I had planned to preview Houston at Indianapolis as my Sunday featured game this week, but that line still isn't posted as of this writing because of the uncertain status of Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. He's dealing with rib and arm injuries, but Coach Chuck Pagano expects him to go Sunday in place of Andrew Luck yet again as it's a vital game for the AFC South lead. And Hasselbeck will be countered by Texans backup T.J. Yates with Brian Hoyer out with a concussion. So that game isn't all that exciting to me now with those two under center, although the winner is in the driver's seat for the division crown.
So instead, I will look at Saturday's game between the Jets and Cowboys in Dallas. Yes, Saturday's game. Always in the final few weeks of the season -- but not Week 17 -- the NFL puts on a Saturday game with the college football regular season finished. So this should draw big ratings and ditto in betting action even though the Cowboys stink. They are still America's Team, and the Jets, well, are in the nation's No. 1 media market.
As things stand, the Jets (8-5) are the final AFC wild-card team, but that's far from set in stone even if they win out (more on that below). Fellow 8-5 team Kansas City is at No. 5 and Pittsburgh, with the same record, at No. 7. Someone will be left out, and I'd fear playing the Chiefs or Steelers right now in the postseason more than I would New York.
Dallas (4-9) currently would pick No. 6 in the 2016 draft and really should start shutting guys down and not ruin draft position with a win or two. OK, technically the Cowboys aren't out of the race in the sad NFC East yet, so maybe they try for one more week.
Jets at Cowboys Betting Story Lines
Believe it or not, if the Jets do win out but Kansas City and Pittsburgh also do, then New York will be watching the postseason at 11-5. In that scenario, the Jets would lose out to the Chiefs based on conference record and they'd lose out to the Steelers based on record against common opponents (Patriots, Raiders, Browns and Colts). And I'm not sure New York even wins out. Next week it hosts New England and then closes at Buffalo. The Chiefs should do so as they are at Baltimore this week and then home to Cleveland and Oakland. Pittsburgh I think will as well unless Ben Roethlisberger goes down again. The Steelers host Denver this week -- Brock Osweiler is regressing -- and then go to Baltimore and Cleveland. Just two 11-5 teams have ever missed the playoffs: the Broncos in 1985 and the Patriots in 2008 (the year Tom Brady was lost to injury in Week 1). BetOnline has the Jets at +190 to make the playoffs and -240 to miss. For Kansas City it's -800/+500. And for Pittsburgh -325/+250. So clearly oddsmakers agree with me in that they think the Chiefs and Steelers won't lose again. There is an outside chance that the Jets could finish 11-5 and still make it, but they would need the Broncos and/or Bengals to fall into the wild-card pool.
Got all that?
New York enters this one on a three-game winning streak (it hasn't won six straight since 1998). After a bit of a midseason slump, the defense has allowed only 48 combined points in the streak. And Ryan Fitzpatrick has been very good, throwing for at least 263 yards in each game with nine combined touchdowns and no interceptions. Brandon Marshall is working on a three-game streak with at least 125 yards and one touchdown -- he has eight 100-yard games this season. Marshall and Eric Decker have both recorded a touchdown catch in seven games overall, tied for the most by teammates in a season in NFL history (Cris Carter and Randy Moss with 1998 Vikings).
I don't have much to say about the Cowboys. They are sticking with Matt Cassel under center instead of getting a look at Kellen Moore, although I think Cassel heads to the bench one the Cowboys are officially eliminated. Moore is in his fourth season, the previous three with Detroit, but has never taken a regular-season snap. Cassel figures to struggle this week because no team blitzes as often as the Jets. And Cassel has completed just 22 of 50 passes for 266 yards with a touchdown and an interception this season vs. the blitz. He has been sacked seven times in those situations and has a passer rating of 59.3. There also has been talk of shutting down star receiver Dez Bryant for the year, but Cowboys owner/GM has said no to that -- thus far. Been a lousy year for Bryant with the team's QB issues and his injuries/play. In eight games, he has caught 27 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns. I'm sure Darrelle Revis will be glued to Bryant on Saturday.
The Jets are only 3-7 all-time vs. the Cowboys but did win the last meeting at home, on Sept. 11, 2011, 27-24. That was obviously an emotional day in the New York area on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The Jets rallied from a 24-10 fourth-quarter hole.
Jets at Cowboys Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , New York is a 3-point favorite (-120) with a total of 42. On the moneyline, the Jets are -173 and Cowboys +153. On the alternate lines, the Jets are -4 (+113), -3.5 (+105), -2.5 (-145), -2 (-150) and -1.5 (-155). New York is 7-5-1 against the spread (3-2-1 on the road) and 7-6 "over/under" (3-3 on road). Dallas is 4-9 ATS (1-5 at home) and 5-8 O/U (4-2 at home).
The Jets have covered nine of their past 11 in December. They are 4-1 ATS in their past five Saturday games. Dallas is 6-1 ATS in its past seven December games. The Cowboys are 0-4 ATS in their past four against teams with a winning record. The under is 5-2 in the Jets' past seven after a win. The under is 4-1 in Dallas' past five after a loss.
NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Jets at Cowboys Betting Predictions
The Jets have the NFL's best run defense, allowing just 78.9 yards per game. So that puts the game on Cassel's shoulders, and that's not a good thing. Take New York but only give 2.5. Go under the total.
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