One of the most divisive games in Week 2 is a showdown between the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks. Some are buying into what Jerry Jones is sellin' in 2012, while the other side of the fence fears the 12th man. Let's take a closer look and see where the value lies.
Talk about a line swing! This game opened with Seattle as short -1.5 favorites back in May, but now we have the Cowboys at -3. Such is life in the world of Vegas when a very public team wins in primetime against the defending champs, and a preseason favorite falls short in Arizona.
Right now there are signs that this could come off the -3 and give even more value to Seattle backers, That would be a bold move given how good the Seahawks can play at home (odds from SBRforum).
12th Man Alert
There are two primary concerns about laying a field goal on the road in Seattle, and the first one is obviously attached to the crowd noise. One underrated, yet important, handicapping factor is offensive penalties. Teams that consistently give up yards with holding calls and false starts typically don't win as many games. These penalties are straight-up drive killers.
The win in New York was even more impressive because the Cowboys committed offensive penalties by the boatload. On one hand, I think that was more to do with the early start to the season and lack of cohesiveness on a scotch-taped together O-line. There should be less mental mistakes this week thanks to the extra time to prepare.
Having said that, the 12th man in Seattle causes more false starts than any other stadium in the league. I don't expect the Dallas offense to be a well-oiled machine in such an environment.
Defense Wins Championships?
Call me old-school, but I'm a huge fan of defense. These days, everybody can put up points, with the exception of a few teams (Cleveland and Miami, I'm looking at you). Yet not everyone can play defense anymore, especially given the rule changes over the last few years and increased emphasis on passing.
The Seahawks are no such team. They have arguably one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Some teams have excellent corners but average safeties and vice versa. Seattle is loaded in both areas. This will go a long way in limiting what Tony Romo and company can do downfield.
Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman can play true bump-and-run coverage. This allows Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas to roam free more often and make big plays in run support and pass coverage. Together with a promising front four, the Seahawks' defense is going to keep them in most games this season.
Is it Possible the Cowboys are Underrated?
It seems silly to ask, especially after such a huge Week 1 win. If "America's Team" is good, chances are you'll hear about it whether you want to or not. But I have to ask the question because the improvements in the secondary could have even more of an impact than people think. Having a pair of press corners completely opens up Rob Ryan's scheme.
Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne could develop into one of the best CB duos in the entire league. Orlando Scandrick is also effective as a slot corner.
One of the problems I had with projecting the Seahawks this year revolved around the offensive support. The preseason gave me a lot of reason for optimism, as guys like Braylon Edwards, Sidney Rice and Robert Turbin appeared capable of moving the chains with up-and-coming QB Russell Wilson.
Let's not overreact to one week, because the Cardinals have a pretty good defense, but we shouldn't be surprised that it's going to be a process with this group. The challenge is, can they rebound with a better effort at home against a defense that is possibly tougher than Arizona's?
If the Cowboys get up two scores, can Wilson lead them back? I have my doubts about that, but I am pretty confident that the Dallas offense will put up points.
In fact, the Cowboys' offense has better weapons across the board at the skill positions. Of course, Tony Romo is always a concern in clutch situations. He'll be reminded of that all week, as he returns to the place where he botched the hold for the go-ahead field goal in the playoffs, giving birth to his "choker" perception.
Still, even with his shortcomings, he's no doubt a much more polished and accomplished QB than Wilson at this point. His skill was on full display when he made great throws vs. the Giants while nursing a one-score lead.
Oh Oh Oh-Line
No matter what issues Dallas has with the home crowd on Sunday, the situation could be even worse for the Seahawks O-line. Russell Okung has a bone bruise on his knee and won't practice. Pete Carroll is optimistic he'll play, but he won't be 100%. Even when he was healthy, Okung struggled more than expected in Week 1, and now he must deal with one of the best sack-masters in the NFL, DeMarcus Ware.
Ware has been limited in practice, but Jason Garrett confirms it's simply rest time for the hamstring he's nursing from the preseason (ESPN Dallas). He still played 91% of the snaps and had two sacks in Week 1. Unless he re-aggravates it during the game, he'll be good to go. This is bad news if your name is Russell Wilson.
I've rarely picked the Cowboys in the last couple of years, primarily because of Tony Romo and their embarrassing defense. However, I think the 2012 version is legit. They will walk away from Week 2 with a 2-0 record. I've bet against Seattle at home before and got burned, so I know the risks. But I already regret passing on Dallas in Week 1and don't want to make the same mistake again.
Both defenses could be top-10 units, but I don't think home-field advantage will be enough to compensate for the mismatches on offense.
NFL Pick: DAL (-3).