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Week 8 America’s Game of the Week Preview: Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins Betting Advice

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| October 27, 2017 12:00 am PDT
cowboys-vs-redskins

In the Week 8 edition of America’s Game of the Week, we lucky football fans get a game that truly defines the essence of “America’s game:” It’s America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, facing off against their hated rival – the team hailing from America’s capital – the Washington Redskins.

Last season, the NFC East was one of the two best divisions in the NFL, along with the AFC West. If the Redskins had won their Week 17 game instead of lost it, the East would have sent three teams to the playoffs, capturing both wild-card spots – a rarity in today’s NFL.

Last year, it was the Dallas Cowboys atop the division, and the Washington Redskins an afterthought.

Coming off the heels of an incredible draft that netted them both the NFL’s rushing leader, Ezekiel Elliott, in the first round, and their quarterback for the future, Dak Prescott, in the fourth round, the Cowboys took the league by storm in 2016/17, transitioning out of the Tony Romo era and winning the #1 seed in the NFC with a record of 13–3.

Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins struggled with consistency over the course of last season. While there were moments when defensive players like Su’a Cravens and offensive players like “Fat Rob” Kelly seemed to be leading the charge for a Redskins resurgence, the fact of the matter was that the team ended up with a record of 8–7–1, and didn’t do enough to reach the postseason.

This season, the Cowboys and the Redskins seem to be much more evenly matched, which only makes us more excited to watch the next chapter of this rivalry unfold.

  • Who: Dallas Cowboys (3–3) vs. Washington Redskins (3–3)
  • Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland
  • When: Sunday, October 29, 2017. 4:25 PM (EST) on FOX

The first time these two teams met was October 9th, 1960, which makes this season the 57th consecutive year that these two teams have matched up. The Redskins won that first game, but over the course of their 114 total meetings (two per year), the Cowboys lead the series 68–44–2, and after the Cowboys won both games last year, the Redskins will be looking to even things out.

During this 57-year span, the rivalry between these two teams – the two wealthiest franchises in the league – has become incredibly fierce.

The number of times that a Redskins’ team has foiled a Cowboys team’s playoff dreams – or vice versa – over the course of this rivalry is too great to count, and the hatred between the players is vast. Playing each other twice a year in such a high-profile rivalry with such high-intensity fan bases is simply a recipe for a deep, deep hatred.

With both teams currently at 3–3, this first meeting will definitely have an impact on the division race.

Currently, the 6–1 Philadelphia Eagles sit alone at the top of the league as the only team with more than 5 wins. The Eagles are the team to beat in the NFC, and if the playoffs started today they would be the #1 overall seed, and neither the Cowboys nor the Redskins would make the playoffs.

Naturally, there’s a reason we don’t start the playoffs in October – there’s a whole lot more football left to be played this season.

Nonetheless, it can’t be ignored that the Eagles have twice as many wins as the two teams we’ll see on America’s Game of the Week this weekend, and with the Giants dropping their first five games, there’s a good chance that if the NFC East sends two teams to the playoffs like it did last season, the Eagles are looking like Team #1 and either the Cowboys or the Redskins hopes to be Team #2.

The fact that the Eagles look like the best team in the NFC right now after finishing 4th place in the division last year indicates just how wonky the NFC is this season.

Between the Giants losing Odell Beckham Jr., the Packers losing Aaron Rodgers, the Cardinals losing Carson Palmer, and the Falcons losing Kyle Shanahan, four of the teams that were expected to compete for the six playoff spots in the NFC look fundamentally different this season than they did last year.

As a result of how much the balance of power has shifted in the NFC, the postseason picture is wide open and ripe for one of these two teams to sneak in behind the Eagles for a Wild Card.

But if either of these teams hopes to take that Wild Card spot (or to snatch the NFC East out of the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles), they need to start with this game. With three good teams, in the Eagles, Cowboys, and Redskins, the NFC East is too hotly contested to risk dropping a divisional game.

And there’s nothing that a division rival wants to do more than spoil the other team’s playoff dreams.

This should be an incredible rivalry game on America’s Game of the Week. And we’ve got you covered with all the information you need to know in order to make informed gambling decisions for the following bets:

  • Moneyline bets
  • Bets against the spread
  • The total score over/under bet
  • Any prop bets or futures that could hold value

In this Week 8 Sunday afternoon game, much of the nation will tune in to watch America’s team take on its hated rival, hailing from America’s capital city. And with pride and potential playoff implications hanging in the balance, we couldn’t be more thrilled.

Cowboys vs. Redskins Betting

FootballMoneyLine
  • Cowboys -130
  • Redskins +110

When we pick games straight-up for moneyline odds, our philosophy is to look at the two teams holistically, in order to determine which team will be able to maintain the upper hand mentally.

In our experience, the team that stays mentally tough for the entire 60-minute contest – all the way to the final whistle – is the team that ends up winning. When a team stays focused and disciplined even in the face of adversity, they limit the mistakes that can cost games.

For example, when a team allows adversity to overwhelm them and becomes unsure of whether they can win, you’ll immediately start to see this lack of confidence manifest on the field, whether it be inerrant throws, dropped passes, miscommunications, blown coverages, missed blocking assignments, and a general lack of gap-soundness.

And when these mental errors start to accumulate, you see penalties, you see teams get behind in the down and distance, you see offenses struggle to convert on third downs, you see defenses that are on the field too long and get tired, and in general the game starts to spiral out of control and ends in a loss.

The first place we tend to look to see which team has the mental advantage is which team is at home.

However, based on the history of this matchup and the particulars of this game, we’re not giving the Redskins any sort of special consideration to win the game just because they’re playing at home.

Going back over the past five years, the 10 times that these two teams have faced off – whether in Washington or in Dallas – the visiting team has won the game 7 times.

And let’s not forget that all five of these years have featured the Cowboys at the impressive AT&T Stadium, which is lauded for providing Dallas a home-field advantage that they didn’t have in their previous venue.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter where these two teams play. In a rivalry this fierce, the level of familiarity is such that home field advantage doesn’t have a chance to work its magic.

After all, what is home field advantage? It’s not just some pie-in-the-sky mumbo jumbo that announcers make up just to have something to talk about. In some situations, the home team in an NFL game will receive an advantage over their opponent in one of two ways: physical disruption, and crowd noise.

Firstly, a physical disruption related to home-field advantage would be something like playing in a new or unfamiliar arena, seeing one’s practice schedule disrupted because of consecutive games on the road, or having the circadian rhythm of the players disrupted because of jet lag.

In this game, with both teams entirely familiar with each other’s stadium and neither team having significant travel issues to worry about, there’s no chance for physical disruption.

Secondly, crowd noise gives the home team an advantage primarily when the visiting team has a young quarterback or an inexperienced offensive line. When the tense atmosphere rattles the QB or when the O-line suffers miscommunications because of the noise, it can directly impact their offensive production.

In this game, with both teams having strong offensive lines, there’s no reason to think that crowd noise would have an impact on offensive production, particularly for Dallas in this game.

In our minds, there’s no doubt that these features of this rivalry are the reason why the visiting team has won the game in 7 out of the last 10 matchups between these two teams and further why, in two out of the last three years, the Cowboys and Redskins have split their two matchups 1–1, with all four wins coming on the road.

In this rivalry, it’s clearly not about who’s playing at home. It’s about who’s hot.

And when we look at this game, we see two teams that are both standing at a crossroads in terms of their identity:

  • The Dallas Cowboys lost only 3 games all of the last season because they had a simple model: control the game by running the football to such a degree that the other team has no chance to impact the outcome. This season, they’ve already lost 3 games, and the changes to their offensive line and Zeke’s looming legal troubles have inhibited them from executing this model.
  • The Washington Redskins showed signs last year of a team that could run the ball effectively and that could play fast and loose on defense, and they made several offseason changes to move in this direction. But despite showing flashes, the same boneheaded game management and lack of confidence that plagued them last season has also flashed this year.

If these two teams hope to make the playoffs, they’re going to need to settle on an identity, and soon.

This is the effort that these two teams are making, each and every week, both on the practice field and on gameday: To develop their strengths to such a degree that they can trust their team to execute the game plan that they’ve settled on as part of their identity.

The reason why we believe that the Cowboys will win this game on the road in Washington is that we believe that they have a much more settled identity at this precise moment of the season.

If Dallas does end up losing Ezekiel Elliott, they will undoubtedly have to change their approach. But coming off of a huge win against the 49ers last week where they were finally able to play “Cowboys football,” or at least the football they played last season, they’ll carry that momentum into this game.

Meanwhile, the Redskins are coming off of three consecutive games – one of which they won – in which that run-and-gun defensive identity was challenged by injuries, and their coaching and execution was highly suspect, particularly in critical moments of the game such as in the red zone and within 2 minutes.

We foresee the Redskins having a crisis of confidence in this game, and Dallas swooping in to capitalize.

Pick: Cowboys to win

FootballSpread
  • Cowboys -2 (-115)
  • Redskins +2 (-105)

Now that we’ve made our pick for the Dallas Cowboys to win this game on the road as they surge back into their ground-and-pound philosophy from last season while the Redskins still struggle to find themselves on defense, let’s now turn our attention to the question of whether we believe the Cowboys will win by more than two points

In picking games against the spread, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s offense matches up against the losing team’s defense.

In our experience, when a team is both able to stay mentally tough for the entire 60 minutes and matches up well on offense against the opposing team’s defense, they’ll generally win the game both straight-up and against the spread. On the other hand, when the losing team’s defense matches up well against the winning team’s offense, they’ll often generate enough stops to pull off a backdoor cover.

In this game, the matchup in question is between the Cowboys’ offense and the Redskins’ defense.

The line in this game is only two points, but it’s important to remember that Dallas is two-point road favorites. Given the typical logic that home teams get a three-point swing simply from playing at home, this means that if the game were being played in Dallas, the Cowboys would be five-point favorites.

We believe that a two-point spread is an accurate line in this game, as we think these two 3–3 teams are pretty evenly matched, and foresee the game being very close.

When we look at the Cowboys’ offense, we have to have a short memory, because Dallas had a lot of balls in the air in the early part of this still-young season:

  • First off, it’s important to remember that the formal departure of Tony Romo has meant a huge transition in leadership. Even after Romo ceded his starting spot so emotionally last season, it was still his locker room, and now Dak Prescott has had to step into a new and different role.
  • Secondly, along the same lines, the loss of Romo not only changes the leadership dynamic of the team, but it also puts a lot more pressure on Prescott, who now doesn’t have the benefit of the 13-year veteran in the weight room, the film room, the meeting rooms, and on the sideline.
  • Thirdly, let’s not forget that Ezekiel Elliott has had a legal raincloud pouring down on him for the entire season, and we don’t see any way in which it doesn’t impact every part of the 22-year old’s life, including his play on the field and by extension, the identity of the offense as a whole.
  • Fourthly, the best run-blocking offensive line in football last season lost 40% of its starters, with Doug Free retiring and Ronald Leary leaving in free agency, meaning that the unit that was the strength of the team had to readjust, and needed a few weeks of this season to settle in.
  • Finally, the offense as a whole needed to face some adversity, to learn what it’s made of. Last year, the Cowboys never really struggled, all the way until the final seconds of their playoff loss. Getting dominated by a good defense this season was an experience they weren’t ready for.

In this context, it’s clear to us that the offense we saw out of the Dallas Cowboys in the first five games of the season was not the “real” Dallas Cowboys offense. Unlike their unusually fast start in the early going last season, the 2017/18 Cowboys have followed a more typical path, and have needed this first part of the season to learn themselves and to figure out what they do well.

After last week’s game, we believe the Cowboys have finally found themselves, and are ready to roll.

Even though the five of the factors above required some time to quiet down and start to resolve themselves, last week the Cowboys got back to playing Cowboys football, and ran the ball for 250 yards against the 49ers. Ezekiel Elliott himself had 219 yards and three total touchdowns in Week 7.

The Cowboys are going to try and pound the ball with Zeke in this game just like they did last week, and the key question will be if the Redskins’ front seven can handle it.

So far this season, the Redskins’ defense is ranked 9th in the league in rush defense, giving up only 94.5 yards per game and holding opposing running backs to 4.0 yards per carry. Watching the tape, it’s clear that they are frequently able to stonewall an opposing offensive line, and playmakers like Zach Brown, Preston Smith, and Ryan Kerrigan are also often able to burst through and tackle a runner for loss.

We believe the matchup is very tight in this game, and that it will come down to situational football.

The major question we’re asking is how far the Cowboys will need to go on 3rd downs. If Dallas’s play-calling is sound on 1st and 2nd down (i.e. they run the ball or have high percentage short passes) and they’re able to get enough push on the Redskins’ defensive front to put themselves in 3rd-and-short, this spells trouble for Washington.

When the Cowboys get into 3rd-and-short, the whole playbook opens up. Most importantly, they’ll be able to run plays where Prescott holds the ball for less than 3 seconds because it’s a run play, a pitch, a quick slant, an out to the flat or some other high percentage play that reliably gets you 1-3 yards.

And if the Cowboys are getting the ball out of Dak’s hands this quickly on 3rd down, the Redskins’ pass rush won’t have enough time to put pressure on Prescott and influence his throws.

Alternatively, if the Redskins are able to play stout run defense, holding fast at the line, they will ideally be able to stop Ezekiel Elliott after 1-2 yards (most of the time) on 1st and 2nd down, or potentially even break through and get a TFL a few times.

On these drives, where the Redskins are able to put the Cowboys behind in the down and distance, they should be able to force Dallas to do one of two things:

  • First, the Cowboys can run the same type of run plays or high-percentage throws that they would have on 3rd-and-1 or 3rd-and-3, relying on their playmakers to bust through and turn a short run or an out to the flat into a 10-yard gain. More likely, Washington will be able to close the distance and contain the play behind the first-down line, forcing a punt.
  • Second, the Redskins have to hope that in a 3rd-and-long situation, the Cowboys will instead elect to run a more slow-developing pass play, which will keep Prescott in the pocket for longer than 3 seconds and give Ryan Kerrigan and the rest of the Redskins’ pass rush time to get home.

When we look at this game, and especially when we look at the Redskins’ long injury report (which featured 12 players limited in practice or held out this week, compared to the Cowboys’ 6), we think that the latter scenario – the Redskins forcing 3rd-and-long – could definitely happen frequently during the first half, which we foresee being close.

However, we believe that over the course of the second half, after adjustments are made, the Cowboys will stick with the run game long enough to tax the Washington defense, and they’ll eventually pick up a few chunk plays (especially in the play-action passing game) that will put the Redskins’ D on their heels.

At that point, we think the Cowboys’ model – to keep converting 3rd-and-shorts and rip off long, clock-chewing drives – will prevail, and will enable the Cowboys to control the flow of the game. Altogether, we like Dallas’s offense to ride this model to enough points to win the game against the spread.

Pick: Cowboys to win by more than 2

FootballTotal Score
  • Over 49 (-110)
  • Under 49 (-110)

Now that we’ve established our prediction for the Cowboys to win this game because they have a more settled identity and for the Redskins to be unable to leverage the strength of their defense (the pass rush) because of the situations we’ll see in the game, it’s now time for us to turn our attention to the question of whether this game will be high- or low-scoring.

When picking games for the total score over/under bet, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s defense matches up against the losing team’s offense.

In our experience, when a team both scores enough points on offense to win against the spread and matches up well on defense against the opposing team’s offense, they are generally able to control the game to such a degree that the total score goes under. On the other hand, if the losing team can also score a lot of points, the game can easily turn into a shootout that pushes the total score over.

The matchup we’re looking at for the over/under bet is the Cowboys’ D vs. the Redskins’ offense.

Unfortunately for the Redskins, this game does not provide them a good matchup. We saw above that the 3rd-and-short situations we envision for the Cowboys’ offense will mean that the excellent Redskins’ pass rush doesn’t help them – they’re simply unable to leverage the strength of the unit.

In the same way, we believe that the situation of the game will make the Redskins unable to take advantage of the weakness in the Cowboys’ secondary.

This past offseason, Dallas lost the three best members of its secondary: cornerback Morris Claiborne, safety J. J. Wilcox, and cornerback Brandon Carr. It’s not as though Dallas has become terrible in pass defense all of the sudden (in fact they’re ranked 5th in the league in net yards allowed per passing attempt), but there are certainly some bugs that the Cowboys are still ironing out.

It’s well-known that the best way to help bail out a struggling secondary is to generate pass rush.

And with the DeMarcus Lawrence on the team, who has traded off with Calais Campbell throughout the season for the league lead in sacks (currently in second place, with 9.5 to Campbell’s 10), not to mention Tyrone Crawford (with 3), David Irving (with 3 in only two games), and Maliek Collins (with 2.5), the Cowboys are currently tied for 6th in the league in total sacks, and the pressure has been palpable.

And unfortunately for Washington, DeMarcus Lawrence lines up on the right side of the offensive line, and both right tackle Morgan Moses and right guard Brandon Scherff are injured.

We don’t yet have the final word on what the Redskins’ starting five offensive linemen will be available on Sunday afternoon – it’s possible that both Moses and Scherff play in this game. But with both missing practice time this week, Moses with an ankle injury and Scherff with a knee injury, we’re feeling very confident that the advantage this week goes to the Cowboys’ d-line, especially if we see backups.

And the news gets worse for the Redskins’ O-line: In addition to the mismatch on the right side with DeMarcus Lawrence, left tackle Trent Williams could miss this game.

The reliable All-Pro blind-side protector for Kirk Cousins has been held out of practice all week with a knee injury, and his status is uncertain. And once again, even if Williams plays – even if the Redskins have their full starting five on the field – they’re clearly not at full strength on the O-line.

Combine an injured Washington offensive line with the fact that the Redskins should be playing from behind (if Dallas’s offense plays as we predict), and we see the Cowboys getting home in this game.

In the beginning of the game, we foresee Rod Marinelli’s defensive scheme exploiting the aforementioned weaknesses, and putting the Redskins behind in the down-and-distance with sacks and penalties. This will put Cousins in obvious passing situations, which will enable the pass rush to tee off even more.

Then, later in the game, if the Redskins get behind, they’ll be forced to throw all the more.

Put all this together, and we foresee the Cowboys staying ahead for much of the game, and generating enough stops to control the flow of the game. Given the fact that they’ll be primarily running the ball, we don’t think the lead will get too great, and we like the Redskins to have an opportunity in the 4th quarter to make up some of the scoring and keep the game close.

But ultimately, we’re convinced that the long drives from the Cowboys’ offense and the pass rush from the Cowboys’ defense will enable them to control the time of possession to such a degree that it keeps the total score under 49 points.

Pick: Cowboys 24, Redskins 21

FootballProp Bets

Now that we’ve made our overall prediction for the game – that the Cowboys’ will roll in this game as they start to find their identity, that the Redskins’ won’t be able to contain their running game enough to give their pass rush time to get home, and that Dallas’s pass rush, in turn, will feast on Washington’s injured O-line, let’s see if we can’t profit off of this view of the game by investing in some prop bets.

Specifically, we believe that the following wagers will hold value in this game:

  • Ezekiel Elliott to score multiple touchdowns in the game. Along with the rest of the league, we’re growing weary of the ongoing legal drama with Zeke. But he is playing on Sunday, and it could be one of the last times this season, so look for Dallas to target him a whole lot in this one.
  • Ryan Kerrigan to go under his posted total for sacks. The Cowboys’ offensive line had a coming-out party against the 49ers last week, and with Dallas controlling the ball in the ground game, we don’t foresee Dak Prescott holding the ball long enough to allow the pass rush to get home.
  • DeMarcus Lawrence to go over his posted total for sacks. This game will be all about pass rush, and D-Lawrence has been trading off with Calais Campbell these past few weeks for the league lead in sacks. With Cousins in obvious passing situations, playing from behind, we foresee sacks.

In addition to the above prop bets that we’ll get to watch unfold live during the game, we would also direct your attention to the following future bets, which we believe also hold value:

  • The Dallas Cowboys to go under their win total. The Cowboys opened this offseason at 9.5 wins, and there is definitely a case to be made that even if they win this game, their tough schedule will make them hard-pressed to get above 8 wins, much less above 9 wins.
  • The Washington Redskins to make the playoffs. Even though we don’t think the Redskins win this game, we still think they have a better chance at the division or at a Wild Card than the Cowboys. Their defense is better (when Josh Norman comes back), and their schedule is easier.
  • DeMarcus Lawrence for Defensive Player of the Year. With J. J. Watt out of the race, if Lawrence is able to pull off the sack title this year – a year when the Cowboys need to rely on their defense much more than in previous years – the veteran pass rusher could get the nod.

Even if you have wagers on an individual game, it’s also important to keep your eyes peeled while you’re watching the game film for any clues that could tip you off for future bets you might want to make down the line. Keep the above future bets in mind as you watch on Sunday, and thank us later.

Summary: Best Bets

This Week 8 edition of America’s Game of the Week is a particularly “American” game: After all, it’s “America’s team,” the Dallas Cowboys, facing off against its hated division rival, the Washington Redskins, who hail from none other than America’s capital. In this NFC East showdown, we see two teams fighting hard to keep from falling behind in a division captained by the league-leading 6–1 Eagles.

We believe that the Cowboys will win this game because they have the more settled identity, having found themselves last week in a 250-yard rushing performance against the 49ers. We foresee Dallas wearing Washington down with their run game, and converting 3rd-and-shorts to keep long drives churning. Meanwhile, with the Redskins suffering injuries on the right side of their O-line, we like DeMarcus Lawrence to get home early and often, and for Washington to struggle on offense.

In order to profit off of this view of the game, here are our best bets:

  • Cowboys -130 moneyline
  • Cowboys -2 against the spread (-115)
  • The total score to go under 49 (-110)
  • Ezekiel Elliott to score multiple touchdowns in the game
  • Ryan Kerrigan to go under his posted total for sacks
  • DeMarcus Lawrence to go over his posted total for sacks

It’s too early in the season to talk about playoff implications, as anything can happen. Nonetheless, in a division that was one of the best in football last year, you certainly don’t want to drop a game this important, lest it come back to haunt you come December.

Hated rivals, playoff implications, ground-and-pound football, pride on the line — this game epitomizes everything we love about American Football, and we couldn’t be more excited.

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