Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dallas Cowboys vs Seattle Seahawks: DAL -3 (Pinnacle)

Markets

Talk about a line swing!  Cantor opened this game with Seattle as short -1.5 favorites, but now we have the Cowboys at -3. Such is life in the world of Vegas when a very public team wins in prime-time against the defending champs and a preseason favorite falls short in Arizona.

Right now there are signs that this could come off the 3 and give even more value to Seattle backers, but that would be a bold move given how good the Seahawks can play at home.

12th Man Alert

There are two primary concerns about laying a field goal on the road in Seattle and the first one is obviously attached to the crowd noise. One handicapping factor that is underrated, but nonetheless important, is offensive penalties. Teams that consistency give up yards with holding calls and false starts typically don't win as many games. They are straight up drive killers.

This is what made the win in New York that much more impressive because the Cowboys committed offensive penalties by the boatload.  On one hand I think that was more to do with the early week start to the season and lack of cohesiveness on a scotch-taped together O-line. There should be less mental mistakes this week thanks to the extra time to prepare.

Having said that, the 12 man in Seattle causes more false starts than any other stadium in the league.  I don't expect the Dallas offense to be a well-oiled machine in such an environment.

Defense Wins Championships?

Call me old-school, but I'm a huge fan of defense. These days, everybody can put up points with the exception of a few teams (CLE and MIA I'm looking at you). Yet, not everyone can play defense anymore given the rule changes over the last few years and increased emphasis on passing.

The Seahawks are no such team. They have arguably one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Some teams have excellent corners, but average safeties and vice versa.  Seattle is loaded in both areas.  This will go a long way in limiting what Tony Romo and company can do downfield.

Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman can play true bump-and-run coverage. This allows Cam Chancellor and Earl Thomas to roam free more often and make big plays in run support and in the air. Together with a promising front four, the Seattle defense is going to keep them in most games this season.

Is it Possible the Cowboys are Underrated?

It seems silly to ask especially after such a huge Week 1 win.  If "America's Team" is good, chances are you'll hear about it whether you want to or not.  But I have to ask the question because the improvements in the secondary could be even more impactful than people think. Having a pair of press corners completely opens up Rob Ryan's scheme.

Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne could develop into one of the best CB duos in the entire league.  Orlando Scandrick is also effective as a slot corner.  One of the problems I had with projecting the Seahawks this year revolved around the offensive support. The preseason gave me a lot of reason for optimism as guys like Braylon Edwards, Sidney Rice, and Robert Turbin appeared capable of moving the chains with up and comer Russell Wilson.

Let's not overreact to one week because the Cardinals have a pretty good defense, but we shouldn't be surprised that it's going to be a process with this group. The challenge is, can they rebound with a better effort at home vs what could be a better defense?  If the Cowboys get up two scores, can Wilson lead them back?  I have my doubts about that, but I'm pretty confident that the Dallas offense can.

In fact, the Cowboys offense have better weapons all across the board at the skill positions.  Of course Tony Romo is always a concern in clutch situations and he'll be reminded of that all week as he returns to the place where it all started when he botched the go-ahead field goal in the playoffs. Still, even with his shortcomings, he's no doubt a much more polished and accomplished QB than Wilson at this point and that was on full display when he made great throws vs the Giants while nursing a one score lead.

Oh Oh Oh-Line

No matter what issues Dallas have with the home crowd on Sunday, the situation could be even worse for the Seahawks O-line. Russell Okung has a bone bruise on his knee and won't practice.  Pete Carroll is optimistic he'll play, but he won't be 100%. Even when he was healthy, he struggled more than expected in Week 1 and now he must deal with one of the best sack-masters in the NFL with DeMarcus Ware.

Ware has been limited in practice, but Jason Garrett confirms it's simply rest time for the hamstring he's nursing from the preseason. He still played 91% of the snaps and had two sacks in Week 1 and unless he re-aggravates it during the game, he'll be good to go. This is bad news if your name is Russell Wilson.

Bottom Line

I've rarely picked Dallas in the last couple of years primarily because of Tony Romo and their embarrassing defense. I think the 2012 version is legit and will walk away from Week 2 with a 2-0 record.  I've bet against Seattle at home and got burned so I know the risks, but I already regret passing on Dallas in Week 1 and don't want to make the same mistake again.

Both defenses could be top 10 units, but I don't think home field will be enough to compensate for the mismatches on offense.

NFL Pick: DAL -3.

The rest of my Week 2 predictions are here, or you can find all my 2012 predictions on the home page main menu.