NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
There is no Sunday night game on Christmas Eve, so I can assure you the one on Dec. 24 that gets the biggest ratings (Fox has the 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff) and takes the biggest betting action at the various sportsbooks will be Seattle at Dallas. In all honesty, it's not a great Week 16 slate of action with the only other matchups featuring potentially two playoff teams being Buffalo at New England, Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee, and Atlanta at New Orleans.
The Cowboys and Seahawks have identical 8-6 records, but neither is in the playoffs as things stand. Seattle sits eighth and Dallas ninth. Atlanta (9-5) and Detroit (8-6) are ahead of them for the final wild-card spot. The loser here is done. Needless to say, the winner here holds a head-to-head tiebreaker.
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The Cowboys lose a head-to-head with the Falcons (whose win Monday night didn't help either of these teams) and don't play the Lions. To get in, Dallas must win this week and Week 17 in Philadelphia - and it's quite possible the Eagles have no reason to play their starters in that one, although the last thing that Philly fans want to see is their team helping the Cowboys make the postseason. The Cowboys also need the Lions to lose at least once (at Bengals, vs. Packers) and either the Falcons, Panthers or Saints need to lose their final two games. As mentioned above, Atlanta is in New Orleans on Sunday and then hosts the Panthers. Carolina should win this week vs. Tampa. The Saints close in Tampa.
As for Seattle? It's convoluted. It technically could still win the NFC West if it wins out (closes Week 17 vs. Arizona) and the Rams lose out, but the Rams aren't doing that (at Titans, vs. 49ers). The wild-card picture is frankly too complicated to explain for the Seahawks. Seattle loses a head-to-head with Atlanta as well and didn't play Detroit. The Falcons also beat the Lions, so the Dirty Birds are in good shape despite those two really tough games left.
Seahawks at Cowboys Betting Story Lines
I am above .500 for the season on my individual NFL previews, but I really crapped the bed last week when previewing Rams at Seahawks. I knew Seattle was beaten up and no longer close to invincible at home, but I just couldn't pick against Russell Wilson in December. I'm not stunned that Seattle lost, but 42-7?! That was the worst defeat of the Pete Carroll era. The team's leaky offensive line led Wilson to be under siege all day as his MVP chances vanished. He threw for just 142 yards and was sacked seven times. The Seahawks were outgained 352-149, held possession for just 23:14 and gave it away twice. Nothing short of an ass-kicking.
To make matters worse, the team's two best defensive players, linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Earl Thomas, got into it afterward. Wagner, who has been magnificent this season, was in question to play due to a hamstring injury and clearly wasn't 100 percent before leaving in the third with the game out of hand. Thomas basically told reporters that Wagner shouldn't have been out there and that he "waited a little bit too long to take himself out." Wagner eventually tweeted and then deleted: "E keep my name out yo mouth. Stop being jealous of other people success. I still hope you keep balling bro."
I'm not saying that Carroll is in any trouble here, but consider that his superpower USC program also somewhat imploded (and committed numerous NCAA violations) at the tail end of his tenure there. Seattle might have to overhaul the aging roster outside of Wilson, who has never failed to make the playoffs. Of course, he never used to lose at home, either, much less by a score of 42-7.
The Cowboys won a wildly-entertaining game in Oakland on Sunday night, 20-17. They were about 1 yard from losing in the final seconds, but as Raiders QB Derek Carr stretched out his arm to try and get the football inside the end zone pylon, he fumbled it out of bounds in the end zone for a touchback. At minimum, that game was headed for overtime. Dallas got a crucial first down on the drive previous when it kicked the go-ahead field goal. There was a spot so close after a fourth-and-1 Dak Prescott keeper from the Dallas 39 that the referee used a folded index card to see if the end of the ball was touching the end of the chain - how is a league with billions of dollars of revenue still using freaking chains and not lasers or something? Theoretically, if the card was able to slide in between the ball and the chain then it would have been short. And there was space, yet the ref signaled a first down for the Cowboys. Never seen anything like that at any level of football.
The biggest story surrounding this game is of course the return of Cowboys running back and 2016 NFL rushing king Ezekiel Elliott from his six-game suspension. He was officially allowed back at the team facility Monday. His first practice will be Wednesday. Elliott ran for 783 yards on 191 carries and seven touchdowns in the first eight games of the season but really had come on in his final four. The Cowboys athletic training staff had indirect communication with Elliott during the time away and apparently stayed in great shape. Dallas was 3-3 without him, losing the first three and totaling just 22 points, before turning things around.
Seahawks at Cowboys Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Dallas is a 4.5-point favorite (-110) with a total of 47. On the moneyline, the Cowboys are -225 and Seahawks +185. On alternate lines, Dallas is -4 (-118) and -5 (-105). Seattle is 5-8-1 against the spread (3-3-1 on road) and 6-8 "over/under" (2-5 on road). Dallas is 7-6-1 ATS (3-4 at home) and 6-8 O/U (3-4 at home).
The Seahawks are 9-3-1 ATS in their past 13 after a loss. They are 0-3-1 ATS in their past four road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The Cowboys are 1-5 ATS in their past six vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 5-2 in Seattle's past seven in December. It's 5-2 in the Cowboys' previous seven vs. teams with a winning record. Dallas is 7-2 ATS in the past nine meetings.
Seahawks at Cowboys Betting Prediction
The teams last met in Week 8 of the 2015 season, so the Seahawks haven't seen Prescott or Elliott yet. Seattle won that one in Dallas, 13-12. Wilson threw a TD pass and led a late drive that culminated in the winning 24-yard field goal. The eminently forgettable Matt Cassel was the Dallas QB that day and Darren McFadden the primary running back.
I'm taking Dallas here. It is getting one of the greatest late-season "pseudo-trade" additions in NFL history in Elliott's return. I'm sure Seattle plays much better, especially Wilson, but Cowboys by a touchdown. Go over the total.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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