NFL Predictions: Eagles at Cowboys Week 17 Odds
by Alan Matthews - 12/26/2013
When I wrote my NFL week-ahead story on Monday, I expected the story of the week, especially on ESPN, to be Eagles at Cowboys in their winner-take-all for the NFC East title on Sunday night. I certainly didn't expect why it became such a gigantic news event: the apparent season-ending injury to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
It is true that Dallas hasn't ruled Romo officially out yet, but Adam Schefter is pretty much never wrong. Romo clearly has a major back issue, and it seems impossible an epidural -- that essentially numbs him up around the problem -- will be enough to get him on the field. Supposedly Romo has a herniated disk and will require surgery. It's an injury that could change the course of the franchise. Romo should be fine by next season, but should Dallas lose on Sunday, there are reports that owner Jerry Jones, despite public proclamations to the contrary, will pretty much fire every coach.
The Eagles are saying all the right things; they are preparing for a team not a quarterback. However, they have to be thrilled it's not Romo, who is 1-6 in career elimination games, but Kyle Orton, who has attempted a total of 15 passes since the start of last season. This is the third straight NFC East Championship Game for Dallas, which is looking for its first win.
Eagles at Cowboys Betting Story Lines
The Cowboys are hoping that Orton can morph into the Bears' Josh McCown, who was terrific in place of the injured Jay Cutler. Fittingly, Orton is a former Bear, and this will be his 70th career regular-season start (last one the 2011 regular-season finale for Kansas City). He doesn't have a big arm like Romo but is fairly accurate, a poor-man's Alex Smith if you will. Romo has missed just 13 games since taking over as the starter. Dallas is 6-7 in those, with Jon Kitna (nine starts), Brad Johnson (three) and Stephen McGee (one) combining for a 62.8 completion percentage, 17 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Kitna was signed off the street this week to serve as Orton's backup.
So expect a lot of short passes and probably a heavy dose of running back DeMarco Murray. That will mean a major change in identity, because Dallas has the fifth highest-dropback percentage this season at 66 percent. Murray averages a very good 5.4 yards per carry but only gets it on average 15.4 times per game. He does seem to be peaking with three straight games of at least 96 yards while totaling three scores in those three (one receiving). Philly is No. 30 against the pass and No. 12 against the run.
When Dallas won 17-3 in Philadelphia in Week 7, Murray was inactive. So was star defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Romo threw for 317 yards, a touchdown and two picks. The Dallas defense, the worst in the NFL this season, was the big story that day. Nick Foles was terrible, going 11-of-29 for 80 yards before leaving with an injury. Michael Vick was hurt, so rookie Matt Barkley replaced Foles and threw three picks.
The Eagles struggled the next week as well with Foles out injured in losing 15-7 to the Giants, but they have taken off since, losing just in Week 15 at Minnesota. Foles has to be a Pro Bowler as he leads the NFL with a 118.8 rating (and in yards per attempt) and has 25 touchdown passes and only two picks. The lone game this season in which Philly scored less than 24 points in a Foles start was against Dallas. Since that Philly win, the Cowboys have allowed at least 21 points in every game and at least 30 four times. Dallas is equally bad against the pass (No. 31) and run (No. 27). Philly has the NFL's No. 1 running game led by league rushing leader LeSean McCoy. In Philly's last two wins, he rushed for 350 yards and four scores. He's 37 yards from setting the franchise rushing record. Receiver DeSean Jackson needs 106 yards to break the franchise single-season receiving record. Yeah, I think Chip Kelly's offense has been a success.
The Cowboys will be missing one of their best defensive players as well in linebacker Sean Lee, who is doubtful with a neck injury. In that first Eagles game, Lee was everywhere with 12 tackles (one for loss), an interception, a pass broken up and a quarterback pressure to earn NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Eagles at Cowboys NFL Week 17 Betting Odds and Trends
At BookMaker, the Eagles are six-point favorites with a total of 52.2 This line was at 2.5 on Sunday night before the Romo news. Philadelphia is 8-7 ATS (5-2 on road) and 9-6 “over/under” (6-1 on road). Dallas is 8-7 ATS (4-3 at home) and 9-6 O/U (4-3 at home). The Eagles are 4-1 ATS in their past five games following a win of at least two touchdowns. Philly has covered just three of its past 13 against teams with a winning record. Dallas is 4-1 ATS in its past five against the NFC East. The Cowboys are 1-4 ATS in their past five after an ATS loss. The under is 4-0 in the Cowboys' past four Week 17 games. The road team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings.
NFL Predictions: Eagles at Cowboys Betting Picks for Week 17
History isn't on Orton's side. He played in "win-and-you're-in" games in 2008 with the Bears and 2009 with the Broncos and lost both. Orton did play well in the '08 game but had three picks in the '09 one. Still, I think Orton is capable of keeping this game close and that it may not be such a bad thing to run the ball more. Take the points and the over.
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