Dallas Cowboys (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) vs. St. Louis Rams (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS)
NFL Week 3
Date and Time: September 21, @ 1:00 PM E
Where: Edward Jones Dome
TV: Fox, DirectTV
by Jeff Hochman, Pro Handicapper, JHSportsline.com
Point Spread: Dall -2.5/STL +2.5
Over/Under Total: 46
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Both teams are coming off impressive wins. The Dallas Cowboys will look to win two in a row for the first time since last November. Last season, when the Cowboys won straight up, they were just 2-5 SU in their very next game. It will be up to the St. Louis Rams behind rookie quarterback Austin Davis. The Rams third-string quarterback, playing because of injuries Shaun Hill and starter Sam Bradford, played a sharp game in the Rams 19-17 road win as 6-point dogs over the Buccaneers. Davis went a solid 22-of-29 for 235 yards and played a key role in setting up the game winning field goal. The Cowboys defeated the Titans 26-10 as 3.5-point road dogs. The team looked like it was playing for its season and it showed. The much maligned defense was flying to the ball and they put a lot of heat on Jake Locker. I counted at least 15 times Locker was under duress while throwing the ball. DeMarco Murray was pretty much all the offense after fumbling early for the second straight game. He finished with 29 carries for 167 yards, the third-highest total of his career. The Cowboys are 0-2 SU and 0-2 ATS in games after DeMarco Murray gains at least 150 yards.
The Cowboys are going to have to work extremely hard against the Rams defense. Even though the Rams don’t have a shut-down defense so far, they still can do a lot of damage with their tremendous pass rush. Robert Quinn is one of the top pass rushers in all of football. He’s only getting better. Look for the Cowboys to run with DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, and Joseph Randall to help offset the Rams ferocious pass rush. Murray loves playing the Rams. In 2011, he ran for 253 yards, which included a long 91-yard touchdown in the first quarter. The Cowboys defense is much better with Rod Marinelli running the stop unit. Rolando McClain is doing his best to replace the injured Sean Lee at middle linebacker. The biggest difference has been the Cowboys red-zone defense and the ability to stop teams on third down. They are ranked in the Top 10 in both categories after two games.
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The Rams are coming off a solid road win and should have some confidence going into this game. They aren’t exactly clicking on all cylinders though. The ground game is only averaging 3.7 yards per carry and the talented front seven has only produced one sack. The law of averages have to even out and I would expect a big day from the Rams’ pass rush. Tony Romo looks slower moving in and around the pocket than at any point during his career. Could be a long day for Romo and company if he has to pass to play catch up. The Rams will need Austin Davis to continue his efficient passing. He is completing 73.1% of his throws but has yet to throw a touchdown pass. The Rams game plan will be to test the young Cowboys front seven with a heavy dose of Zac Stacy. Dallas has had trouble with with bulkier type backs in the past. Look for some big play-action passes from the Rams in the second half.
After the first two weeks of the season, Dallas is ranked No. 4 in special teams play. The Rams are ranked No. 14. This is a combination of kicking, average starting field position, and yards after contact. The season is young of course and these numbers are likely to change quite a bit. What’s not going to change is Dan Bailey. Bailey is now regarded as one of the best place kickers in the NFL. He has yet to miss a FG attempt this season, which comes as to no surprise who has followed his career with Dallas. In Sunday’s win, he proved his value again, connecting on four field goals tries– from 48, 44, 51, and 48 yards. He’s five for five this year and all the kicks were right down the middle. His kickoffs routinely go through the end-zone, hence the high special teams ranking for the Cowboys.
The Rams are 14-25 SU and 12-26 ATS against NFC East opponents since 1993. Ugly.
Jeff’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: St. Louis Rams +2.5
The underdog has covered 19 out of the past 22 Cowboy games. Amazing stat that I shared with you all last week. The Underdog is 19-3 when the Cowboys play a football game. There are better games to bet this week but I will lean with the home team and the points.