Week 9 Sunday Afternoon Preview: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Dallas Cowboys Betting Advice

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| November 3, 2017 12:00 am PDT
chiefs-vs-cowboys

We have now passed the halfway point of the 2017/18 NFL season, which means that our strategy as gamblers fundamentally changes.

And this change in strategy matters a lot for this important Sunday afternoon matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys – the #2 seed in the AFC a season ago vs. the #1 seed in the NFC from a season ago – probably the best game of the entire Week 9 slate, and the first game where excellent color announcer Tony Romo goes back to Arlington to cover his old team.

Around the midpoint of the season, the strategy changes from trying to decide whether a team is good to try to decide whether a team will be good this week:

  • In the month of September, as a gambler, you’re just trying to get your feet under you, and trying to figure out if the trends you picked up on in the offseason and the preseason will translate into live, regular season game action. Most of the time, they don’t.
  • In the month of October, as a gambler, you’re trying to sift through the spurious trends and figure out how things are going to equalize, in order to get a real idea of which teams in the league are actually good, and which teams are just smoke and mirrors.

And now, in the month of November, the fact of the matter is that most of the teams have shown you what they really are: bad teams have shown themselves to be bad; good teams have shown themselves to be good, and you get a feel for which “bad-good teams” and “good-bad teams” need to remain gambling stayaways each week.

Importantly, after 8 games, you’ve seen both sides of every team: how they win, and how they lose.

After watching game film for an entire two months, you have an idea of how teams will match up: maybe one team needs to run the ball to win the game, or another team can’t come from behind, or another team only scores points in garbage time or any number of other scenarios.

At this point in the season, we’ve seen both sides of the Kansas City Chiefs, and we’ve seen both sides of the Dallas Cowboys, and it’s time to choose which side shows up.

  • Who: Kansas City Chiefs (6–2) vs. Dallas Cowboys (4–3)
  • Where: AT&T Stadium. Arlington, Texas
  • When: Sunday, November 5, 2017. 4:25 PM (EST) on CBS

On the side of the Kansas City Chiefs, the first five games of the season saw them look absolutely dominant, with a dynamic offense that no one could slow down. The combination of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Kareem Hunt – orchestrated by offensive savant Andy Reid and conducted by the incredibly efficient Alex Smith – seemed to be downright unstoppable.

But then, in Week 6, the zone defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers proved to be the immovable object that beat the unstoppable force, and the rest of the league had a blueprint that they could follow for how to match up against Andy Reid’s offense. The Chiefs lost two in a row.

On the side of the Dallas Cowboys, the first five games of the season saw the Cowboys look very uncharacteristic compared to last season’s 13–3 dominance. In Week 2, Dallas shocked the league by gaining only 40 rushing yards in Denver, and this strange loss of mojo (no doubt due in part to Ezekiel Elliott’s looming legal concerns) carried them to a lackluster 2–3 start.

But then, in Week 6, the Cowboys went on their bye and came back with a rejuvenated offense, winning two consecutive road games with a total of 73 points and 434 rushing yards. Dallas seemed to have rediscovered the formula that brought them to the #1 seed last season.

And now that these two playoff contenders have put both sides of themselves on film, the question for we gamblers is to determine which side is going to come out on a week-to-week basis. We now know what the Cowboys need to do to win games, and we also know what the Chiefs need to do to win games. The question we need to answer now is which team will get what they want this Sunday.

And although of course, it’s too early to say what teams are going to hang around in January, it’s entirely possible that this matchup could be a Super Bowl preview.

Over the past two seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys have been two of the winningest franchises in the entire National Football League, and this Sunday afternoon we lucky fans get to watch and see them duke it out on national television.

And below, we’ve got you covered with our best prediction for which side of each team is going to show up on Sunday, and all the information you need to make informed gambling decisions for the following:

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

After two months of watching game film, we’ve now seen both sides of every team. And on Sunday afternoon, we get to see which side of the Dallas Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs will show up.

Chiefs vs. Cowboys Betting

FootballMoneyLine
  • Chiefs +100
  • Cowboys -120

In picking games straight-up for moneyline odds, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the two teams match up holistically, in order to determine which team has a mental advantage.

In our experience, when a team is able to maintain its mental toughness for the entire 60-minute contest, they generally end up winning the game. On the other hand, when a team loses focus and allows mental errors to creep in, the game can quickly spiral out of control and end in a loss.

And we’re not talking about some pie-in-the-sky ephemeral nonsense. We’re talking about real, tangible mental errors, that you can see on the stat sheet. We’re talking about errant passes, dropped balls, blown coverages, missed assignments, penalties, lost battles in the trenches, and a general lack of defensive gap-soundness. These errors have a direct impact on the outcome of the game.

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

Thus far this season, the Cowboys are 1–2 at home, and in reality, the only reason they are favored in this game is that they are at home. The fact that the Chiefs are getting even odds (and similarly, to foreshadow, the fact that the spread is only 1 point) indicates that if this game were played at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs would be favored.

Vegas isn’t concerned about the fact that the Cowboys are playing at home, and neither are we. The Chiefs have been excellent on the road so far this season.

The Chiefs are 3–1 on the road, and have won their road games this season by an average margin of 12 points: They’re not just winning on the road, they’re beating up on teams on the road. The only game they’ve lost on the road was the Raiders game, which came down to a questionable set of plays in the closing seconds of the game.

And this makes sense when you think about it. The primary mechanism of home-field advantage is the way that crowd noise impacts the communication and performance of the visiting team’s offensive line, and the Chiefs have a healthy and well-coached offensive line unit. There’s no reason to believe that crowd noise on offense would change the Chiefs at or alter the flow of their performance.

So in the absence of home field advantage, we really do just need to figure out which team shows up.

The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league, and casual fans of the league are very quick to turn on individual players and even on entire teams on a weekly basis. When you win and look good, you’re a Super Bowl contender; when you lose and look bad, you’re going to miss the playoffs.

The Kansas City Chiefs underwent some adversity during mid-October, with two losses over the span of 100 hours against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders.

After these two losses, we believe that fans have grossly overreacted, calling out that the Chiefs are done; that opposing defenses have figured out their offense; that they are the reincarnation of last season’s Minnesota Vikings, who started out the season 5–0 only to finish 8–8 and miss the playoffs.

It’s totally unfair to compare this year’s Kansas City Chiefs to last year’s Minnesota Vikings.

First of all, on a surface level, last year’s Vikings won their first five games and then lost the next four. This year’s Chiefs won their first five games, lost the next two, and then won, last week against the Broncos. This may not seem like a big difference, but back-to-back losses is a whole lot better than a three-game losing streak – just ask the Broncos, who were also on a two-game skid going into last week’s game.

Secondly, it’s very important to point out that the Vikings sustained a crushing amount of injuries last season after their initial win streak, primarily along the offensive line. The Chiefs are not a significantly different team today than they were in the first month of the season – they haven’t sustained any major injuries over the course of the last month.

If the last play of the Raiders game goes the other way, the Chiefs are 7–1 right now, same as the Philadelphia Eagles, and everyone is back to crowning them Super Bowl favorites.

That’s all. One play. And yes, the Chiefs have enjoyed some very unsustainable statistical trends that are bound to reverse themselves, most notably their lack of giveaways. After fumbling on their first play of their first game, the Chiefs didn’t have a single turnover for six games, until they had two last week against the Broncos. Alex Smith has zero interceptions; this is going to change.

But even though we are certainly going to see some of the statistical trends for the Chiefs start to equalize over the second half of the year, they’re still a complete team.

The Chiefs are well-coached from top to bottom, all the way down to special teams coordinator Dave Toub, who has been one of the absolute best in the league during his time in Kansas City.

In his tenure with the Chiefs, the team has an incredible 12 touchdowns scored on special teams and has not given up a single one. Several of Toub’s assistants have gone on to become full-fledged coordinators in their own right, and he is a big reason for their success.

With coaches like Toub and Andy Reid, the Chiefs play every game close, just like they will in Dallas.

In short, we believe that the Chiefs team that we’re going to see on Sunday afternoon is the Chiefs team that we saw in the first month of the season, not the Chiefs team we saw against the Steelers. Meanwhile, with Ezekiel Elliott finally suspended, we’re not so sure that the Cowboys are going to be able to successfully operate that ground-and-pound philosophy of last year, and of the last two weeks.

Overall, we believe that the Kansas City Chiefs know exactly who they are, and they’ll be able to stay focused and just execute their game plan. We’re not so sure that we can same about the Cowboys in Dak Prescott’s first game without Zeke.

Pick: Chiefs to win

FootballSpread
  • Chiefs +1 (-110)
  • Cowboys -1 (-110)

Given the fact that the Chiefs are road underdogs in this game, the fact that we’ve picked them to win straight-up obviously means that we’ve already made our pick against the spread. And anyway, with a spread of only 1 point, the pick against the spread is essentially the same as the moneyline pick.

Usually, when we pick 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 able to both stay mentally tough enough to win the game and also matches up well on offense against the losing team’s defense, they are generally able to score enough points to win the game both straight-up and against the spread. On the other hand, when the losing team’s defense matches up well, they’ll often generate enough stops to pull off a backdoor cover.

In order to shore up our case for a KC win, let’s look at the Chiefs’ offense vs. the Cowboys’ defense.

As we described in the section above, we haven’t seen any significant change out of the Kansas City’s offense, even during the course of their two losses.

Last week, against the Broncos, the Chiefs finally turned the ball over, twice, but this is no cause for concern. Turnovers are a part of the game, and it was simply a statistical anomaly for the Chiefs to go six straight games without turning the ball over. In fact, it’s almost a good thing for the turnovers to start to come; otherwise, we would simply keep waiting, game after game, for the hammer to finally drop.

What the Chiefs need to do in order to continue having success on offense is they have to maintain balance. And this starts with establishing the run game.

The Chiefs’ rookie running back Kareem Hunt has been an absolute sensation. Hunt leads the league in rushing with 763 yards and really has led the league since opening day. The production from Hunt has been the x-factor that pushes the Chiefs over the edge from the polished offense they were last season to the downright dangerous offense we’ve seen this season.

One of the biggest reasons that Hunt has been able to have success in Kansas City’s offense is because of the number of collegiate concepts that Andy Reid has installed.

The Chiefs run a lot of read option, they do a lot of zone reads, and Andy Reid is not shy about the fact that he will borrow concepts and route trees from any source, including the film that he and his staff watch coming out of that great factory of football creativity known as college football.

The college concepts in Kansas City’s offense have allowed Kareem Hunt to play fast and instinctive.

And the speed and instinctiveness with which Kareem Hunt plays, in turn, is what enables him to have such great vision, and to make the kind of cuts that can take the hole that the offensive line provides and flip it from a 7-yard gain and a tackle in the second level by a linebacker into a 12-14-yard gain and a tackle on the back end of the defense by a safety.

This ability to get 10+ yards on a run play is the foundation of the Chiefs’ success on offense, as it fundamentally changes the way that defenses play Kansas City.

When the Chiefs are moving the ball so well on the ground, opposing defenses feel a need to bring extra defenders into the box, in order to plug those holes created by the offensive line and keep Hunt from reaching the second level.

But when defenses bring extra defenders into the box, Travis Kelce slips into an open zone downfield.

And if it’s not Travis Kelce over the middle or running a seam, the Chiefs can also slip Albert Wilson or Charcandrick West into one of the more traditional receiver routes. If the opposing defense does have extra men in the box, it means that they are probably lined up in one-on-one coverage, and the Chiefs can trust their receivers to get open.

And on top of it all, the Chiefs still have Tyreek Hill, who can line up anywhere on the field, and causes defenders to cheat in his direction in order to avoid a trick play like a Jet sweep.

In this way, it’s clear that the Chiefs can hurt you in a myriad of ways on offense. But it’s also clear that their success on offense is predicated on their ability to run the ball with Kareem Hunt. This is the thing that ties the hands of the opposing defensive coordinator and gives Andy Reid the upper hand.

In this way, the question that we need to answer for this matchup is whether the Dallas Cowboys will be able to stop the Kansas City Chiefs’ rushing attack.

No one can deny that the Cowboys have a very stout front seven. For the entire season, Cowboys’ star pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence has traded off the NFL sack lead with the Jaguars’ Calais Campbell, no doubt motivated by the fact that he is in a contract year. Meanwhile, David Irving has an incredible 5 sacks and 12 combined tackles despite having been back from suspension for only three games.

But a stout pass rush is not the same thing as a stout run defense – just ask the Seattle Seahawks. The bigger question here is whether the Cowboys can play disciplined, and gap-sound.

The statistics aren’t great for Dallas fans: the Cowboys have allowed the 15th-most rushing yards and the 10th-most rushing touchdowns in the league so far through 7 games, despite fielding only the 5th-fewest rushing attempts. This gives them the #24 ranking in yards allowed per attempt average, giving up a poor 4.5 yards per carry to opposing backs.

However, naked statistics never tell the whole story, and in this case, some interpretation is needed.

The Cowboys were without their defensive signal caller Sean Lee for two games this season. In those two games, back-to-back losses to the Rams and Packers, the Cowboys gave up an average of 164 yards on the ground. In their other five games, they’ve averaged 82.8 rush yards allowed.

With the run-stuffing linebacker playing in this game, complemented by his young understudy Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys should be better against the run. But in the end, it won’t be enough to stop KC.

Pick: Chiefs to win by more than 1

FootballTotal Score
  • Over 51.5 (-110)
  • Under 51.5 (-110)

Having established our prediction for the Kansas City Chiefs to win this game on the road because of their more settled identity, but for the improved Dallas run defense to make it difficult for them, let’s now turn our attention to the question of whether this game will be generally 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 is both able to score enough points on offense to win against the spread and able to generate stops on defense, they are generally able to control the flow and timing of the game to such a degree that the total score will end up going under. On the other hand, if the losing team matches up well on offense, the game can turn into a shootout that pushes the total score over.

In this game, the matchup to watch for the total score over/under bet is KC’s D vs. Dallas’s offense.

Over the last two games, Cowboys fans have to be having flashbacks to the dominant 13–3 team that they had the good fortune of watching last season. Because since the Cowboys came back from their Week 6 bye, they have finally seemed to get back to the formula that they employed last year: ground and pound the ball with Ezekiel Elliott.

Unfortunately for Dallas fans, it seems that Ezekiel Elliott has finally run out of delaying tactics, and he will now be forced to serve his 6-game suspension.

From a pure football perspective (leaving out the moral and legal complications), it’s truly a shame to see Zeke go out – for everyone except the Cowboys opponents. Zeke was playing incredible football since the bye week, scoring 5 total touchdowns and putting up just under 300 rushing yards.

And not only will this Week 9 game against the Chiefs be the Cowboys’ first game without Ezekiel Elliott this season, it will also be Dak Prescott’s first game without Elliott in his career.

We don’t mean to say that Prescott isn’t equally comfortable with Alfred Morris, or that the young quarterback is somehow less able to pass the ball off to running backs who aren’t Zeke. What we do mean to say is that the reigning rushing yards leader is a security blanket for Prescott, just like his incredible offensive line. Take away the security blanket, and Prescott might get exposed.

If the Cowboys aren’t able to establish the run, they will likely have trouble in the passing game.

If you had to pick a weakness for the Cowboys’ offense between quarterback, backfield, offensive line, and receiving corps, undoubtedly the choice in 2017/18 would be the receiving corps.

There seems to be a prevailing belief among diehard Cowboys fans (of which there are many) that Dez Bryant is a top-10 receiver in the National Football League. Unfortunately, there’s just no real statistical evidence to back this up, and when you watch the Cowboys on film you don’t see anything to the contrary that would make you believe that the statistics just don’t tell the whole story or something like that.

To say nothing of Dez Bryant’s career in general, the 28-year old receiver has missed 10 games over the last two seasons, and so far this season he’s ranked 41st in the league in yards.

Now, of course, not all the blame can be placed on Dez’s shoulders. Other than 35-year old Jason Witten, who has performed at the exact same elite level for at least a decade now, the Cowboys’ other receivers, including Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Brice Butler, have all failed to create separation, and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan deserves some blame too for his scheme.

Ultimately, however, the fact of the matter is that the Cowboys struggle without a strong run game.

Much in the same way that we described with the Chiefs, the Cowboys really need the added benefit of having defenses bring extra men in the box to stop the run in order to be successful in the passing game. In obvious passing situations, without any sort of misdirection or play action, the Cowboys’ receivers just haven’t been cutting it this season.

In this way, the biggest question for the Cowboys’ offense is whether they’ll be able to establish the run without Zeke, or if the Chiefs will be able to stop them.

When the Chiefs lost two games in a row in mid-October, and more specifically when they allowed an uncharacteristic average of 28 points per game in a three-game span against the Texans, Steelers, and Raiders, many of the Kansas City fans went off the deep end, claiming with certainty that the sky was falling and calling for the head of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.

Looking more closely at the tape, it’s clear to us that there’s no real cause for concern with regards to the Kansas City defense – they just played good teams, and nothing really has changed.

Specifically, the Chiefs allowed 34 points to one of the hottest offenses in the entire NFL, but still won the turnover battle 1 to 0 and won the game by 8. They then allowed 19 points and lost to the Steelers, a team that has been their Achilles heel over the last few years.

Subsequently, they allowed 24 points to a desperate division rival on the road in Oakland, leading by 6, only to allow 7 more and lose after the clock hit triple zeroes. And the following game, against another division rival (this time at home), they allowed only 19 points, generated 5 turnovers, and won by 12.

Nothing about the situation for the Chiefs over the last few games has given us any cause for concern.

In this game, we like the Cowboys to be able to run the ball because the Chiefs have the 4th-worst yards-allowed-per-carry average in the league (at 4.9). We believe that Dallas’s recent stretch of success on the ground is more than just Ezekiel Elliott – it’s an attitude, and an identity, and you don’t suspend those things.

Ultimately, we believe that if and when the Cowboys abandon the run because they are forced to play from behind, they’re going to have trouble moving the ball through the air against KC’s dynamic secondary. But until that point, we like the Cowboys to be able to move the ball enough to score points in their first few drives of the game. And we’re taking the over.

Pick: Cowboys 24, Chiefs 34

FootballProp Bets

Now that we’ve established our overall prediction for the game – for the Chiefs to win on the road because they are more settled in their identity, for the Cowboys to be better against the Chiefs’ running attack but unable to contain them altogether, and for the Cowboys run game to be sufficient even without Zeke to sustain drives and score points – let’s take a look at some prop bets.

Specifically, we believe that the following wagers hold good value, and will enable us to further capitalize off of our prediction for the game:

  • Alfred Morris to go over his posted total for yards. The big question on everyone’s mind is how big the drop-off is going to be for the Cowboys’ rushing offense with Zeke finally suspended. We’ll put it this way: not 500-yards-in-two-games production, but certainly above expectations.
  • There will be a score in the first 7m30s of the game. Both of these offenses are fired up and ready to roll, and we like both teams to go into the game with a set of 20 or so scripted plays that should work to perfection. We predict whichever team gets the ball first to score.
  • Kareem Hunt to go over his posted total for yards. Last week, against the Broncos, the Chiefs weren’t able to get Hunt going as much as they would like. This week, we think that KC relies on their run game to help alleviate the pass rush, and we like Kareem Hunt to go off in Dallas.

In addition to these props listed above, which we’ll be able to watch unfold live during the game, we would also direct your attention to the following future bets:

  • The Kansas City Chiefs to win the AFC West. The Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos are both looking exceptionally vulnerable right now, meanwhile, the Chiefs look like one of the most complete teams in the league. As the season goes on, the odds for KC will only go down.
  • The Dallas Cowboys to make the playoffs. We believe that the NFC East will send two teams to the playoffs, and the Eagles look like they will certainly be one of those two. And with the Giants out of it and the Redskins gouged with injuries, we like the Cowboys to sneak in and make it.
  • Alex Smith to win MVP. Alex Smith has done it all this season: he’s completing1% of his passes, he’s thrown for 16 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, and his passer rating is 115.4. Not to mention that he’s rushed for 154 yards and a TD. If he keeps rolling, he could get the nod.

Experienced gamblers know that it’s not enough to simply watch and see whether your individual wagers pay out. In addition, it’s important when you watch game film to look for any and all clues that might tip you off for future bets you may want to make down the line.

While you watch this exciting matchup on Sunday afternoon, keep a weathered eye out for any clues that might tip you off for the bets above, and thank us later.

Summary: Best Bets

Once you get to November football, every team in the league has shown their true colors – you know what a team needs to do to win, and what type of situation leads to a loss. The task for the gambler, then, becomes to try and determine which side of each team will show up each week. In this Week 9 Sunday afternoon game, we get two teams that have shown two very different sides of themselves.

In this game, we believe that we’re going to get the best versions of both teams, with the only exception being the absence of Ezekiel Elliott, who is finally serving his suspension. We like the Cowboys’ run defense to make things difficult for the Chiefs, but don’t see any way that Dallas can hold up well enough on the back end to stop them wholesale. But we also like the Dallas rushing offense to play well enough – even without Zeke – to help them sustain drives and score points.

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

  • Chiefs +100 moneyline
  • Chiefs +1 against the spread (-110)
  • The total score to go over 51.5 (-110)
  • Alfred Morris to go over his posted total for yards
  • There will be a score in the first 7m30s of the game
  • Kareem Hunt to go over his posted total for yards

While it’s still too early in the season to start crowning playoff contenders – anything could happen – we like to think that these two teams both have a great chance to hang around and make a run in the postseason. Potentially, this could even be a Super Bowl preview. But if these two teams are going to make this happen, they need to put their best foot forward on Sunday. And we can’t wait to watch!

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