Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dallas Cowboys vs Cincinnati Bengals: CIN -3 (5Dimes)


This was a line move that I saw coming from a mile away.  The Bengals were -1.5 point favorites in the look-ahead line last week, but after the weekend they re-opened at -3.

The problem for Vegas is that the move wasn't enough.  The Bengals are doing a lot of things right (Week 13 turnovers aside).  Meanwhile, the Cowboys continue to struggle with the same flaws that have plagued them all year.  This line should be -3.5 at the minimum, but I would've opened it at -4 myself.

Dallas: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The good news for Cowboys fans is Romo, Witten, and Bryant are playing well. They also got the services of Murray back last game, even if he isn't 100% yet.  The problem is there isn't much to get excited about beyond that.

One of the most underrated stat categories in football is offensive penalties.  The truth is, teams that take the most penalties on offense lose more games.  I don't need to explain why, but it should be pointed out that the Cowboys continue to shoot themselves in the foot game in and game out.  It's easy to blame the players on the field because they are the people executing the plays, but I put things like penalties on the coaching staff.  Jason Garrett is probably coaching on borrowed time, and based on how he's managed his team on gameday this season, firing him would be completely justified.

The other big problem Dallas is having this year is with their pass defense.  I made the mistake earlier this year assuming it would be an area of huge improvement after adding Carr and Claiborne.  Carr has been good, but Claiborne continues to make too many blunders.  He has great raw ability, but if he's not taking penalties, he's missing assignments or playing too aggressively.

Bengals: Flying Under the Radar?

Are people ready to buy into the Bengals?  Instinctively, that wouldn't feel right.  Over the last couple of seasons they play well against inferior opponents, and fall flat when things are on the line.  Yet, it's hard to ignore their recent win streak, especially since they kicked it off with a dominating win over the Giants.

Last week their game with the Chargers was close most of the way, but I never got worried about the outcome thanks to their play in the make or break moments.  This was an area they've drastically improved in during the season, and against San Diego they were 50% on third down and in the red zone. On defense, they held San Diego to 33% on third down and 0 for 3 in the red zone.  In fact, opponents have only scored one TD in their last eight trips in the red zone.

The secondary is also coming off a good game as the Chargers threw the ball 33 of their 36 snaps, and only came away with three offensive points for the entire game.

Much of this is thanks to the play of their D-line. Carlos Dunlap was a beast with two sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and five tackles.  Overall the D had four more sacks and continue to lead the league in this department.

Green-Ellis has over 100 yards for the third straight game.  Dalton didn't have his best game, but he didn't get much help from his receivers either as they fumbled the ball twice.

Bottom Line

On Thanksgiving, I made the mistake of buying into the Cowboys.  This is a team that rarely makes it on my list of picks, because even when they seem to match up well on paper, they lay an egg and come up short.  Even against the Eagles they didn't do a very good job shutting down a roster of backups.  Give me the hot team playing at home.

NFL Pick: CIN -3.