Detroit Lions (3-0 SU, 2-0-1 ATS) vs. Dallas Cowboys (2-1 SU, 1-1-1 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, Week 4 NFL, Sunday, October 2, 2011, Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas, TV: FOX
by Badger, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Det +1/DAL -1
Over/Under Total: 46
Two of the NFLs most exciting gunslingers will face off in an NFC quarterback showdown Sunday when the undefeated Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford travel south to the state of Texas to take on Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
Stafford and the Lions have been the talk of the NFL since the lockout ended, running off a string of wins through the preseason that has yet to be broken now that the regular season is three games old. Stafford was awesome (378 yards, 2 TD) leading the Lions in come-from-behind mode in their latest victory, erasing a 20-point halftime lead by the Vikings to score a huge win in overtime, 26-23.
But Romo has played inspired football the last two weeks with cracked ribs, leading the Cowboys to back-to-back comeback wins in crunch time including last weeks nail-biter over the rival Washington Redskins, 18-16. Romo stood tall in the face of the Redskins pressure, and the Cowboys defense forced a few crucial turnovers to help them win the battle of the kickers in primetime on Monday Night Football.
Now well get to see which one of them blinks this week, as both quarterbacks are hoping to keep their teams at the top of their respective divisions.
With the painful nature of Romos rib injury still literally day-to-day, the oddsmakers in Las Vegas are still a little gun shy and as a result opened the point spread for this game with the Cowboys as slim 1-point favorites. The point spread has been all over the place since it opened too, since there are a few offshore sportsbooks as high as 2-points and one as low as a pick, so there seems to be a lot of action on both sides of the number in this game so far.
The over/under total opened at 46.5 and has held firm through the early steam. There are a few sportsbooks that have dropped the hook and are listing the total at 46, so it appears the early money is moving the total down slightly as the week goes along.
Offensively this game will feature two quarterbacks that are both on the cusp of 1,000 yards passing in week four already, so expect the footballs to be flying everywhere come Sunday.
Stafford has thrown for 977 yards with accuracy (66.95 %) and efficiency (9 TD-2 INT, 110.7 QB rating) in the Lions undefeated start, most of it by design, but some of it because the running game is only averaging 78 yards a game (26th in NFL). With no real go-to running back (sorry Jahvid Best), Stafford had better get his protections set at the line because the Dallas combo of Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer are fast off the edge on the fieldturf surface inside Cowboys Stadium.
Romo hasnt been nearly as efficient (4 TD/2 INT, 95.8 QB rating) or accurate (61.9 %) in racking up his 942 yards passing so far in 2011, but with his young offensive line still learning under fire hes taken a seasons worth of hits in only three games. The Cowboys are so dinged up on offense that running back Felix Jones (115 yards, TD vs. Wash.) and Dez Bryant are one play away from re-injuring themselves at any given moment, so the Cowboys offense has really become a smoke-and-mirrors show with Romo as the ring master.
If the Lions can protect Stafford they could have a nice day throwing the ball on the Cowboys. Lockdown corner Terence Newman (probable - concussion) has been in and out of the lineup, as has the other corner Michael Jenkins (questionable - shoulder), so the Cowboys secondary is limping into the matchup with Calvin Johnson this week.
Detroits defense has been strong against the pass (188 ypg 4th) and the whole unit is pretty stout overall (301 ypg 6th), but their 15.3 points allowed per game average through three weeks might be more about who the Lions have played (TB, KC, Minn.) and less about how good they really are overall. The Lions defense can be good enough, and you can bet Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch will take every chance they can to bump or fall into Romo to try and crush the Cowboys game plan in a big way.
The Lions and Cowboys played last season in late November, a game the Cowboys won 35-19, but with Jon Kitna and Shaun Hill calling the signals its hard to relate anything of what happened in that game into this game Sunday.
The Cowboys have won two in a row straight up in the head-to-head series and five of the last six dating back to 2003. The Cowboys also own the betting angles in this series too, going 7-3 ATS in the last 10 meeting, or 5-2 ATS in the last seven. The Cowboys also have the home field advantage in the game, something worth noting when you see that the home team is 4-1 ATS in the last five games head-to-head.
Can you say over?
The over is heavy in betting trends its 5-1 in the last six in this series; its 11-2 in the Cowboys last 13 versus an NFC foe; its 9-1 in the last 10 games inside Cowboys Stadium; its 8-2-1 ATS in the Lions last 11 games versus the NFC; its 4-0-1 ATS in the Lions last five road games I could go on but you get the point, the trend play is over on the total this week.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Detroit is for real and could be a great barking dog this week in Dallas. If the Cowboys had a healthy Miles Austin and both Jones and Bryant at 100 percent its a different ball game, but since theyre not 100 percent I have a hard time seeing the Cowboys moving the chains consistently. Im taking Detroit with the point.
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