 300 yards of total offense, but a critical interception and lost fumble was enough keep the Lions from putting up enough points to stay in the game. At 9-5, the Lions remain one game ahead of the Packers and it could all come down to a week 17 matchup with Green Bay to determine which team wins the NFC North.
Meanwhile the impressive rookie show in Dallas with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot continues to pick up steam and crash through to so called “rookie wall.” Last week the Cowboys took down Tampa Bay in the Sunday night game, 26-20, and with the Giants loss on Thursday to the Eagles they have clinched the NFC East division and the No. 1 seed and home field throughout the NFC playoffs.
The Giants loss on Thursday has caused a ripple of betting on the Lions this week, as some sportsbooks have moved off of the opening point spread listing the Cowboys as full touchdown 7-point favorites in the Monday Night game down to minus -6.5. Maybe the thinking is that the Cowboys will have little to play for in the next few weeks and could start resting players for a deep playoff push. Maybe the thinking is that the Lions need this game more than the Cowboys … either way, the results of the week and the large number staring down the Cowboys (still minus -7 at most books) has caused a tilt in action at the window in favor of the Lions (60%-40%) among “public” bettors.
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The over/under total opened at 44.5 and has held tight for the week, with only a few sports books dropping the hook to make it 44.
By now everyone knows about the dislocated finger that Stafford has been dealing with for the past two weeks, which is forcing him to play with a glove on his right throwing hand. It didn’t seem to affect his play in last week’s loss at New York, since he still threw for 273 yards and a 61.5% completion rate. What seems to be hurting him more is the Lions lack of a running game (81.7 ypg - 30th), still, and it will continue to cause the Lions issues as they play quality teams down the stretch and into the playoffs.
There’s not much to be said about the Cowboys offense that hasn’t already been covered to the point of overkill. Elliot has thrived in the Cowboys running game behind the powerful offensive line and Prescott has played beyond his years at QB based off of the play action when teams creep an eighth man into the box to stop Elliot. With the playoffs looming around the corner, it might not be too much of a stretch to see the Cowboys start to rest players like Dez Bryant (back), Jason Witten (age) and give Darren McFadden more carries each week in order to lighten the load on Elliot. We might even see reps for Tony Romo at QB in order to knock the rust off of him as the backup and prepare everyone for all of the possibilities down the stretch.
These two teams have enjoyed a nice rivalry over the years, with the Cowboys holding slight edge 6-4 SU including the last time they played, a 24-20 victory in Dallas in the final week of the regular season in 2014-15. However, it should be noted that Detroit has won twice in Dallas in the past (34-30 in 2011; 39-31 in 2006), so anything is possible. Also in the Lions favor this week is the fact that the underdog is a solid 5-1 ATS in these two teams last six meetings and the fact that the Cowboys haven’t been a very good “closer” for bettors in December going 0-5-1 ATS in their last six games in the final month of the year.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Without knowing exactly how the Cowboys will play things out down the stretch, its hard to really pick a side for this game. If this were a game that mattered, I’d side with Dallas every day of the week. But with so much more riding on this game for Detroit, its only natural to think the Lions will come out ready to take on the world in primetime on Monday Night Football. Even if Dallas does decide to take their foot off the pedal in this game, I think they will do it after they pile up a few scores. So for that reason, I’m taking the over of 44.5 in this game on Monday.
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