NFL Week 11 main slate betting preview

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The NFL season is entering the home stretch. We’re on to Week 11, which means there are just seven regular season Sunday’s left barring any changes.

That said, the name of the game this week is uncertainty.

It starts with COVID-19, which has reared its ugly head in a big way recently. The number of positive cases has increased across the country, and the NFL has not been immune. As a result, the league has implemented new intensive protocols for all teams to try and combat the spread.

There are also some key injuries to take into account this week. How will Jameis Winston impact the Saints? Will Teddy Bridgewater suit up for the Panthers? What about Drew Lock?

All of this uncertainty will make it tough to handicap games, but it can also result in some betting value. Let’s take a look at all 11 contests on the main slate to identify some of the strongest options.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Cleveland Browns (-3.5) — 47.0 total

Moneylines: Eagles +155/Browns -180

The Eagles are finally getting healthier. They had just four players on their Wednesday injury report, and two of them — Fletcher Cox and Jason Peters — are fully expected to play this week. They got back Alshon Jeffrey last week, so this is as healthy as they’ve been all season.

With that in mind, their performance last week vs. the Giants left a lot to be desired. They suffered a 10-point defeat despite being favored on the road, and they were also outgained by approximately 40 yards in that contest.

Carson Wentz continues to struggle in 2020. He’s limped to an adjusted yards per attempt of just 5.2 yards, which ranks 31st out of 33 qualified QBs. The Eagles’ offensive line hasn’t done him any favors — they rank 29th in adjusted sack rate allowed — but Wentz’ level of production is simply inexcusable for a QB that was in the MVP conversation a few years ago.

On the other side, Cleveland continues to win games in a solid but uninspiring manner. They were able to pound the rock in miserable conditions last week vs. the Texans, racking up 231 rushing yards. Both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were able to eclipse the 100-yard threshold, which made life easy for Baker Mayfield. The Browns only won that contest by three points, but the margin of victory very easily could have been 10:

I can only imagine the collective gasp of everyone holding a Browns -4 ticket last week when he stepped out at the one.

Things should be a bit tougher for Cleveland on the ground this week, with the Eagles currently ranking 13th in Football Outsiders’ rush defense DVOA. Their bigger struggles have come in the passing game, so Mayfield will likely need to do a bit more if the Browns are going to secure another victory.

Whether or not Mayfield can take advantage of that matchup remains to be seen. He owns just the 29th-highest grade at the position according to Pro Football Focus, which puts him behind known studs like Mitch Trubisky, Gardner Minshew, and Kyle Allen.

There really hasn’t been any betting activity of note in this contest to start the week. The Browns are garnering 60% of the spread bets, and those bets account for 56% of the spread dollars. The spread has also stayed pretty stagnant at either Browns -3 or Browns -3.5, but the -3 number comes with a steep -125 price tag.

Ultimately, I don’t see a ton to separate these two squads. The Browns are definitely the better team, but not by enough of a margin to create any value.

The Pick: Pass

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints (-5) — 50.5 total

Moneylines: Falcons +190/Saints -227

The big storyline in this game is the injury to Drew Brees. He suffered multiple rib fractures and a compressed lung last week vs. the 49ers, and that is expected to keep him sidelined for at least the next two weeks.

The Saints haven’t made an official announcement on their replacement QB yet, but all signs point to Jameis Winston getting that designation. Winston is obviously a talented QB, and he’s coming off a career-best 5109 passing yards and 33 passing touchdowns with the Bucs last season. Of course, he also finished with 30 interceptions, making him the first QB in NFL history to join the “30-30” club.

It will be interesting to see if playing in a new system can hide some of his inefficiencies. Bucs’ head coach Bruce Arians implied a vertical passing attack, which allowed Winston to rack up big yardage totals but also led to some poor decisions. The Saints offense doesn’t feature nearly the same downfield emphasis and focuses more on shorter throws and asking their receivers to run after the catch.

Taysom Hill should also factor into the QB rotation. He may not be involved much as a passer, but the Saints have already been using him as a wildcat QB plenty with Brees under center. It seems unlikely that his presence will decrease with Winston under center.

So how much will this change impact the Saints offense? I think the change will be negligible.

Brees is putting together one of his worst seasons since arriving in New Orleans, which is not all that surprising considering he’s nearly 42 years old. He’s still leading the league in completion percentage — which is something he’s done each of the past three seasons — but his adjusted yards per attempt have dropped to 8.1. That’s still a very respectable number, but his production is definitely inflated by the Saints’ system. He ranks just 14th among quarterbacks according to Pro Football Focus, which seems like a truer indicator of his current talent level.

If Winston can avoid some of the boneheaded turnovers that plagued him in Tampa — which is obviously a huge if — there’s a chance that the Saints’ offense won’t miss a beat.

Winston should benefit from his first start coming against the Falcons, who have been porous defensively this season. They’ve struggled in particular against the pass, ranking just 28th in pass defense DVOA.

The Saints’ pass catchers are also as healthy as they’ve been all season, with Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jared Cook all back in the lineup.

The one bet I’m looking at in this contest is the under on 50.5 points. That may seem counterintuitive with these two teams, but history suggests it’s the correct side. This is a matchup between divisional foes late in the season, and the under has historically gone 195-120-4 against the spread in that situation.

The early betting numbers also point to some sharp activity on the under. Only 40% of the bets on the total have landed on the under, but those bets have accounted for 64% of the money wagered.

The Pick: Under 50.5

Detroit Lions @ Carolina Panthers — OFF

There is still some uncertainty surrounding Bridgewater’s availability, but he was able to get in a limited practice on Wednesday. That bodes well for his status in this contest.

This line is still off the board at most locations, but it is listed as Panthers -1.5 on both DraftKings and FanDuel. I’m going to approach this game as though that will be the consensus spread across the industry.

The Lions managed to squeak out a three point victory over Washington last week thanks to a 59-yard FG from Matt Prater as time expired, while the Panthers were absolutely demolished by the Buccaneers. They lost that game by 23 points, and that score probably flatters the Panthers a bit. They allowed a ridiculous 544 yards to the Bucs while managing just 187 yards of their own.

Still, these teams appear to be pretty even on the surface: The Panthers rank 17th in overall DVOA this season, while the Lions rank 19th.

One nice wrinkle for the Lions is that they appear to finally be ready to let D’Andre Swift loose. He drew his first start of the season last week and played on a season-high 73% of their offensive snaps. Swift is easily the most explosive member of the Lions backfield, and he’s also their best back in the passing game. More playing time for Swift should benefit this team in the long run.

It also seems like the Lions could get Kenny Golladay back for this contest. He’s missed each of their past two games with a hip injury but was able to get in a limited practice on Wednesday. Golladay has had a noticeable impact on the Lions’ offense this season: They’ve averaged 26.6 points in five games with Golladay and 23.5 points in four games without him.

Finally, this line also points to some potential value on Detroit. Small road underdogs have been excellent bets this season. Teams getting three points or less on the road have posted a record of 20-9 against the spread in 2020, which is good for a return on investment of approximately 35%. This trend hasn’t been as profitable over the long run, but those teams have still posted a record of 432-388-50 ATS since 2004.

Of course, all of this would change if Matt Stafford is unable to suit up. He’s dealing with a torn ligament in the thumb on his throwing hand, but he’s one of the toughest players in the league. I fully expect him to be in the lineup on Sunday, and as long as that’s the case, I will give some consideration. For the time being, I’m going to leave this game as pending.

The Pick: Pending

New England Patriots (-1.5) @ Houston Texans — 49.0 total

Moneylines: Patriots -130/Texans +110

This line has seen some of the biggest line movement of the week. The Patriots were listed as three-point underdogs on the advance spread, but they’ve jumped to 1.5-point favorites now. 

The reason for the line movement is two fold. For starters, the majority of the betting action has landed on the Pats to start the week. They’ve garnered 66% of the spread bets in this contest, and those bets have accounted for 92% of the spread dollars.

More importantly, the Patriots changed the narrative surrounding them with their impressive victory over the Ravens last week. The Ravens are clearly not the same team as they were last season — something I’ve been saying for a while — but the Patriots just came out and punched them in the mouth. Baltimore was first in the league in rush defense DVOA heading into that contest, but the Pats racked up 173 yards on the ground in the win

The Pats’ success on the ground limited the strain they had to put on Cam Newton and the passing game. Newton threw just 17 pass attempts in that contest, and he was much more efficient than he’s been in recent weeks.

That may not be the optimal way to play football in 2020, but it appears that the Patriots have at least found their identity. They have a long way to go if they want to get into the playoff conversation, but this is going to be their formula.

Luckily, they should have no problems putting their ground game to work vs. the Texans. Houston has been abysmal in that department this season, ranking dead last in rush defense DVOA. They also rank dead last in adjusted line yards on defense — which measures the battle between the offensive and defensive lines — while the Patriots rank third in that category offensively. This is going to be a massive mismatch in the trenches.

That sounds like the Patriots should be the clear play in this contest, but history suggests a huge mismatch in the run game might not be a death knell for the Texans. Historically, teams who average at least 150 yards per game on the ground have posted a record of 28-32-1 against the spread against teams allowing at least 150 yards per game on the ground. Those teams are also just 1-4 against the spread in 2020.

This is just further proof that this is not how you want to play football in the modern era. Even when matching up with a team who struggles vs. the run, being successful on the ground doesn’t necessarily lead to success.

On the other side, Houston should be able to move the ball when they have the ball. New England ranks dead last in defensive DVOA this season. Additionally, they rank in the bottom-two against both the run and the pass.

Houston obviously has plenty of flaws as a football team, but they do still have DeShaun Watson. He has the ability to find success in any matchup, and this is a particularly good one. Watson has also historically posted a record of 13-10 against the spread as an underdog, so I think the Texans are worth a small wager here.

The Pick: Texans +1.5

Pittsburgh Steelers (-10) @ Jacksonville Jaguars — 46.5 total

Moneylines: Steelers -450/Jaguars +360

This one looks pretty easy on the surface. On one hand, the Steelers are the lone remaining undefeated team in football. They’re coming off a dismantling of the Bengals last week, and they are clicking on both sides of the ball.

On the other hand, the Jaguars are arguably the second-worst team in the league after the Jets. They rank 27th in overall DVOA, but they’re 31st on defense. Now that Gardner Minshew is out of the lineup, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them drop further on the offensive side of the ball.

Jake Luton has taken over for Minshew at QB, and he has predictably struggled. He wasn’t dreadful in his first start, but that was in an exploitable matchup vs. the Texans. His overall numbers are also a lot less impressive after factoring in that his first completion was a 73-yard touchdown pass.

His numbers last week vs. the Packers were dreadful, posting an adjusted yards per attempt of just 4.11 in that contest, but it’s hard to judge him too harshly for that performance. The weather conditions were awful, which would have made it tough for any QB to succeed.

Despite Luton’s struggles, the Jaguars have still managed to post a record of 2-0 against the spread in his two starts. They’ve lost by just six total points over those games, so the Jaguars are clearly not quitting despite their 1-8 record.

Unsurprising, people are gravitating towards the Steelers in this contest. They’ve garnered 56% of the spread bets, but those bets have accounted for 73% of the spread dollars.

That said, I think that’s a mistake. The Steelers are notorious for struggling as large road favorites, with Ben Roethlisberger posting a career record of just 6-17 against the spread when favored by at least seven points on the road. The Steelers have already failed to cover once in that situation this season, winning by just five points against a severely undermanned Cowboys team.

Additionally, history is on the side of the Jaguars. It’s only natural for an undefeated team to become overvalued this late in the season, and home teams have posted a record of 12-9-1 against the spread when facing a team with a perfect record in Week 11 or later. That obviously isn’t an overwhelming sample size, but it does make some sense when you think about it.

Finally, this looks like a clear “look-ahead” spot for the Steelers. After what should be an easy win vs. the lowly Jaguars, Pittsburgh has to take on the Ravens in Week 12. It would be surprising if they were more focused on that contest than the Jaguars, so I don’t think we’ll see the Steelers best game in this contest.

I don’t want to make a habit out of wagering on Luton, but I do think there’s enough here to make a play on the Jaguars.

The Pick: Jaguars +10

Tee Higgins
Sep 27, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) reacts after catching a touchdown pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals @ Washington Football Team — OFF

This game is off the board at the moment given the Bengals current injury situation. Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon are both uncertain for this contest, and the Burrow injury in particular will have a large impact on the spread.

Luckily, it doesn’t appear as though Burrow is in any real jeopardy of missing this contest. He appeared to be dealing with an ankle injury last week vs. the Steelers, but he wasn’t even listed on the Bengals’ Wednesday practice report. Expect him to be active vs. Washington.

Things are much more questionable regarding Mixon. He’s missed each of their past three games with a foot injury, and he was unable to practice on Wednesday. It’s still too early to make a call on Mixon, but I’m pessimistic about his status.

On a positive note, the Bengals offensive line is finally close to full strength. They had all their starters on the field last week vs. the Steelers, which should be a major positive for this team moving forward. Burrow has been under constant duress this season, and the Bengals rank 27th in adjusted sack rate allowed.

That said, that didn’t materialize last week vs. the Steelers. They were able to sack Burrow four times in that contest, and the Bengals’ O-line will have another huge task on their hands vs. Washington. They have one of the most talented defensive lines in the league after investing heavily on the position during the draft recently. They currently rank first in the league in adjusted sack rate, so this is arguably an even tougher matchup than the Steelers.

Washington doesn’t do anything else at nearly the same level as the Steelers, but they have the potential to control this game if they can get to Burrow.

Additionally, Alex Smith isn’t going to win any games for you at QB at this point, but he isn’t going to lose any games for you either. He’s simply going to take what the defense gives him, and that isn’t as easy as it sounds at the NFL level. He has also appeared to have gotten more comfortable with each appearance, increasing his adjusted yards per attempt in every contest this season.

Cincinnati ranks merely 30th in defensive DVOA this season, so I’m expecting more progression from Smith in Week 11.

The few lines that are available across the industry are listing Washington as small favorites — I’m seeing a few -1’s and a few -2’s — and I will definitely be interested in Washington if that becomes the consensus. Washington is the superior team in terms of DVOA, and that isn’t even factoring in a potential QB upgrade with Smith under center. After factoring in home field, they should be at least three-point favorites in this contest, so I like the idea of grabbing them at anything less than that number.

The Pick: Washington TBD (will play at anything less than -3)

Tennessee Titans @ Baltimore Ravens — OFF

This is another game that is off the board at most locations. The big injuries to monitor here are on the Ravens side. They lost two of their top defensive lineman last week vs. the Patriots in Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams, which is a big reason why the Pats were able to be so successful on the ground.

Neither player was able to practice on Wednesday, and the status of both players is obviously amplified in this matchup. If they couldn’t stop Dwayne Harris with both players off the field, imagine how bad things could get against Derrick Henry.

The Titans have struggled offensively of late, and those struggles are almost directly correlate with Henry’s production. He’s averaged “just” 89.5 rushing yards per game over their past four contests, and the Titans have gone just 1-3 over those games. When the Titans started the year 5-0, Henry averaged 117.6 yards per game. “Establishing the run” is extremely overvalued by the football analysts on TV, but the Titans are one of the exceptions. If Henry gets back on track this week vs. the Ravens, I expect the rest of the offense to follow suit.

The injuries don’t stop on the defensive side for the Ravens. Ronnie Stanley remains out for the year with an ankle injury, and that is only compounded by the fact that Marshall Yanda retired in the offseason. The Ravens’ offensive line was absolutely dominant last year, but they have lost easily their two top players from that unit.

Their loss has clearly been felt by the offense. The Ravens ranked first in the league last year in terms of offensive DVOA, but they’ve dropped all the way to 24th in that category this season. They’re still an above average running team, but Jackson has struggled as a passer. Maybe the league has started to figure Jackson out, or maybe things are just a little more difficult for him this season without teams having to sell out to stop the run. Regardless, his adjusted yards per attempt have dropped from 8.9 in 2019 to just 7.4 in 2020. His TD rate has also dipped from 9.0% to 5.7%, while his INT rate is up from 1.5% to 2.0%.

My interest in this game will ultimately depend on the line. This spread initially opened around Ravens -7 before getting taken off the board, and there would have been some clear value with the Titans at that number if Campbell and Williams are unable to suit up. If this line is in the same vicinity when it opens back up, I will definitely consider making a play on the Titans if the injury report is favorable for them.

The Pick: Pending

Miami Dolphins (-3.5) @ Denver Broncos — 45.0 total

Moneylines: Dolphins -182/Broncos +160

I have been on the Dolphins each of the past three weeks, and they have rewarded me with a perfect 3-0 record against the spread. Should we go right back to the well this week vs. the Broncos? I’m skeptical.

I always get nervous when a team starts to become a public darling, and that has clearly happened with the Dolphins. The public perception is that this team could be real challengers in the AFC, and while that’s something that I do agree with, I preferred it when I was one of the few people who felt that way. Now that the public feels that way as well, the Dolphins aren’t going to provide nearly the same spread value.

That’s pretty evident with the numbers this week vs. the Broncos. The Dolphins are 3.5-point road favorites, and I have to imagine this line would have been closer to a pick ‘em a few weeks ago. The vast majority of the betting action has also landed on Miami, with 92% of the early spread dollars siding with the Dolphins.

It’s also fair to say that the Dolphins have run hot over their past three games. They’ve been far from dominant but have benefitted from their special teams and defense picking up the scoring slack. For example, the Rams actually outgained the Dolphins 471 yards to 145 yards, but the Dolphins still won that game by 11 points. That is a game that the Dolphins clearly should not win at a very high rate.

Bets Against The Spread

They were also outgained by more than 100 yards vs. the Cardinals and won the yardage battle by just seven yards vs. the Chargers. If not for the Dolphins defense scoring twice and their special teams setting up two additional touchdowns, it’s conceivable that this team could have gone 0-3 over that time frame.

Of course, none of that might matter if Drew Lock is unable to suit up for the Broncos. Lock is far from a world-beater, but he still gives the offense more upside than Jeff Driskel or Brett Rypien.

I can’t in good conscience recommend a play on Rypien — he posted an AYA of 4.74 in his only start vs. the Jets — particularly against a good defense like the Dolphins’. In fact, I would probably be back on the Dolphins in that situation.

That said, if Lock is starting for Denver, this game becomes a pass for me. I will continue to monitor this situation.

The Pick: Pending (will possibly play the Dolphins vs. Rypien or pass vs. Lock)

New York Jets @ Los Angeles Chargers (-8.5) — 46.5 total

Moneylines: Jets +330/Chargers -400

All aboard the Jets bandwagon? I honestly can’t believe that’s a thing, but the early betting action suggests that it is. The Jets have received 63% of the early spread bets in this contest, and those bets have accounted for 64% of the spread dollars. We aren’t talking about a huge sample size, but that’s still telling.

The spread has also moved in the Jets favor. The advance line on this game was listed as Chargers -10, but this number has dipped to just 8.5 following the Chargers loss last week vs. Dolphins.

So what is everyone seeing here? For starters, the Jets are coming off their bye last week, which does give them a rest advantage in this contest. Adam Gase has a lot of flaws as a coach, but he has posted a record of 2-1 against the spread following a bye.

History also suggests that grabbing the points is a smart idea when two bad teams are playing each other. Both of these teams have a win percentage below 25%, and the underdog has historically posted a record of 43-32 against the spread when those matchups occur in Week 6 or later. That said, underdogs in these matchups are just 4-3 against the spread when getting at least seven points, so this trend might not be as profitable as it appears on the surface.

All of that makes perfect sense to me, and if the Jets and Chargers were normal bad teams I would probably agree with the Jets being the correct side. However, these teams are clearly not normal.

The Jets have been an unmitigated disaster this season. They rank dead last in DVOA by a considerable margin, and they’ve struggled on both sides of the ball. They will also have Joe Flacco under center once again for this contest, and while Flacco isn’t markedly worse than Sam Darnold, it’s still a downgrade at the QB position.

More importantly, the Chargers are clearly better than their current record indicates. They have blown massive large leads this season, including relinquishing a lead of at least 16 points in four straight weeks at one point.

That’s obviously not ideal, but the fact that they have had big leads to blow is actually an encouraging sign. If they can grab a lead vs. the Jets, they are not the type of team that can battle back.

JUstin Herbert is coming off one of the worst games of his young career last week vs. the Dolphins, but he should have no problem bouncing back vs. the Jets. They rank dead last in pass defense DVOA this season, and Herbert averaged 306.6 passing yards and compiled 17 touchdowns compared to just five picks through his first seven games.

Ultimately, I really don’t care that the Jets are coming off a bye here. I’m looking to take advantage of any opportunity I have to fade this team at a reasonable number, and laying just 8.5 with the Chargers is definitely reasonable. The fact that this bet is also going against the public early in the week is an added benefit.

The Pick: Chargers -8.5

Green Bay Packers @ Indianapolis Colts (-1.5) — 51.5 total

Moneylines: Packers +105/Colts -125

This is one of the most interesting games of the week, and the spread movement on this game has also been interesting. The advance spread was listed as Packers -2.5 but has gotten as high as Colts -2.5 at certain locations. That much movement doesn’t cross any key numbers, but a five-point line movement is still a ton.

The Colts don’t jump out as a particularly good football team, but they are a team that the sharps have been high on all season. Their big weakness is obviously at the QB position, but they are excellent at virtually every other position across the board. Overall, this team ranks fifth in DVOA and fourth in defensive DVOA.

Offensively, the Colts want to be a team that can establish the run game. They have an excellent offensive line, and they spent a high draft pick on Jonathan Taylor in the draft last year. Unfortunately, their results have not lived up to the billing.

Taylor in particular has been a disappointment. His athletic measurables and college production made him a highly-touted prospect in fantasy circles, but he’s averaged just 3.8 yards per carry this season. That’s not entirely his fault — Taylor is among the league leaders in terms of rushes vs. eight-man boxes this season — but the run game has suffered nonetheless.

The Colts actually leaned harder on Nyheim Hines in the run game last week vs. the Titans, and while he may not jump off the page the same way that Taylor does, he could give the Colts a better chance offensively. Teams haven’t been nearly as aggressive stacking the box against Hines, and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield also pairs well with Rivers’ skill set.

Whoever gets the carries for the Colts’ this week should expect to find some success against the Packers. Their run defense has been soft this season, so this sets up as a great matchup for the Colts given their offensive identity.

Additionally, the Colts are coming off a “mini bye” after playing on Thursday in Week 10, which gives the coaching staff some additional time to prepare. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be a huge edge from a betting perspective: Favorites have gone just 69-77 with 10 days to prepare against an opponent on normal rest. Still, I don’t think we can write off that the additional rest has no impact.

I imagine that the public will be on the Packers in this contest, and 60% of the early spread bets have landed on Green Bay. That’s not all that surprising since all Aaron Rodgers has to do to win their bet is win this game.

Elite QBs definitely tend to thrive as underdogs, but Rodgers is one of the few exceptions. Rodgers is just 16-17-1 against the spread as a road underdog throughout his career, and that mark drops to just 6-9-1 when getting three points or fewer.

I am going to continue to be long on the Colts, and I like the idea of grabbing them now while this line is just 1.5 at most locations.

The Pick: Colts -1.5

Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings (-7) — 48.5

Moneylines: Cowboys +265/Vikings -330

The last game of the week might be my favorite from a betting perspective. I absolutely love the Cowboys to cover the spread this week.

The Vikings stock is as high as it’s been all season. They’re coming off three straight wins, and their offense has been impressive behind the trio of Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson. They won by just six points last week vs. the Bears, but they outgained Chicago by a margin of 236 yards in that contest. They very easily could have won that contest by more.

That said, this line is way out of line. The Cowboys have been a disaster at times this season, but they are definitely trending in the right direction. Their bye week has allowed them to get healthier, particularly on the offensive line. Tyron Smith remains out of the lineup, but all-pro guard Zack Martin appears on track to play in this matchup. He was able to get in a limited practice on Wednesday, and I fully expect him to be in the lineup vs. the Vikings.

Additionally, Andy Dalton should be back under center for the Cowboys. He was a full participant at Wednesday’s practice, and he should give them a significant upgrade at the QB position compared to Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert. Dalton struggled in his first two starts for the Cowboys, but those were behind a patchwork offensive line against two teams with strong pass rush units in Arizona and Washington. Dalton has always been someone who struggles when pressured, so it’s not surprising that he didn’t find success in those matchups.

This week’s matchup shouldn’t present the same issues. Not only is the Cowboys’ offensive line healthier, Minnesota ranks just 16th in adjusted sack rate this season.

If Dalton is given time, he should have no problem picking apart the Vikings’ secondary. Minnesota has improved against the pass since the start of the season, but the Cowboys still possess one of the best groups of pass catchers in the entire league. Amari Cooper in particular owns a big edge against Chris Jones in terms of Pro Football Focus grade.

The Cowboys have also been better on the defensive side of the ball recently. That’s not surprising considering how banged up they were to start the season, and adding Sean Lee and Leighton Vander Esch back into the rotation has made a big difference. It’s also possible Chidobe Awuzie will be active for the first time since Week 2, which would be a nice upgrade for their secondary.

I’m locking this bet in now before this line dips below seven. The spread actually opened up all the way at Vikings -9.5, but the Cowboys have received 63% of the spread bets and 74% of the spread dollars to start the week. If that betting activity continues, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this line move even further in their favor.

The Pick: Cowboys -7

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