For the second week in a row, the New England Patriots are in the NFL spotlight with the marquee game, as the Pats host the Dallas Cowboys in the Fox Game of the Week. I would like to call it a potential Super Bowl preview, but it is doubtful the Cowboys will hold up their end of the bargain since they rarely do.
Since the Dallas had a bye last week, the Cowboys have one big advantage coming into the matchup with the Pats. The teams and fans alike were spared from hearing about Tony Romo in the media. Frankly, Romo is the reason the Cowboys won their two games so far, but he is also the reason they lost two. In week four, Dallas somehow managed to gag up a 27-3 third-quarter lead in a 34-30 home loss to Detroit. It was the largest blown lead in a loss in franchise history. Dallas' previous biggest blown lead was 21 against Washington on Nov. 28, 1965, when the Cowboys led 21-0 in the second quarter on the way to a 34-31 loss. It tied the largest blown lead at home in league history.
Against the Lions, Romo typically has good numbers, 34-of-47 for 331 yards and three touchdowns. However, he also had three interceptions. Two of them were returned for TDs (getting the Lions to within 27-17) and the other interception came with 4:13 left. His last interception set up Detroit's winning score. It was the fourth time in team history the Cowboys had two picks returned for scores and they have lost all four games when it that feat has occurred. That Lions loss ended one streak: The Cowboys’ previous nine games all had been decided by a field goal or less, an NFL record.
The Patriots made a bit of a statement last week, beating a Jets team 31-20 that always gives them fits. New England got a great performance from BenJarvis Green-Ellis (136 yards and two scores) and a typical 300-yard day from Tom Brady (321). He did have only one TD pass, ending his streak of games with at least two at 13, which is tied for the NFL record. Perhaps the best news was the maligned New England defense, holding the Jets to only 225 yards – the Pats entered that game last in the NFL in allowing nearly 478 per game. The Patriots now have scored at least 30 points in 13 straight regular-season games, one shy of tying the NFL record.
Cowboys at Patriots Betting Storylines
The bye week came at just the right time for the struggling Cowboys. It allows Romo’s ribs a bit of extra time to heal. And even better, both cornerback Orlando Scandrick and WR Miles Austin healed up. They are back at practice this week and should play barring some sort of setback. Austin has 14 catches for 244 yards and four touchdowns this season. He had three touchdowns in the comeback win over San Francisco, but aggravated a hamstring injury at the end of the game that had kept him out all of the preseason. His return is needed because fellow WR Dez Bryant also has been banged up and been rather quiet in the second half of the two games that Austin had missed.
It will be the first time all season the Cowboys will have a healthy secondary and have the top three cornerbacks, Scandrick (out with an ankle injury since season opener), Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman, on the field together. Newman missed the first two games with a groin injury.
Obviously Dallas needs all hands on deck against Brady, Wes Welker and the NFL’s most potent passing offense. Scandrick will mostly cover Welker, who has 45 catches for 740 yards and five touchdowns and is on pace to break the NFL mark for yards in a season (1,848, Jerry Rice) and catches (143, Marvin Harrison).
New Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan slowed the Pats down last year while in the same position with the Browns, who handed New England one of its two regular-season losses. Brady was sacked once, hurried twice and threw one interception in the 34-14 defeat, the last time the Patriots failed to score 30 points. The Lions had success against Dallas with an empty backfield (Matthew Stafford was not sacked once), and the Pats love that formation, so expect a lot of it.
Brady has won 30 consecutive regular-season home games. He has not tasted a regular season defeat in Foxborough since losing to the Jets on Nov. 12, 2006.
Cowboys at Patriots Betting Odds and Trends
New England opened as a seven-point favorite with the total at 54.5, according to NFL odds. About 70 percent of the lean is on the Pats. Dallas is 1-2-1 ATS this season and 1-0-1 ATS on the road. New England is 4-1 ATS and 2-0 ATS at home.
The Cowboys are 6-0 ATS in their past six as a dog. The Pats are 7-3 ATS in their past 10 following a win. The ‘over’ is 9-1 in Cowboys’ past 10 after a loss. The ‘over’ is 10-1 in New England’s past 11 as a favorite of 3.5-10.
NFL Picks: Cowboys at Patriots Betting Predictions
Dallas is going to have to outscore New England to win – yeah, I know that sounds obvious. But it means capitalizing on every opportunity. In the Patriots’ last nine losses, the opponent converted on at least 50 percent of its red-zone opportunities eight times. So that means no more boneheaded interceptions by Romo, but I have no doubt the Cowboys are going to be able to move the ball. Of course, so will New England. I love the ‘over’ here. As for the side, I would wait and see if the line moves to 7.5 (then take Dallas) or 6.5 (then take the Pats). I see this as a New England win by a touchdown.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.