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November 20, 2019

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Week 15 NFL picks and game of the week for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Cowboys and Eagles could be playing for NFC East championship

Cowboys Eagles

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Dallas Cowboys’ Dwayne Harris (17) takes a swing at Philadelphia Eagles’ Chris Prosinski (33) as a fight broke out after the Cowboys punted the ball during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. The Eagles won 33-10.

Bettors gorged on wagers against the Dallas Cowboys over the summer.

Week 15: Cowboys at Eagles

Which side would you take in the Sun's handicapping game of the week? (Majority Poll Opinion this season: 9-6)
Eagles minus-3.5 — 52.7%
Cowboys plus-3.5 — 47.3%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Months later, they’re feeling the heartburn. The preseason betting market may not have misdiagnosed any team as severely as the Cowboys, scarfing their over/under win total down from 8 to 7.5.

Dallas was the third team in the NFL to secure their ‘over’ — behind the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns — with a 31-28 victory over the New York Giants as 4-point favorites on week 12’s Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys are back in the primetime slot Sunday, with a chance to cause their doubters further nausea.

The Cowboys’ closing preseason price of plus-500 (risking $1 to win $5) to win the NFC East will flip closer to minus-500 (risking $5 to win $1) with two weeks to go if they can swing an upset Sunday. Dallas gets 3 points on the betting line at division rival Philadelphia.

It’s the game of the week in the Sun’s handicapping contest, which requires three sports writers to make six selections against the spread that are available in full at the bottom of the page.

So, the Cowboys aren’t predisposed to staging their biggest game of the year on week 17’s Sunday Night Football after all. They’ve fallen in that exact situation in last three years, losing once to each NFC East foe to get eliminated from the postseason in the final game of the season. Dallas did, however, cover plus-7 in last season’s decisive 24-22 loss to Philadelphia to decide this contest.

The day of reckoning comes two weeks early this year. The two teams are tied atop the division with 9-4 records — the Eagles are 8-5 against the spread to the Cowboys’ 7-6 — and projected as favorites in their final games.

The Eagles play the punchless Giants and Redskins on the road, while the Cowboys host the Colts before traveling to Washington.

Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com calculates a 48-percent playoff swing at risk in the contest. It’s likely to turn out as the unofficial NFC East Championship Game.

Some of the money sports books won on Dallas through the misguided preseason gambles, they’re paying back out with Philadelphia. Bettors were right to load their plates with wagers on the Eagles in the futures.

Philadelphia’s win total boosted from 9 to 9.5 at some shops, while its odds to win the NFC East climbed from an opening plus-160 to minus-120 at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

The Eagles come into their second tilt with the Cowboys as a minus-210 favorite to win the NFC East — slightly higher than their minus-170 money line to win the game straight-up — largely because of the first matchup.

Philadelphia feasted on a sloppy Dallas showing, which included three turnovers, to win on the road 33-10 as 3.5-point underdogs on Thanksgiving. The Eagles held the NFL’s leading rusher, Bishop Gorman graduate DeMarco Murray, to his least productive game of the season with 73 yards and 3.7 yards per carry.

Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy, who is averaging 42 yards less than Murray per game this season, had his best game of the season with 154 yards and 6.4 yards per carry. An unsuspectingly lethal Eagles defensive front, led by linebacker Brandon Graham and defensive end Fletcher Cox, became the first to maul the best offensive line in the NFL with four sacks to go with their success stopping the run.

No longer demeaning the Cowboys, the betting market’s early returns don’t call for a repeat in the rematch. Dallas is getting most of the action, shifting the line down from its opening of Philadelphia minus-3.5.

A closer glance at the game from two weeks ago could have given bettors as much of a reason to throw it out as treat as a clue for what’s next.

The Cowboys had their least efficient offensive game of the season against the Eagles, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Philadelphia compiled its best defensive performance.

Considering those performances outliers, a move towards average could make the second game much closer.

The Cowboys usually play better on the road, too. In four years under coach Jason Garrett, they’re 17-12-1 against the spread away from home as opposed to 10-21 at AT&T Stadium. Aside from the victory over the Cowboys, the Eagles haven’t played well against high-level competition this season.

They’re 1-3 straight-up and against the spread versus teams currently in the playoffs, with the only win coming via a last-second field goal to beat the Colts 30-27 as 3-point underdogs in week 2.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez reminded fans of his limitations last weekend, completing just 10 of 20 passes for 96 yards in a 24-14 loss to the Seahawks as 1-point favorites. The Cowboys have the same straight-up and against the spread record as the defending Super Bowl champions, but are considered a cut below despite a 30-23 win at Seattle as 10-point underdogs in week 6.

If that belief doesn’t turn out accurate, it won’t be the first time the consensus was off on the Cowboys.

Check below for all of the week 15 picks. Games are listed in order of their rotation numbers at sports books.

 

Case Keefer (2012 champion, 2013 co-champion)

Record: 49-34-1 (4-1-1 last week)

Chiefs minus-10 vs. Raiders

Texans plus-6.5 at Colts

Browns minus-1 vs. Bengals

Dolphins plus-7.5 at Patriots

Buccaneers plus-3 at Panthers

49ers plus-10 at Seahawks

 

Taylor Bern

Record: 44-38-2 (4-2 last week)

Browns minus-1 vs. Bengals

Patriots minus-7.5 vs. Dolphins

Giants minus-6.5 vs. Redskins

49ers plus-10 at Seahawks

Eagles minus-3 vs. Cowboys

Saints minus-3 at Bears

 

Ray Brewer (2013 co-champion)

Record: 43-41 (4-2 last week)

Ravens minus-13.5 vs. Jaguars

Jaguars vs. Ravens over 45.5

Texans plus-6.5 at Colts

Redskins plus-6.5 at Giants

Lions minus-7.5 vs. Vikings

Eagles minus-3 vs. Cowboys

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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