Dallas Cowboys 13-Point Favorites Vs. St. Louis Rams
The status of St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford is the big question heading into Sunday’s game at the Dallas Cowboys.
St. Louis is a 13-point ‘dog at Don Best after opening at 12. The NFL betting total is down a point from the open, 44 ½ to 43 ½, with kickoff from Cowboys Stadium at 4:15 p.m. (ET) on FOX.
The Rams (0-5 straight up and against the spread) have taken a giant step back after an 7-9 SU campaign last year and almost winning the woeful NFC West. A tough schedule hasn’t helped, but the biggest culprit is ranking last in red-zone touchdowns (25 percent) and scoring (9.8 PPG).
Those numbers were with the talented Bradford starting, but he suffered a high ankle sprain last week at Green Bay and should be a game-time decision after not practicing through Thursday. The backup option is veteran A.J. Feeley, who hasn’t started since 2007 with Philadelphia.
Both quarterbacks are happy with the deadline addition of Denver receiver Brandon Lloyd. He led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards last year and will acclimate quickly to the offense being familiar with coordinator Josh McDaniels’ system. St. Louis’ passing offense ranks just 25th this season (210.8 YPG).
Running back Steven Jackson had 96 yards against Green Bay and is looking healthy after an early-season quad injury. He will be badly needed to keep the Dallas defense honest and not pinning its ears back. The Cowboys are first in the NFL in run defense (69.6 YPG), although they did surrender 101 yards to the Patriots last week.
The Rams were 14-point underdogs versus Green Bay, the only time they’ve been greater than a touchdown ‘dog this year. They actually out-gained the Pack in total yards (424-399) despite the 24-3 loss.
St. Louis is just 3-12 ATS in its last 15 games as a 10 ½-point road ‘dog or greater.
The Cowboys may only be 2-3 SU (2-2-1 ATS), but they are much more talented than their record suggest with all three losses coming by four points or less. The Don Best Linemakers Poll agrees with the ‘Boys ranked eighth in the NFL (95.1 rating). St. Louis is 29th with an 86.5 rating.
The latest heartbreaker for Dallas was a 20-16 loss at New England as 6 ½-point ‘dogs. The team held Tom Brady and company in check until the game-winning 80-yard drive. That was precipitated by some conservative play calling by coach Jason Garrett, preferring his defense to win the game instead of quarterback Tony Romo.
The 36 combined points scored went way ‘under’ the 54 ½-point total. The ‘over’ is 3-2 for Dallas on the year and 1-1 at home. The ‘over’ is 10-1 its last 11 home games overall.
Romo had a nice day statistically vs. New England (27-of-41, 317 yards) and has the fifth-highest yards per attempt in the league (8.24). However, red-zone offense also kills this team at 33 percent touchdown success, second-worst to the Rams.
Romo had one interception last week and five in the last three games. His penchant for costly turnovers is the reason Garrett was conservative last week in crunch time. The quarterback should be much more comfortable going against a decimated Rams cornerback position that has 36-year-old Al Harris starting.
Dallas running back Felix Jones (ankle) is out, with rookie DeMarco Murray the likely starter and backed up by Tashard Choice. Dallas is a pass first team, but can have success against the Rams worst-ranked run defense (161.8 YPG), although the unit did hold Green Bay to just 90 yards last week.
Defensively, coordinator Rob Ryan should be extra aggressive after also being passive on New England’s final drive. If Bradford plays, expect Ryan to unleash his defense like a lion on a hurt gazelle. McDaniels will try to slow down the blitzing with screen passes, but Dallas will be ready for that.
The Cowboys are 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS at home this year. They had a comeback win over Washington (18-16) as 3 ½-point favorites and blew a huge lead against Detroit, losing 34-30 as 2 ½-point ‘chalk.’
Dallas is just 1-7 ATS in its last eight games as a home favorite and a complete effort for 60 minutes is needed to cover this large spread.
Weather is expected to have some morning thunderstorms, but it should be clear by game-time with temps in the 70s. Closing the roof is always an option for owner Jerry Jones.