How good are the Cowboys?
Four of the last five teams to go 8-0 on the road during a season went on to play in the Super Bowl. Dallas might be the fifth team in a couple weeks.
Sure they have to go through Green Bay and/or Seattle to get there plus first win at home in Sunday’s wild card game against the Lions, but they definitely have the look of being a Super Bowl-type team.
I’ve had the Cowboys rated too low all season, as most sports books have, but they’ve covered 10 of their 16 games with a very impressive 7-1 ATS mark on the road. They did the unthinkable and won at Seattle.
Dallas a perfect 8-0 on the road and have done it running ball effectively with Las Vegan DeMarco Murray (NFL rushing leader – 1,845 yds) plus getting great quarterbacking from Tony Romo (NFL QB rating leader – 113.2).
“You have to give Dallas some serious consideration just because of being able to run the ball and win on the road,” said William Hill‘s Nick Bogdanovich, “but they’ve got some serious traveling to do in the playoffs where it looks like they’ll be facing Green Bay and if they’re able to win there, then they might play in Seattle again.”
Dallas is the only one right now in both conferences I can trust to go into Green Bay and Seattle and win. Their toughest game mentally might be at home against Detroit, a home/favorite situation that hasn’t been a good combination for the Cowboys (9-24 ATS last 33 instances).
However, before you go betting the futures on the Cowboys to win it all, you might want to do a few what-ifs on the spreads they might have to face.
Last week the Cowboys were 10/1 odds to win it all when they had the slim chance of getting home field. Now, unless the odds are over 40/1, the best way to profit on them if they do win the Lombardi Trophy is just roll the weekly money-line bets over on them for each game.
This week Dallas is -330, which is likely the only time they’ll be laying points for the rest of the playoffs. If they go to Green Bay, you should get +260, the next week +270 at Seattle and then maybe +180 against either Denver or New England in the Super Bowl. The other possibilities will have books offering much lower odds than 45/1.
Dallas has won and covered its last four with an average score of 41-19. Get the best odds available. If you get scared of rolling the money over after two games produces 3.6-to-1 odds, then bail and keep the winnings. At least you have options, along with better odds, by rolling the money at this time of year.
Age catching Manning? The Broncos have won 5 of 6 to earn the bye week. Despite the success on the scoreboard, questions persist about Peyton Manning and his ability to lead his team to another Super Bowl birth. In his final five games, he’s thrown only five TD passes while offering six interceptions.
Is Manning’s 38 years of age finally catching up with him? Are defenses finding solutions how to stop him because they don’t respect his deep pass? There may be something to each of those questions.
What about the possibility that Manning and the coaching staff are charming future playoff opponents into a trance with less Manning on film to study? If they look back on Denver’s last five games, they’ll see a much different attack featuring the running game with Manning almost in a secondary role.
Is this a new version with RB C.J. Anderson (7 TD’s last 4 games) now paired with a healthy Ronnie Hillman or can the Broncos flip the switch and be that unstoppable passing team again?
Much of that brilliant pass attack rests with having a healthy TE Julius Thomas who has been hobbled by an ankle injury. His 12 TD catches all came within the first 10 weeks of the season, which is about the same time Denver changed their offensive philosophy.
The real story with Manning looks to be with Thomas not being healthy. So if you read a blip about Thomas practicing and feeling good, consider giving the Broncos a boost in the number for their home playoff game in two weeks no matter who they play.
If reports on Thomas’ status aren’t positive, then consider Denver’s sluggish offensive approach to continue and for them to be a live bet against in that first game.
Manning’s rating doesn’t have as much value to the number if Thomas isn’t in there. He’s not complete, which makes most of their spreads without a healthy Thomas beatable – they‘ve covered only 4 of their last 9. Any little angle that can justify making a play getting +7.5 or +7 when it should only be +6.
At least makes you feel a little more confident at the bet window. Now for Wild Card weekend predictions:
Bengals 23, Colts 17: The Bengals’ game plan will have Andy Dalton in mind and will be a slow pace producing a low scoring game.
Cardinals 16, Panthers 10: I like the UNDER 39 more than the Arizona side (+5), and it doesn’t matter who is quarterbacking for Arizona.
Cowboys 24, Lions 16: The Lions defense will keep this game UNDER, but their offense will likely blunder . Look for Dallas to keep pounding the ball on the ground.
Steelers 38, Ravens 17: Baltimore’s offense is stagnant right now while Pittsburgh is red hot having won and covered their past four games.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].