Sunday Night Football Betting Preview: Will the Eagles Get a Lopsided Win Over the Cowboys?
In what will hopefully be the scariest matchup of the 2020 Sunday Night Football schedule, the 2-5 Dallas Cowboys travel to face the 2-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles in a "pivotal" NFC East showdown of division rivals. While the Cowboys appear to be in the middle of a free fall, the Eagles are getting some key pieces healthy, and this may be the first step in Philly opening up some breathing room in the division.
It's hard to imagine a team with two wins through seven weeks being favored by double-digit points, but here we are. The Eagles opened as 7.5-point favorites in most books but have now been pushed to 11.5-point favorites on FanDuel Sportsbook.
Despite the large spread, 76% of the bets and 83% of the money is coming in on Philadelphia -- per oddsFire -- as the betting public has clearly picked their side in this one. Even a moneyline of +360 for Dallas isn't enough to draw much attention, as the Eagles -460 is still attracting 61% of the bets and 76% of the money. With a point total of 42.5, most are seeking out the over as usual, with 66% of the bets and 76% of the money anticipating a high scoring game.
This is a less than ideal matchup to cap off your Sunday, but some laying down some bets should keep you interested as you come down from your Halloween candy sugar-high. Let's see what angles we can find while looking over our projections.
Passing Game Preview
When the Cowboys have the ball and are throwing it, the big question will be the play of Ben DiNucci, the seventh-round rookie out of James Madison. DiNucci looked every bit of a seventh-round rookie in his brief appearance against the Washington Football Team last week. On the surface, 2-for-3 for 39 yards isn't so bad, but he was also sacked three times and fumbled twice to go along with a rush for zero yards.
Dallas expects to get back offensive lineman Zack Martin, which will certainly help, and to be fair to DiNucci, he likely had very little practice time with the first team after coming into the year behind Dalton and Dak Prescott. But the Cowboys have produced 0.09 Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back on the year, just 24th in the league, and we shouldn't expect that to turn around anytime soon.
Philadelphia's passing defense hasn't been great as a whole, as they rank 21st in the league, allowing 0.21 Adjusted Defensive Defensive Passing NEP per drop back through seven weeks. But the play of cornerback Darius Slay has been excellent, as he has locked down number-one receiving options all season. It is a little unclear who Slay will cover in this one, as the Cowboys have three talented wideouts in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb. All three have produced between 0.69 and 0.78 Reception NEP per target this year, so there isn't an obvious standout from that angle.
Cooper would seem to be the odds-on favorite to be shadowed by Slay, as Cooper leads the Cowboys with 72 targets, while Gallup and Lamb trail with 36 and 56, respectively. If Slay were to shut down Cooper, Lamb could see an uptick in targets this week. Lamb should be the easier target for DiNucci out of the slot, while Gallup generally runs deeper routes downfield.
Philadelphia's passing offense has struggled this year, ranking 27th in the league with 0.01 Adjusted Passing NEP per drop back. The return of tackle Lane Johnson should help protect Carson Wentz, who has been under constant pressure behind a patchwork offensive line. With surprising returns by Dallas Goedert and Jalen Reagor this week from injury, the Eagles' passing game suddenly has some options.
During the absence of Philly's established receivers, Travis Fulgham emerged as the Eagles' best receiving option. His 1.09 Reception NEP per target on 37 targets leads the team, and he has provided a much more dynamic option than the workmanlike performance they have received from Greg Ward. Look for Fulgham and Goedert to lead the way this week, with complimentary roles for Reagor and Richard Rodgers, who admirably filled in for Goedert and Zach Ertz with 0.77 Reception NEP per target on 18 opportunities.
The Dallas defense will likely provide a big week for whoever the Eagles decide to target in the passing game, as the Cowboys rank 27th in the league, allowing 0.26 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back in 2020. The Cowboys' defense has shed talent over the past week, as well, trading defensive lineman Everson Griffen to the Detroit Lions and releasing Dontari Poe and Daryl Worley. It's a mess in Dallas with few signs of improvement, so this looks to be an obvious get-right game for the Philadelphia offense.
Rushing Game Preview
Dallas enters Sunday Night with the league's 13th-best rushing offense as they have recorded 0.08 Adjusted Rushing NEP per carry this year. That number is a bit deceiving, however, as Prescott's 17 carries produced 0.71 Rushing NEP per attempt, which is now gone from the offense. Even Tony Pollard has boosted the offense's numbers as a change-of-pace option, with 0.14 Rushing NEP per carry on 31 attempts.
However, Ezekiel Elliott is the bell cow in this attack, racking up 113 carries on the season. His 0.01 Rushing NEP per carry is far from efficient, and when stacked up against all players with 75 or more carries on the year, Elliott ranks 15th out of 25 qualified rushers. Without Prescott under center, opponents will likely continue to focus on Elliott, making him a volume rusher without much in the way of exciting production. This doesn't set up as a great matchup, either, as the Eagles' run defense ranks 14th in the league, allowing 0.06 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per carry.
The strength of the Philadelphia offense is their rushing attack, which comes in as the league's fourth-best ground game at 0.15 Adjusted Rushing NEP per carry on the year. Again, this is a deceiving number for this week's game, as Wentz has been leading this team in rushing efficiency with 0.29 Rushing NEP per carry on 34 attempts, while the injured Miles Sanders has impressed with 0.20 Rushing NEP per carry on 71 rushes.
It has been a different story with Sanders' replacements, however, as Boston Scott and Corey Clement have each produced -0.10 Rushing NEP per carry or worse on their opportunities this season. While the offense does get to match up against a Cowboys run defense that ranks 30th in the NFL in run D, per our metrics, we should expect most of the Eagles' rushing damage to come from Wentz for as long as Sanders is sidelined.
Of the 10 most comparable games to this matchup, the favorite has won outright 8 of 10 times and covered the spread half of the time. The over has hit 6 of 10 times. Nothing too noteworthy to take from those trends, though it is worth mentioning that only one of the four unders saw the favorite cover the spread.
Game Projections and Props
Our algorithm gives the Eagles a massive 85% chance of winning this game outright, which results in a slight 2.8% projected return on investment (ROI) on a Philly moneyline bet. We also give a small 2.5% ROI on Philly's side of the spread -- probably not worth much of a bet, either.
Our strongest bet of the game is on the over/under (42.5). We think the over hits a healthy 72.3% of the time and give it 38% ROI. With a Cowboys defense that has been hemorrhaging points, it makes sense to bet the over and hope that DiNucci can make just enough plays in garbage time to pull this out. Outside of the over, let's check on some same-game parlays over at FanDuel Sportsbook.
If we are going to hit that over, we need something out of the Cowboys' offense. They will likely be trailing, so I don't see Elliott as the primary beneficiary, and there's a chance that Slay locks down Cooper. So let's parlay the over on Lamb's receiving yardage (49.5) with the over for the game (42.5) for a +239 payout.
For a real long shot bet, let's parlay a Philadelphia defensive touchdown (+480) with the game's over for a +860 return. It is hard to imagine we wouldn't hit the over if we get a defensive touchdown, and we actually project the Eagles' defense as having a 20% chance of scoring a touchdown in this one, so this isn't that unrealistic.