8:15 PM EST
Dallas ML over Cardinals
This is my favorite play of the week. The Cardinals had some injury concerns on the offensive and defensive line and if both Humpries and Kennard were out I was going to upgrade this to a 5u play. Unfortunately both are playing but I still love Dallas tonight regardless.
Similar to the Bucs play, this is the other game this week that had a huge adjustment to the look ahead line. Obviously this is because Dak Prescott was lost for the season but the look ahead line for this game was Cowboys -3.5 which shifted all the way to Dallas +2.5 at the original opener. Going through zero doesn’t really count as a point but that was still a 4.5 point adjustment for the difference between Prescott and Andy Dalton which I think is way too high.
Andy Dalton is my top rated backup in the league and there was a reason Dallas was willing to pay him seven million dollars to be the backup. Dalton’s play was very consistent throughout his entire time in Cincinnati, most people forget that he had a 66% win percentage through his first five years. Joe Burrow is the front runner for Rookie of the Year and most people (myself included) would say they’ve been impressed by Joe Burrow this season, yet Dalton actually averaged 0.7 yards per pass play more than Burrow has thus far with a much worse supporting cast and same play-caller last year. Dalton is a plenty capable quarterback who is surrounded by a ton of talent with Cooper, Gallup and Lamb at receiver and Zeke Ellliot and Tony Pollard out of the backfield and one of the league’s top player callers in Kellen Moore. I do not expect the dropoff from Dak to Dalton to be a large one, especially with a full week to prepare. Even though their stats don’t necessarily reflect it, this Arizona defense is among one of the worst in the league, their secondary especially which is atrocious. Both the Lions and Panthers marched up and down the field at will against them and Dallas offense is far superior to both of those, even with Dalton at QB, and I expect them to do the same thing tonight.
Obviously the two biggest issues for the Cowboys is their putrid defense and banged up offensive line. They lost three starting linemen in LT Tyron Smith, RT La’el Collins and C Joe Looney to injury which is brutal and is likely to be a problem for them in their quest to win the NFC East, but it will be far less of a problem tonight. All-Pro edge rusher Chandler Jones was Arizona’s best pass rusher, by far, but he suffered a torn bicep and is out for the rest of the season. In 2019, Jones had 75 pressures (8th best in the league) while the next best Arizona edge rusher had just 19 pressures all season. With Jones out, the Cardinals just don’t have the pass rushers to take advantage of the injury-riddled Dallas offensive. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ pass rush is going to be a problem for Kyler Murray. DeMarcus Lawrence recorded a pressure on 32% of his pass-rush reps last week, which is the highest in a single game thus far in the 2020 season, and fellow edge defender Aldon Smith leads the league in pass rushing efficiency. The struggling Dallas defense is also getting back Pro Bowl middle linebacker Leighton Vander Esch whose presence is going to be huge in preventing the mobile Kyler Murray from scrambling. The Cowboys secondary has been atrocious in their own right and nothing has been done to think it will get any better, but the one bright spot in that secondary has been Daryl Worley who hasn’t been terrible, he is allowing just 0.82 yards per cover snap (10th), and he will at least challenge DeAndre Hopkins on the left side.
For those who have followed me for awhile know that I love to back a team the game following when they lose a key player as the rest of the team tends to rise to the occasion in a big way the next game which is obviously the exact dynamic we are getting with the Cowboys tonight. I look for the defense especially to play much better. Dak was so great at orchestrating scoring drives that they knew that even if they gave up points on defense, Dak was more than capable of getting them right back on the offensive side so they played with a lack of urgency and full effort through the first quarter of the season. With Dalton at the helm, especially in his first game, I look for maximum effort out of all of the defense on every play tonight. The Cardinals offensive line is nothing special and the Cowboys defense should be able to pressure him all night potentially forcing him into a few errors. The Cowboys offense has also been plagued by a lot of careless turnovers which has cost them some games, I look for them as well to be a lot more focused tonight.
Dalla’s offense is third in the league in points per game at 32.6 while Arizona is in the bottom half of the league at 18 only scoring a mediocre 25.6 points per game. The Arizona offense is also scoring a touchdown on 81% of their trips to the Redzone, which is completely unsustainable (last year they were at 45%), so their offensive stats are even a little inflated and due for regression. The Cowboys, even with Dalton, are far more equipped to win a shootout which this game is likely to become, especially since they have been in these kinds of games all season and are used to it. Another key factor which is likely to go unnoticed is this is the Cardinals third straight road game while this is the Cowboys third straight home game. Teams who are playing in their third straight home game while failing to cover the previous two fit a system which I play that has gone 19-5 ATS (79%) over the past six seasons. We are getting tremendous value on a team just to win the game who by my numbers should be a 3 point favorite. The NFC East is still wide open and if Dallas is going to win the East, which I think they still will, a win tonight against a mediocre opponent is a must. Take the Cowboys.