Bet of the Day – Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins, Sept 12, 2010 8:15 ET

Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) at Washington Redskins (+3.5), Over/Under 40

Yesterday’s bet was a winner on the Buckeyes.  Tonight, the Cowboys and Redskins renew the long rivalry.  As with every new season, the Cowboys have big expectations.  The new-look Redskins also have lofty expectations of under new coach Mike Shanahan.  Dallas isn’t a great road team.  The Redskins did win 3 of their 4 2009 wins at home.   Both teams are very physical so expect a good game tonight.

The Cowboys return a similar squad to their 11-5 2009 team.  Quarterback Tony Romo has decent weapons in recently extended Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and rookie Dez Bryant.  The Cowboys had the 6th rated offense in 2009 averaging 6.3 yards per play (YPP) but only 17.7 yards per point scored (YPPT).  What does that mean?  They moved the ball well but weren’t very efficient scorers.  The Cowboys only ranked 22nd in the Red Zone.  Their offense will have to convert points to win on the road today.  Romo had his best year in 2009 (4483 yards, 26 TDs and 9 INT).  Romo wasn’t consistent in preseason but is that cause for concern?  The bigger concern is the Cowboy defense.  Though they were 9th overall last year, their pass defense was 20th allowing 6.8 yards per attempt (YPA) and 19 TDs.  In road games, Dallas’ defense allowed 16.7 YPPT.  This is 3 YPPT less efficient than they are at home.  The Cowboys will be able to stop the run, but how will they handle Redskins veteran QB Donovan McNabb and his receivers.

Washington’s 2009 team was 4-12.  The Redskins added a new executive, coach and QB to their perennial under achieving roster.   The Redskins only averaged 5.4 YPP and 18.8 YPPT on offense while allowing 5.3 YPP and 15.2 YPPT on defense.  They weren’t very effective moving the ball and their pass defense was mediocre.  Their run defense is excellent and they are very effective in the red zone (when they actually get there).  As with earlier Shanahan teams, he will establish the run.  Can McNabb get more out of this group of receivers?  On defense, the Redskins will be looking to put pressure on Tony Romo and shut the run down.  This could force Romo into difficult passing situations.   Despite the much publicized Haynesworthgate, I expect the Redskins to step forward this year.

Sagarin Ratings project Dallas 24.43 and Washington 16.78.  Given a 3.07 point home advantage, Dallas is a 4.58 point favorite.

I simulated the game using stats from 2009.  My football model predicts Dallas 25.79 to Washington 23.05 for 48.84 total points.  This isn’t adjusted for any home advantage.  The key variance drivers are Washington’s pass offense and Dallas’ pass defense.  This validates that if Washington steps forward with McNabb, it could spell trouble for Dallas. I also adjusted for home/away stats.  With the home/away adjustment, the model predicts Dallas 24.93 over Washington 23.99 for 48.92 total points.  Reviewing these results, it was clear that Dallas’ run production dropped in road games and Romo became dependant on the pass.  The big unknown will be, how effective can the Dallas pass game be with pressure on Romo and a less effective run game?

This is a big game for both teams.  Who should we pick?  With the new faces and public Haynesworth spectacle, I think it is more important for Washington.  Dallas isn’t great on the road.  McNabb is a proven quarterback who has been successful with mediocre receivers. Washington can stop the run.  Dallas’ secondary is suspect.  Bet on the Washington Redskins +3.5. Follow me on twitter for all my picks.  Good Luck!

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