There is a showdown going down this weekend in the Lone Star State, but one side is bringing the big guns and the other side is shooting Nerf bullets.
The Dallas Cowboys (9-3) are looking like one of the most dangerous teams in the league as they get set to host the league’s weakest team, the Houston Texans (1-10-1), on Sunday, December 11 at AT&T Stadium.
On Sunday Night Football last week against the Colts, the Cowboys exploded for 33 points in the fourth quarter alone, aided by four takeaways and a defensive touchdown. Their 54 points scored in the game were the most by any team this season (they also have the second-highest scoring output of the season with 49 points in week eight against Chicago).
The Cowboys have favorable matchups this week and again next week at Jacksonville leading up to a Christmas Eve clash with the rival Philadelphia Eagles in a game that could determine the NFC East champion and potentially the conference’s number one playoff seed. But first the Cowboys must take care of business against a Texans team that benched second-year quarterback Davis Mills and turned to veteran journeyman Kyle Allen for the last two weeks.
Let’s take a look at the odds, injuries and depth charts for this Texans vs. Cowboys matchup and see my picks and predictions for the game.
Houston Texans vs. Dallas Cowboys Betting Odds
This game opened with the widest point spread of any game so far this season, with the Cowboys favored by three scores at 17.5 points. That line has dipped to 16 at some sportsbooks. The public is favoring the Cowboys with roughly 80% of the money being bet on the favorite. The Cowboys moneyline odds opened at -900 and have been as low as -2000 at some books. Roughly 70% of the handle on the moneyline is on the Cowboys.
The over/under for this matchup opened at 44 and has been as high as 46.5. Some big bets are coming in on the under, with the handle on the under at roughly 70% on only about 30% of the bets. This will be worth monitoring to see if and how it influences that line. If you’re interested in betting the over, waiting for some downward movement would be wise.
The implied outcome of these odds is the Cowboys winning 31-14.5.
Houston Texans vs. Dallas Cowboys Prediction
If you look at the numbers on this matchup, it would be impossible to find many good arguments for betting on the Texans. They are at or near the bottom of the league in practically every statistical category, while the Cowboys boast the best defense in the league and a strong and improving offense. If the Cowboys play a full four quarters of good football – not even their best – they have a good chance to cover even a lopsided 17.5-point spread.
The biggest risk with betting on the Cowboys in this one is that they likely won’t need to play a full four quarters to take care of the Texans. If they have a lead of three scores or more in the second half, they are likely to shift to a conservative game plan and/or remove some of their starters to keep them healthy and fresh for the stretch run. In that scenario, it’s completely plausible for the Texans to sneak in a backdoor cover late in the game. That scenario scares me away from laying so many points in this matchup.
For that reason, I’m staying away from betting the spread in this game, but for the purposes of making an official prediction, I will take the Cowboys and lay the points. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys shut out the Texans. Their defense is that dominant, even if we see mostly backups in the second half. They are first in defensive DVOA and the Texans’ offense is dead last in DVOA. The Cowboys’ offense also matches up well with the Texans’ defense, which is much better against the pass than against the run, and the Cowboys love to run the ball with Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott. They will be able to move the ball on the ground, dominate time of possession and keep the defense fresh, which is a great recipe for the league’s best defense to post its first shutout of the season.
Needless to say, if I think a shutout is a likely outcome in this game, then I am betting on the under. That is where I am focusing units in this matchup. Again, the Cowboys shouldn’t need to score many points to win this game comfortably, and I expect both teams to run the ball heavily, which will limit the number of possessions and scoring opportunities. Get your bets in on the under before it moves even lower.
My Prediction: Cowboys win 27-6, Cowboys cover, under 45.5
- The Cowboys are 8-0 ATS in their last eight games in December.
- The Cowboys are 5-1 ATS in their last six home games
- The Texans are 0-4 ATS in their last four games.
- The Under is 4-0 in the Texans’ last four games and 7-1 in their last eight road games vs. teams with a winning record.
- The Over is 5-0 in the Cowboys’ last five games following a win.
- In the last five meetings between these teams, the underdog is 4-1 ATS and the Under is 5-0.
Houston Texans Injuries: CB Derek Stingley Jr. (Q – hamstring), DL Mario Addison (Q – knee), WR Brandin Cooks (Q – calf), WR Nico Collins (Q – foot), K Ka’imi Fairbairn (Q – groin), FB Troy Hairston (Q – chest), DL Kurt Hinish (Q – shoulder)
Dallas Cowboys Injuries: DT Quinton Bohanna (Q – knee), CB Kelvin Joseph (Q – illness), S Jayron Kearse (Q – shoulder), DE Demarcus Lawrence (Q – foot), DE Sam Williams (Q – illness), CB Anthony Brown (O – Achilles), C Alec Lindstrom (O – undisclosed), LB Devin Harper (O – Achilles), G Matt Fairnok (O – Hamstring), CB Jourdan Lewis (O – foot), OT Matt Waletzko (O – shoulder), RB Rico Dowdle (O – ankle), OT Tyron Smith (O – knee)
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Houston Texans vs. Dallas Cowboys below.
Cowboys’ running backs vs. Texans’ run defense
With Elliott and Pollard, the Cowboys might have the best one-two punch in the backfield of any team in the league. That duo has led a Cowboys rushing attack that is top 10 in the league in yards per game (145.9) and yards per carry (4.7) and they are 3rd in rushing offense DVOA. The Cowboys are coming off their best rushing performance of the season with 220 yards against a solid run defense in the Colts, and now they face a historically bad run defense from the Texans.
Earlier this season, the Texans were allowing over 180 rushing yards per game, which was the worst mark of any team in the last 20 years in the NFL. They are still allowing 169.1 yards per game, worst in the league and 13.8 yards more than the next weakest run defense (Seattle). If they can’t find a way to slow down the Cowboys’ ground game, they won’t stand much of a chance in this matchup.
Texans’ running back Dameon Pierce vs. Cowboys’ run defense
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys are also allowing quite a few yards on the ground at 129.8 per game, 24th in the league. However, the advanced metrics paint a much better picture of their run defense, as they rank 8th in run defense DVOA.
It will be a good matchup of that defense against Pierce, the Texans’ rookie who has been one of the lone bright spots on the team this season. After a two-week slump where he tallied a total of 16 rushing yards, Pierce looked good again last week with 73 yards on 18 carries against the Browns. He is 10th in the league with an average of 71.8 yards per game and has proven to be one of the toughest runners in the league. He is second in the league with 26 broken tackles this season and breaks one once every 7.6 rushing attempts, which leads the league.
With both starting WRs for the Texans banged up, they are going to be even more reliant on Pierce. If he can find success in this matchup, he could at least help the Texans’ offense stay ahead of the chains and stay on the field by converting some third downs, which would make life easier for quarterback Kyle Allen. That would help the Texans limit the opportunities for the Cowboys offense and give them a chance to cover the massive spread in this game.