Sunday Night Football betting preview. Cowboys vs Rams

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Dallas Cowboys -137  (-2.5) @ Los Angeles Rams +112 (+2.5): Total 51.5

This game features two teams who narrowly missed the playoffs last season and figure to be key figures in their division title races for 2020. 

The Cowboys posted a disappointing .500 record last season, blowing opportunity after opportunity last year to take the NFC East. They were eventually put out of their misery in Week 16 with a 19-7 loss to the Eagles, going on to finish second in the division. Former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is taking the reins of a team in 2020 who went 2-6 against teams with winning records last year and were 4-4 ATS as the road team last year. 

The Rams went 9-7 last season ultimately, going 3-3 in their division and falling one game short of a wildcard spot. The Rams regressed in several areas last year and saw their offense go from 2nd in points scored (32.9 points per game) in 2018 to 11th in 2019 (24.9). The Rams scored 28 more points in four of their last five games of 2019 and will be hoping the late season adjustments they made on offense carry over here to Week 1. 

These two teams met last season with Dallas winning handily 44-21 at home. The Cowboys RBs ran for 248 yards and three TDs in that game with Rams QB Jared Goff throwing the ball 51 times. The line this week projects for a much closer affair. Dallas opened as -2 favorites and the line has fluctuated to as high as -3 in the Cowboys favour, with it settling at -2.5 early Sunday AM. As mentioned above the Cowboys were just average in this spot Against the Spread last season, going 4-4 ATS as an away team. They were even worse as away favorites, going just 3-4 ATS when they closed as the favorite in away matchups. 

The Rams were actually a great cover team last season, going 10-5-1 against the spread, overall. Surprisingly enough though, they weren’t great at home, going just 3-3-1 ATS at home in 2019 and 0-1 ATS as home underdogs. 

From a moneyline perspective we’re being asked to take a -137 line if we want Dallas straight up. Dallas only went 3-5 on the road straight up last season though and, as mentioned above, were 2-6 against teams with winning records in 2019–the Rams went 9-7 in 2019. The Rams weren’t dominated at home either though, going just 4-3 there and they went 0-2 last season at home when they were the underdogs–as they are in this matchup. 

The Cowboys will be down a key defensive player in this matchup as CB Jordan Lewis is out. That means 2020 second round draft pick Trevon Diggs is going to be thrown into the fire here against a solid Ram receiving unit. On the flip side, the Rams Darrell Henderson has progressed nicely since injuring his hamstring in camp a few weeks ago. He put in three full practices in a row to end the week and looks set to give the Rams a potent three-man rotation at RB for this game. 

The total here is set 51.5 and it sits as the second biggest total of the entire Week 1 slate behind the Chiefs/Texans. The Cowboys hit the over in 10 games last year while the Rams only went over their total in seven. The teams combined for 65 points in Week 15 last season. 

NFL Week 1 Line Movement Staff Picks

Cowboys offense vs Rams defense

The Cowboys dominated this matchup on the ground last year, seeing both of their RBs rush for over 100 yards. Dallas was fifth in the league in rush yards per game last season and will undoubtedly be looking to dominate the Rams rush defense once again. The Rams allowed the 14th-most rush yards per game last year and were just 17th in rushing DVOA according to Football Outsiders

There will be lots of discussion about the Cowboys aerial attack prior to this game but the Rams have a solid secondary capable of at least slowing down the likes of Amari Cooper and Cee Dee Lamb. The Rams ranked out eighth in DVOA from a pass defense perspective in 2019 and will undoubtedly look to have the newly paid Jalen Ramsey shadow Cooper here. Ramsey and Troy Hill being such solid corners could lead to more opportunity for Blake Jarwin and Cee Dee Lamb. Their player props will be worth looking at for betting purposes with Jarwin’s O/U 3.5 rec. Looking like a potential bet. 

The outcome here looks like it will be decided on the ground. If Dallas can move at will again on the ground it will open opportunities up for the Cowboys tertiary pieces like Lamb and Jarwin. If they can’t, the secondary for the Rams could put a lid on Dallas for Week 1. 

Rams offense vs Cowboys defense

The Rams offense struggled for portions of 2019 but came alive in the last third of the season. QB Jared Goff threw for multiple TDs in each of the Rams last five games as their move to a more 12-personnel based offense opened up things for TE Tyler Higbee. Higbee had an incredible end to 2019, moving from a primarily blocking TE to a main pass-catching role that saw him record 43-receptions in the last five games. 

Dallas’ biggest loss of the off-season came in their secondary when CB Byron Jones moved on to Miami. They also allowed the most receptions, overall, to opposing TEs last year so the spot looks good for a high output game from both Goff and Higbee. 

The Rams went from being one of the best rush offenses in the league in 2018 to the seventh-worst from a pure output perspective in 2019. The erosion of Todd Gurley was a big factor in the Rams struggles in that part of the game last year and this year they’ll have two potential explosive replacements in Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson to pick up slack in that area. Dallas was one of the tougher teams to run on in 2019, allowing just 103 yards per game on the ground, which was the 11th-lowest mark in the league. They added some veteran help in Everson Griffin late in the offseason which should keep this group solid for 2020. 

Overall, this matchup clearly favours the Rams through the air. L.A. needs to give Jared Goff time to get the ball out, but with Higbee in such a great matchup–and the Cowboys a less intimidating group in the secondary than they were when these two teams met last year–look for the Rams to pile up some yardage here. 

Game and prop bets

This matchup really does grade out equally in a ton of areas. The Rams would seemingly have a big edge through the air but will need to be a lot better in stopping a talented Cowboys rush attack. Both teams are pretty neutral from an ATS performance from last season so there’s not much to take from that area.

From a match total perspective the offenses here look like the dominant units on both sides. The Rams may have the personnel to shut down some of the big play ability on the outside for the Cowboys, but Dallas should be likely to counter by using more Ezekiel Elliott and Blake Jarwin in the receiving game.  These two teams ranked out as the second and third fastest from a pace of play perspective last season. 

The over here looks like the clear call to me. The Rams aren’t likely to shutdown Dallas, but I doubt they allow 44-points against, again, either. Given the home matchup and great spot for the Rams passing attack, I’ll take the points here with the Rams.

Over 51.5 -112

Rams +2.5 -106

Player prop bets:

The props on Tyler Higbee this week clearly aren’t showing much respect for his end of 2019 outburst. If you’re a believer (as I am) that the Rams keep him involved as a passing weapon then the over 47.5 yards here looks like the best prop of the week as he absolutely smashed that mark in each of his last five games of 2019. 

I also like the Cowboys TE to get involved more in game one as well. Cowboys TE’s caught four or more receptions in all but two games last year and there’s basically no competition for Jarwin in terms of catching passes this year. I expect his props to rise as the season goes on so taking the over here early looks solid. 

Goff has a great matchup as I outlined above. He hit over 24.5 completions in five of his last six starts of 2019 and is going up against the second-fastest team in terms of pace from 2019 here. 

Blake Jarwin over 3.5 rec. -106

Jared Goff over 24.5 pass completions -110

Tyler Higbee over 47.5 yards

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