Detroit Lions (9-5 SU, 8-6 ATS) vs. Dallas Cowboys (12-2 SU, 9-5 ATS)
Week 16 NFL
Date/Time: Monday Night Football, December 26, 2016 at 8:30PM EST
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: DET +7/DAL -7
Over/Under Total: 43
The Detroit Lions face the Dallas Cowboys in a big game from AT&T Stadium on Monday Night Football. Playoff ramifications are abound. Both teams enter week 16 in first place in their respective divisions. With a 12-2 record, Dallas' situation is a bit more cemented and they delivered a big win on Sunday with a tough victory over Tampa. With the Giants losing on Thursday, Dallas locked up the one-seed. Detroit is in first in the NFC North, with a week 17 matchup with Green Bay looming. They need to win on MNF and especially after a tough 17-6 loss to the Giants last week.
Dallas had a good game on their hands against the Bucs on Sunday Night Football, taking a 17-3 lead before falling behind in the 3rd quarter. Three Dallas field goals late gave the Cowboys the 6-point lead. There isn't much bad you can say about a team coming off a 4-win season that is now 12-2, having lost to just one team all season in the Giants. But it does look like the Cowboys are coming down to earth a little. After covering nine straight spreads, they haven't covered in four straight games. In the last month, they are 3-1, but they aren't getting much separation lately and look at least slightly more vulnerable than earlier in the season.
The Dak Prescott/Ezekiel Elliott rookie combo has worked out better than even the most optimistic Cowboys fans could have imagined. Elliott has a 321-yard lead over the second-place running back in the rushing title with 1551 yards. With 351 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns, he's been a real weapon. Prescott was 32-for-36 passing on Sunday and his performance, while uneven as of late, has been a key in the offensive success of this team. He also ran in a score and has shown nifty movement this season with 6 rushing TDs. He has also been efficient on 67.7% completions and just 4 interceptions on the season. Through the air, he has good weapons in Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, and Terrance Williams.
The Dallas defense hasn't been off-the-charts, but improvements have been made to render them a very serviceable unit. At the end of the Tampa game, they were critical, with the pass-rush, led by David Irving constantly being in Jameis Winston's face. More often than not, the Cowboys "D" has been able to tighten up in critical situations. There were some tight ones among their 12 wins and the defense, while porous on occasion particularly against the pass, was good enough to let the offense do their thing. They are 12-2. And despite all their issues, their bottom line speaks loudest. In addition to being the league's 4th highest-scoring team, this defense has followed suit, allowing the 4th fewest points in the league at just 18.4 per game.
Detroit wasn't able to stage one of their trademark comeback wins on Sunday in a 17-6 loss to the Giants. But that has been their wont this season, a 9-5 team that has trailed in the 4th quarter in every single game. Matthew Stafford broke an NFL record by leading the Lions to their 8th winning 4th-quarter drive in the fourth quarter or overtime. When the chips are in the middle, this team delivers. Now with Green Bay next week, they don't want to play around and this win could give them a leg up.
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The Detroit offense is a more subdued one than what we've seen in recent years, but they're in first place so you can't be too negative. And they're clutch, which can make up for a lot. The Lions can still air it out with Stafford, as Golden Tate has been hot, with Marvin Jones very productive in his first season in Detroit. Anquan Boldin has added a nice veteran presence and they have a good weapon on the ground and aerially with Theo Reddick (doubtful). Their run game, however, typically suffers. In terms of points scored, they're only 20th in the NFL with 21.5 points per game.
The defense allows 20.4 points per game as one gets the impression Detroit wins a lot of close ones, with most 9-5 teams having a better point differential than the 16 total point-differential the Lions have heading into week 16. The defense has also been clutch, however. Whenever Detroit needed to stage those late-game comebacks, it required some cooperation from the other side of the ball and they usually got it. They're not terribly adept in rushing the passer or in securing turnovers. But in a handful of situations, the playmaking component of this group did surface. Injuries have cost them, but the line has held up against the run, with a veteran secondary not getting embarrassed. In eight straight games, no opponent has put up over 20 points against the Lions and that's not half-bad. This is a big reason why they're in first place.
In terms of urgency, there's not much of a contest here, as the Lions need to keep winning and even if they lose the division in week 17 against Green Bay, give themselves a backdoor wild card option. But Dallas looked pretty darned urgent against the Bucs last week and one should expect them to match Detroit in terms of overall effort, as it would be costly for them to start ratcheting it down in anticipation of a playoff game a month from now. And at home, the Cowboys have yet another edge. After all, only one team has beaten Dallas this season, so it's hard to forecast a team being that successful against the Cowboys. By the same token, Detroit's moxie and Dallas' recent tendency for close games makes me lean on taking the points in this one.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Detroit Lions plus 7 points.Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Lions vs. Cowboys game at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!