NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
I'm sure that Roger Goodell doesn't ever care who wins the Super Bowl (well maybe not the Patriots during that whole "Deflategate thing), but I promise you he and the league's TV partners are thrilled that the Dallas Cowboys beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card Round last Saturday night. The various sportsbooks are thrilled too.
That's because the Cowboys are true ratings (and betting action) gold. The Seattle-Dallas game earned a 15.9 rating and 29.4 million viewers on Fox, up 24 percent in ratings and 29 percent in viewership from last year. It was the highest-rated and most-watched Wild Card Saturday game in three years. I promise you that's not because of Russell Wilson.
This Saturday's Cowboys game at the Los Angeles Rams should get even higher numbers because it's a round deeper, the Rams are a marquee/exciting team, and of course Los Angeles is the second-biggest media market in the country. Dallas should be playing in New Orleans this weekend, but a missed kick by the Bears' Cody Parkey shifted up the NFC field a bit. Now, the Cowboys could host the NFC title game against the bitter rival Eagles with a victory here and Philly upset in the Big Easy on Sunday.
Dallas is the +800 long shot to win the NFC at 5Dimes, and the Rams second among the four clubs at +205.
Cowboys at Rams Betting Story Lines
If you bet the Cowboys at -2.5 against the Seahawks, and I did, you are probably still cursing Seattle kicker Sebastian Janikowski because his injury cost you money in Dallas' 24-22 win. With the Cowboys up 24-14, Russell Wilson hit J.D. McKissic from 7 yards out with 1:18 to go to make it 24-20. Obviously, you kick the PAT there because then you only need a field goal to tie if you recover the onside kick. However, Janikowski wasn't physically able to kick and emergency kicker and full-time punter Michael Dickson clearly wasn't up for the job after practicing at halftime. So Pete Carroll went for 2 and got it. Crushing beat, but Seattle couldn't get the onside kick (a drop kick because Dickson is an Aussie).
Ezekiel Elliott was great vs. Seattle with 137 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 carries as the Cowboys improved to 7-1 when Elliott hits the century mark this season. Dak Prescott had a TD pass and run. It was Dallas' first playoff win since a Jan. 4, 2015 home Wild Card game vs. Detroit that was rife with officiating errors.
The Rams struggled late in the season with back-to-back ugly losses to the Bears and Cowboys but righted the ship in the final weeks with easy wins at Arizona and vs. San Francisco. Not sure if beating the Cardinals and 49ers proves anything. Todd Gurley missed those last two with a knee issue - he still led the league with 21 TDs - but is good to play Saturday.
Clearly the big story here will be L.A. trying to stop Elliott. Despite having Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh on their defensive line, the Rams allowed a league-worst average of 5.07 yards per rush this season. Elliott averaged exactly 5.07 yards per carry on first downs alone. Dallas has to eat clock and keep Gurley, Jared Goff & Co. off the field.
Cowboys at Rams Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes, Los Angeles is an 8.5-point favorite (+110) with a total of 49.5. On the moneyline, the Rams are -350 and Cowboys +290. On some alternate lines, L.A. is -10.5 (+155), -10 (+140), -9.5 (+125), -7.5 (+100), -7 (-120) and -6.5 (-140). Dallas is 9-8 against the spread (4-4 on road) and 8-9 "over/under" (2-6 on road). Los Angeles is 7-8-1 ATS (3-4-1 at home) and 8-8 O/U (6-2 at home).
The Cowboys are 6-13 ATS in their past 19 vs. teams with a winning record. They are 0-4 ATS in their past four in January. The Rams are 2-5-1 ATS in their past eight after scoring more than 30 points last time out. They are 0-5 ATS in their past five on Saturday. The under is 7-3 in Dallas' past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. It's 5-2 in the Rams' past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The Cowboys are 4-1 ATS in their past five at the Rams.
Cowboys at Rams Betting Prediction
Dallas was the only NFC playoff team the Rams didn't face this season. The clubs played Week 4 last year in Big D and the Rams won 35-30. Gurley had more than 200 yards from scrimmage with a TD, Goff threw for two scores and Greg Zuerlein kicked seven field goals. Prescott threw for three scores, and Elliott had two (one receiving).
The Cowboys can beat anyone in Dallas this season, but they haven't been great on the road. Then there's their road playoff history: A seven-game away losing streak. Only the Lions and Browns have longer road playoff losing streaks. Make it eight. Take L.A. at -6.5 and the over.
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