We finally have an interesting Thursday night matchup this week between good teams on full rest, and now come reports that the NFL is thinking about dumping or altering the Thursday night package?
Have most of the TNF games this season, and really all seasons, been lousy football? I think that's fair to say. The league ensures every team plays on Thursday once a season (Thanksgiving also counts). So that means we are forced to see some bad clubs in a prime-time national TV game. There just aren't enough great matchups each week to go around to make every TV partner happy. Plus the players aren't 100 percent physically playing in these quick turnaround games.
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So Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and NBC this week reported that the NFL is considering either eliminating the Thursday games (not Thanksgiving) or perhaps just staging them only in the final six weeks or so. I tend to believe what Florio is reporting, although the NFL has denied all of it. Nothing would likely happen until 2018 because the current contracts with CBS and NBC run through 2017. I find it hard to fathom the NFL walks away from that money -- plus it would hurt the value of the NFL Network, which shows every Thursday night game. The best idea I've heard is extending the season to 18 weeks and giving each team two byes. All Thursday games, except maybe Thanksgiving, would feature teams off the bye.
But as I said in my lead paragraph, this Thursday's game between the Cowboys and Vikings in Minneapolis should be a great matchup. And there are no concerns about the players being in less than tip-top shape as both clubs played on Thanksgiving and thus will be on normal rest.
Cowboys at Vikings Betting Story Lines
We should know by a week from Sunday night if the NFC playoffs will run through Dallas. Right now that would be the case with the Cowboys at 10-1 and two losses clear of every other team in the conference. Seattle being upset in Tampa Bay this past Sunday was a very good thing for the Cowboys. Whether they get home-field advantage throughout likely will be decided here and then next week at the Giants, whom the Cowboys lead by two in the NFC East (but New York would own the tiebreaker with a Week 14 victory to complete the season sweep). Then again, the G-Men are likely to lose this Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Dallas is the +193 favorite at 5Dimes to win the NFC title and is on a franchise-best 10-game winning streak following a Thanksgiving 31-26 victory over the visiting Redskins to all but eliminate Washington from the NFC East race. Rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott continued their stellar seasons, as Prescott was 17-for-24 for 195 yards with a TD and no picks again while rushing for a score. Elliott found the end zone twice and had 97 yards on 20 carries.
If I might nitpick, I still don't trust that Dallas defense, and Kirk Cousins torched it for 449 yards and three scores. A few weeks ago, Ben Roethlisberger also had a huge game vs. Dallas. I'd be a little worried about that side of the ball if I have a Cowboys futures ticket. You can give up plenty of yards and win a Super Bowl -- if you get big stops and turnovers. But Dallas has only 10 takeaways, tied for 27th. And it doesn't get to the QB much.
Minnesota (6-5) is currently sitting eighth in the NFC and probably isn't going to win the NFC North after losing in Detroit on Thanksgiving, 16-13, as the first-place Lions (7-4) completed the season sweep to take what is basically a two-game lead over the Vikes. Their defense certainly played well enough to win that game, but Sam Bradford threw a horrific interception in the final minute, and Matt Prater won it on a 40-yard field goal as time expired. Vikings fans probably have voodoo dolls of Prater as he also hit a 58-yarder at U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 9 as time expired to send that game into overtime, which the Lions won.
There's no sugarcoating that the Minnesota offense isn't very good. The team does think leading receiver Stefon Diggs will be back after missing the Turkey Day game due to an injury, but with Adrian Peterson still out there are very few play-makers on that side of the ball. Bradford has reminded us why he has perplexed a handful of head coaches over his career. If the Vikings are going to win this game and make the postseason, it will be on the back of the league's No. 2 defense (17.5 ppg). The good news is that if the Vikings win this one, they could easily finish 10-6 and that should be enough. They close out at Jacksonville, vs. Indianapolis, at Green Bay and vs. Chicago. The Vikings should be favored against all but the Pack.
Vikings at Cowboys Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Dallas is a 3-point favorite (-130) with a total of 44. On the moneyline, the Cowboys are -190 and the Vikings +165. On the alternate lines, Dallas is -3.5 (-105) and -2.5 (-155). The Cowboys are 9-2 against the spread (5-0 on road) and 5-6 "over/under" (2-3 on road). The Vikings are 6-5 ATS (4-1 at home) and 4-7 O/U (2-3 at home).
Dallas is 4-1 ATS in its past five road games vs. teams with a winning home record. It is 1-6 ATS in its past seven on Thursday. The Vikings are 8-0 ATS in their past eight at home vs. teams with a winning road record. They are 1-5 ATS in their past six vs. the NFC. The under is 10-3 in the Cowboys' past 13 after an ATS loss. The under is 14-2 in Minnesota's past 16 vs. teams with a winning record. It is 9-2 in the team's past 11 following an ATS loss. The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The Cowboys haven't covered their past six at Minnesota.
Cowboys at Vikings Betting Prediction
First meeting between the teams in three years, so no relevance there. For the Week 12 Monday game between the Packers and Eagles in Philly, I used the logic of taking the team with the better quarterback (Green Bay) even though the home team (Philly) had dominated there defensively this season. And that worked out well.
I'd obviously much rather have Prescott and the Cowboys offense, but that Vikings defense is really good and has been great at home. Bradford also has been much better there. Finally, I think this is desperation time for Minnesota and nearly a throwaway game for Dallas. So I'll take the 3.5 points. Go under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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